Political Ecologies in the Renaissance

“Political Ecologies in the Renaissance” brings together eleven scientific texts from Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It features canonical and non-canonical science books and covers seven topics: mining, magnetism, navigation, astronomy, the art of war, hydraulics and hydrostatics, and astrology. Each of the texts featured here focuses on human engagement with the natural world, whether it be through observation, experimentation, and/or the manipulation of natural resources. But the texts do not only represent early examples of scientific culture; rather, they are politically resonant, for man’s use of natural resources and scientists’ observations of the world around them had a profound impact on the early modern world, and provoked and/or enabled religious, social, and political controversies.  Many of the papers in the “Commons and Collectivities: Political Ecologies in the Renaissance” conference home in on man’s relationship with the natural world and its political implications, and this online exhibition is meant to complement those essays.

Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has rich holdings in scientific texts, largely because the library is home to the David Eugene Smith Collection. Professor Smith donated thirteen thousand books on astronomy and mathematics to the library in the early twentieth century. The books in the Smith collection range in date from the eleventh century to the twentieth. Most of the books featured in this exhibit come from the Smith Collection, and, indeed, this exhibit would not be possible without it.

Exhibit Curator

Cym Ramirez and Ashley Streeter

Astrology »

A Briefe and most easie Introduction to the Astrologicall Judgement of the Starres (1598) and A Prognostication for Ever, Made by Erra Pater (1694)

Astronomy »

Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata (1610) and Mysterium Cosmographicum (1621)

Magnetism »

Nova demonstratio inmobilitatis terrae petita ex virtute magnetica (1645)

Navigation »

Mr Blundeville his Exercises (1636) and The Mariners Magazine (1679)

Military Science »

Opera Nuova di Fortificare, Offendere, et Difendere (1564)

Mining »

De re metallica (1621) and Mundus Subterraneus (1665)

Hydraulics and Hydrostatics »

Elevation des eaux par toute sorte de machines (1685)

Columbia University Libraries / Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5590 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu