Magic, Memory and Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Magic, Memory and Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

1st Edition

By Stephen Clucas


332 pages

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Hardback: 9781409419754
pub: 2011-04-28
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This collection of Stephen Clucas's articles addresses the complex interactions between religion, natural philosophy and magic in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. The essays on the Elizabethan mathematician and magus John Dee show that the angelic conversations of John Dee owed a significant debt to medieval magical traditions and how Dee's attempts to communicate with spirits were used to serve specific religious agendas in the mid-seventeenth century. The essays devoted to Giordano Bruno offer a reappraisal of the magical orientation of the Italian philosopher's mnemotechnical and Lullist writings of the 1580s and 90s and show his influence on early seventeenth-century English understandings of memory and intellection. Next come three studies on the atomistic or corpuscularian natural philosophy of the Northumberland and Cavendish circles, arguing that there was a distinct English corpuscularian tradition prior to the Gassendian influence in the 1640s and 50s. Finally, two essays on the seventeenth-century Intelligencer Samuel Hartlib and his correspondents shows how religion alchemy and natural philosophy interacted during the 'Puritan Revolution'.


'This is rigorous, high-level scholarship, essential for anyone interested in the disciplinary contexts or intellectual traditions of early modern alchemy and chemistry. By placing his subjects within appropriate theological and philosophical milieu, Clucas offers a persuasive account of how the spiritual dimensions of disciplines such as alchemy contributed to the rise of the empirical natural philosophy.' Ambix 'Magic, Memory and Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries will be primarily of interest to historians of science and magic in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its usefulness is enhanced by an index.' Sixteenth Century Studies Journal '… richly documented and varied essays… organised around a number of specific themes disposed in a historical sequence that give the volume a unity of narrative and intent that not all collections of essays possess.' Aestimatio 'Taken together, this is an impressive collection, combative where it has to be, but thoroughly based on a deep understanding of the classical, medieval, and Renaissance mind.' Renaissance Quarterly

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; John Dee's Angelic Conversations and the ars notoria: Renaissance magic and mediaeval theurgy; Enthusiasm and "damnable curiosity": Meric Casaubon and John Dee; Non est legendum sed inspicendum solum: inspectival knowledge and the visual logic of John Dee's Liber Mysteriorum; In Campo Fantastico: Alexander Dicson, Walter Warner and Brunian mnemonics; Giordano Bruno's De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione: art, magic and mnemotechnics; Amorem, artem, magiam, mathesim: Brunian images and the domestication of the soul; Galileo, Bruno and the rhetoric of dialogue in 17th-century natural philosophy; Corpuscular matter theory in the Northumberland circle; The atomism of the Cavendish circle: a reappraisal; "The infinite variety of formes and magnitudes": 16th- and 17th-century English corpuscular philosophy and Aristotelian theories of matter and form; In search of 'The True Logick': methodological eclecticism among the 'Baconian reformers'; The correspondence of a 17th-century "chymicall gentleman": Sir Cheney Culpeper and the chemical interests of the Hartlib circle; Index.

About the Author

Stephen Clucas is Reader in Early Modern Intellectual History at Birkbeck, University of London, U.K., and is co-Editor of the journal Intellectual History Review.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
BODY, MIND & SPIRIT / Magick Studies