Memory and Material in Early Modern England

The Renaissance Art of Memory

Dating to antiquity, the ars memoriae, or Art of Memory, enjoyed popularity throughout Europe in the early modern period. The Art relied on mnemonic techniques, often very complex ones, to improve recall and assist in the rhetorical practice of inventio, or the discovery of arguments. In the Renaissance, the practitioners of ars memoriae understood memory as a productive tool, connected less to the storage of past impressions than on providing vital capital for rhetorical composition. The vast collections of mnemonics they produced, including the two texts shown here, took advantage of the rise of print to disseminate mnemonics widely, making them influential throughout early modern Europe even after the popularity of ars memoriae began to decline. 


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