Event—Center for Renaissance Studies

The Scientific Authority of Large Illustrated Books in the Premodern

A research methods workshop exploring the materiality, role, and function of large illustrated books in premodern European culture.

Robert Dudley, Dell'arcano del mare. Florence: 1646-47 (VAULT Ayer 135 .D8 1646)


The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw a particular convergence among artists, printers, book publishers, and erudite scientific researchers who created new large-size, lavishly illustrated print treatises and multi-volume books. This one-day workshop questions the role of such large illustrated books in premodern European culture, examining their materiality (flaps, foldouts, movable parts) and questioning their function and significance. Were these books designed to demonstrate authority over knowledge? Or were such publications little more than objects of commercial decadence destined only for the amusement of the very rich?