Abstracts 27 Feb 2016

Désirée Cappa (Warburg Institute)
I am completing a PhD that aims to reconstruct the life Pierfrancesco Riccio (1501-64), who was the tutor of Cosimo I de’ Medici and then he entered the chancellery of State, as the Duke’s personal secretary. He was well acquainted with the Florentine intelligentsia, was part of the Florentine Academy and supervised the reopening of the University of Pisa (Studio Pisano).
Peter Davidson (University of Oxford)
Athanasius Kircher was famous for his correspondence with scholars throughout the world of learning as well as for his use of Jesuit networks of intellectual exchange: the book which I will present is the catalogue of the museum which he assembled in the Jesuit Collegio Romano, published in lavish format at Amsterdam in 1678 when Kircher and his collection were already in decline. Kircher’s assistant de sepis appears to have arranged and completed a text which more or less represented Kircher’s own guided tour of  a Kunst und Wunderkammer which had been assembled to reflect the extraordinary number of fields in which Kircher was active. There are model obelisks, a magic lantern, and many mechanical devices as well as proto-computers and a natural history and world art collection which gives some sense of the global scope of the Jesuit project. As is axiomatic, Kircher’s labours in many of these fields led to dead ends, but the book documents something of the experience of a visit to the museum in its prime and thus offers an extraordinary insight into how an early modern individual represented their academic institution to visitors. The facsimile of the original is followed by an annotated translation and afterword. The publisher is the semi-private press, the St Omers Press, which carries on the imprint of the press of the English College at St Omers, which published (often controversy issued under false imprints) from the 1590s onwards and which now is trying to make available in edition and facsimile some of the treasures of the ancient museum and library of this “lost English university”. St Omers publishes the book in Europe, SJU in the USA.


Ian Maclean (University of Oxford)

The early institutional interactions of Germany’s ‘Academia Naturae curiosorum’

The Academia Naturae Curiosorum (later the Leopoldina), now seen as Germany’s equivalent of the Royal Society, was born on 1 January 1652 when four provincial doctors all practising in the imperial free city of Schweinfurt in Franconia came together in a sodalitas, drew up a set of laws, and issued a prospectus to attract new members.  They set up a research programme, and recruited university-trained town doctors in the main, with some professors of medicine (who were themselves often also employed by local courts or towns).  In the 1660s, Philipp Sachs von Lewenhaimb, one of the prominent members of the Academy, contacted the Royal Society and the various informal scholarly groups in Paris, and founded an annual periodical with the title Miscellanea curiosa with a view to creating an international reputation and role for the German Academy.  This paper will discuss both the means employed by Sachs to achieve an international profile for the Academy, the efforts of his successor to secure imperial patronage, and the tensions created by these initiatives, which eventually led to the resignation of one of the most active members, Georg Wolfgang Wedel of the University of Jena.


Hilary Perraton (Cambridge University)

Foreign students of the British Isles 1500-1750: A proposed typology of encounters

Cross-border student mobility is driven by push and pull factors that have some similarity to those operating on migration generally. In examining student or academic mobility this paper discusses a series of encounters in order to propose a typology exemplified by the experience of foreign students travelling to or from the British Isles in the early modern period. To provide a necessary context available data are set out on university numbers in the British Isles and numbers of students from across borders. Although there are overlaps and exceptions, mobility and exchange is discussed and illustrated in terms of six types:

  • Universal: mobility before the reformation within one church and one family of universities, which are in some ways of comparable status, that is driven by the pull factor of local reputation, sometimes by push factors of policy, as well as by restlessness on the part of individual wandering scholars
  •  Bounded: post-reformation mobility within religious/ideological boundaries, tending to be within two, separate, catholic and protestant circles, often still between institutions of comparable status
  •  Contrary: mobility that deliberately crosses religious boundaries where individuals’ religious beliefs conflict with national policy
  •  Institutional: academic links that are designed to strengthen a university or department, or have that effect, where the two departments are initially of different status
  •  Developmental: student recruitment either across borders or from the empire where students are seeking education not available locally
  •  Visiting: less formal and shorter visits in which visitors seek academic contact but do not enrol, register or matriculate

The significance of particular push and pull factors varies with the type while the geography of student mobility is influenced by deliberate policy and by the dominance of one type or the other. Consequences, for both institutions and individuals, are likely to vary with the type of mobility.


Elizabeth Sandis (Merton College, Oxford)

Collegiate communities and The Freshman’s Orders in the 1620s: How one year group of undergraduates welcomed the next

 This paper presents evidence from a document recently discovered while I was investigating the papers of Abraham Wright (1611–1690), an alumnus of St John’s College, Oxford better known for the contents of his commonplace book (a rare source for contemporary criticism of Shakespeare et al.) and his edited collection of university poetry, Parnassus Biceps or Severall Choice Pieces of Poetry, Composed by the Best Wits that were in both the Universities before their Dissolution (London, 1656). Parnassus Biceps is a nostalgic anthology which celebrates the poetic culture fostered by the university men during the years when Wright was a student, including his own compositions, and has been edited by Peter Beal (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990). However, when we examine the personal papers of Wright, in Bodleian MS Eng. misc. e. 82, we find several documents which he had kept from his student days which are quite unique and shine new light on the culture of Oxford college life in the 1620s.

 One such document is The Freshman’s Orders, a manuscript which I will argue was used in a series of initial ceremonies which took place at St John’s College, Oxford between 1625 and 1629. Abraham Wright himself arrived at the college in 1629 and took part in this ceremony, keeping hold of the paper thereafter. The text has a playful, ritualistic edge to it and evidences the second-year undergraduates of the college (who term themselves ‘Poulderlings’) drawing up rules for incoming first-years to adhere to. This list of orders, which are styled as ‘ye dutyes offices and negociations belonging to ye sacred order of a Poulderling’ (fol. 35r), ends with the promise ‘Lastly to sweare your successors to these and as many more as you shall see requisite’ (fol. 35v), thus ensuring that the tradition at St John’s will continue to be passed on from one year to the next. The document recording the signatures of those who had sworn their oath was also passed on from year to year, preserving a written record of the oath-swearing act and pledge of good behaviour which freshers performed in their bid to gain membership of the inner circles of the college community.

My identification of the students who signed The Freshman’s Orders also enables us to see the wider patterns emerging, as we consider the phenomenon of older students acting as tutors to incoming recruits and the extent to which individual networks transcended the boundary between school and university. Those arriving at St John’s College from its main feeder school, the Merchant Taylor’s in London, were reunited with boys from the years above, and many of these were soon engaged in making their contribution to the cultural life of the college by composing plays in the manner of their older role models.


Oscar Schiavone (UCL)

Dr Schiavone’s PhD project reconstructed the life and career of Luca Martini (1507-61), a Florentine politician, man of letters and iconographic consultant working in Pisa in the service of Cosimo I from 1547 to his death. In 1530s-40s Florence, however, Martini helped with the foundation of the Florentine Academy and wrote much occasional verse. As a scholar, he collaborated in several editions of Dante’s Comedy and wrote an essay on Dante’s afterworld.