Philobiblon: Some characters met ...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Some characters met ...

.. at Saturday's conference.

Bishop Francis Godwin, author of the (posthumously published in 1638) Man in the Moone, which might be called the first piece of science fiction. His central character, writing what is structured as autobiography,, "translated from the Spanish", is a priest who reports on training swan-like birds to carry him on their annual migration to the moon. There he finds a utopia with no disease, no crime etc, and is told that anyone who shows any problems is shipped down to Earth, thus explaining why it is is such a sinful place.

John Wilkins, the first secretary of the Royal Society, who knew its author, actually revised a scientific paper to take account of it. The book, taken at face value by most readers, went through more than 20 editions in the next two centuries, also being translated into French, German and Dutch. Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe both read it.

Robert Recorde (c.1510-1558) "the most important teacher of mathematics of the English Renaissance, also a neo-Platonist. He wrote books, in English (importantly) on arithmetic, astronomy and algebra, some in the form of what would now be called "teach yourself". Claim was laid for him as having "laid the foundation for mathematics and technical learning in general society". He was also a civil servant and got himself into trouble in Ireland, eventually dying in prison.

Sir George Beeston who was knighted after fighting with Drake et al against the Spanish Armada, and has a lovely tomb in St Boniface Church in Bunbury.

William Cornysh (or Cornish, a Renaissance musician, introduced by a researcher who has the lovely plan to research the lives of "nobodies", one being an anonymous person - a delightful idea.

The idea of David Rizzio, the Italian, supposed to be the lover of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was murdered with such dramatic political consequencies. He was seen as the prototype for the Italian lovers and Catholic villians of Elizabethan and later drama.

I also learnt about the contradictory funeral monuments of the wonderful Elizabeth Hoby, and the way people used almanacs as frameworks for their "diaries", also sometimes commenting when the weather forcast was wrong!


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