The Renaissance, as the period’s name tells us, is generally conceived of as a time of “rebirth” when there was an intense interest in looking back to antiquity. This seminar will consider another aspect of Renaissance studies and question what was new in the Renaissance through an exploration of a renowned print series, entitled the Nova Reperta. Designed in Florence and printed in Antwerp in the late sixteenth century, the images represented in these engravings document such post-classical novelties as the Americas, syphilis, the printing press, the cannon, and the clock. What can these inventions tell us of early modern culture and of the Renaissance conception of technology? The seminar coincides with a Newberry exhibition focused on these engravings. Beyond the print series at the heart of the seminar, we will examine related Renaissance books about navigation, the Americas, colonization, machines, warfare, and visuality. Highlights will include analysis of the writings of Vespucci, Vasari, and other Renaissance thinkers, as well as the study of Renaissance maps. In turn, we will use the Nova Reperta to question the role of technology and innovation today and to reconceive the way in which the Renaissance can be taught in the contemporary classroom.
This seminar is scheduled alongside the Newberry’s exhibition, Renaissance Invention: Stradanus’s “Nova Reperta” (August 28-November 28, 2020).