9 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2022
    1. One of his last works, the Aurifodina, “The Mine of All Arts and Sci-ences, or the Habit of Excerpting,” was printed in 1638 (in 2,000 copies) andin another fourteen editions down to 1695 and spawned abridgments in Latin(1658), German (1684), and English.

      Simply the word abridgement here leads me to wonder:

      Was the continual abridgement of texts and excerpting small pieces for later use the partial cause of the loss of the arts of memory? Ars excerpendi ad infinitum? It's possible that this, with the growth of note taking practices, continual information overload, and other pressures for educational reform swamped the prior practices.

      For evidence, take a look at William Engel's work following the arts of memory in England and Europe to see if we can track the slow demise by attrition of the descriptions and practices. What would such a study show? How might we assign values to the various pressures at play? Which was the most responsible?

      Could it have also been the slow, inexorable death of many of these classical means of taking notes as well? How did we loose the practices of excerpting for creating new ideas? Where did the commonplace books go? Where did the zettelkasten disappear to?

      One author, with a carefully honed practice and the extant context of their life writes some brief notes which get passed along to their students or which are put into a new book that misses a lot of their existing context with respect to the new readers. These readers then don't know about the attrition happening and slowly, but surely the knowledge goes missing amidst a wash of information overload. Over time the ideas and practices slowly erode and are replaced with newer techniques which may not have been well tested or stood the test of time. One day the world wakes up and the common practices are no longer of use.

      This is potentially all the more likely because of the extremely basic ideas underpinning some of memory and note taking. They seem like such basic knowledge we're also prone to take them for granted and not teach them as thoroughly as we ought.

      How does one juxtapose this with the idea of humanist scholars excerpting, copying, and using classical texts with a specific eye toward preventing the loss of these very classical texts?

      Is this potentially the idea of having one's eye on a particular target and losing sight of other creeping effects?

      It's also difficult to remember what it was like when we ourselves didn't know something and once that is lost, it can be harder and harder to teach newcomers.

    2. Judging from the copies now extant, the number of compilations, especially florilegia and encyclopedic compendia, continued to grow as more writers engaged in selecting and summarizing for their own use and that of others.16

      There is a parallel between these practices and the same sort of practices seen in social media posting, annotating, and bookmarking, however in the digital realm the user interface is so simple that one needn't put very much thought into the process and the results become almost instantaneously meaningless. Was this the case in the medieval context as well, or did the readers/compilers get more out of their practices?

    3. Even if the Speculum was copied only in parts, Vincent of Beauvais exposed the reader to multiple opinions on any topic he discussed. Neither the concordance nor the encyclo-pedic compendium resolved the textual difficulties or contradictions that they helped bring to light. Vincent explicitly left to the reader the task of reaching a final conclusion amid the diversity of authoritative opinions that might exist on a question: “I am not unaware of the fact that philosophers have said many contradictory things, especially about the nature of things. . . . I warn the reader, lest he perhaps be horrified, if he finds some contradictions of this kind among the names of diverse authors in many places of this work, especially since I have acted in this work not as an author, but as an excerptor, that I did not try to reduce the sayings of the philosophers to agreement but report what each said or wrote on each thing; leaving to the judgment of the reader to decide which opinion to prefer.”161

      Interesting that Vincent of Beauvais indicates that there were discrepancies between the authors, but leaves it up to the reader to decide for themself.

      What would the reader do in these cases in a culture before the scientific method and the coming scientific revolutions? Does this statement prefigure the beginning of a cultural shift?

      Are there other examples of (earlier) writers encouraging the the comparison of two different excerpts from "expert" or authoritative sources to determine which should have precedence?

      What other methods would have encouraged this sort of behavior?

    4. Some florilegia focused on poetic excerpts and were used to teach prosody, others specialized in prose. Both kinds were likely used in teaching at many levels—from the young boys (pueri) mentioned in the Opus prosodiacum of Micon Centulensis in the mid- ninth century to the twenty- year- old Heiric who wrote under dictation from Lupus of Ferrières, ca. 859–62, a Col-lectanea comprising excerpts from Valerius Maximus and Suetonius, followed by philosophical and theological sententiae.104

      Some florilegia were used as handbooks to teach composition. Those with poetic excerpts were used to teach prosody while others specialized in prose.

      Examples of these sorts of florilegia include Micon Centulensis' Opus prosodiacum from the mid-ninth century and a Collectanea by Heiric who wrote under dictation from Lupus of Ferrières, ca. 859–62.

    5. Rouse and Rouse (1982), 165–68 for the medieval titles, based on the flower metaphor or others, including liber scintillarum (book of sparks) or pha-retra (quiver).

      In addition to florilegium, the descriptors liber scintillarum (book of sparks) and pharetra (quiver) in addition to other flower metaphors were also used in the medieval period to describe the genre of books in which the best passages from authoritative sources were compiled.

    1. Renaissance revival of the art of note-taking, that is, the art of making excerpts from readings (the old ars excerpendi)

      In case I've not explicitly saved the idea of ars excerpendi into the notebook.

    2. Instead of imagination, Drexel recommended training the art of excerpting. Thus, he reversed the ancient rule, according to which knowledge should be entrusted to personal memory rather than to the library, and stored in the mind rather than in a closet upside down.

      Jeremias Drexel became one of the earliest educators and reformers to recommend against the ars memoria and instead use the art of excerpting as a means external written memory.

    3. In the 1740s, Thomas Harrison invented a wooden filing cabinet in which the file cards could be hooked on little tin plates. On each of these plates was written the name of the entry (i.e., the re-spective subject heading), and the plates were arranged in strictly alphabeti-cal order.22

      Thomas Harrison, a TK, invented a wooden filing cabinet in the 1740's for storing slips of paper. Each slip could be hooked onto tin plates which contained the topical or subject headings that were arranged in alphabetical order.

      Harrison's description was anonymously published with corrections and improvements by Vincent Placcius in De arte excerpendi. Vom gelehrten Buchhalten liber singularis (Stockholm/Hamburg, 1689), 124–59, in his hand-book on excerpting systems.

    4. In his manuscript, Harrison spoke of machina with respect to his filing cabinet and named his invention ‘Ark of Studies’. In rhetorical culture, ‘ark’ had been a metaphor that, among many others, denoted the virtual store-house that orators stocked with vivid images of memorable topics (res) and words (verba). In Harrison’s manuscript, ‘ark’ instead became a synonym for ‘mechanical’ memory. In turn, in the distinction between natural and artificial memory, consciousness was compelled to leave its place and to shift to the op-posing side.

      Thomas Harrison used the word machina to describe his 'Ark of Studies', a filing cabinet for notes and excerpts from other works. This represents part of a discrete and very specific change on the continuum of movement from the ars memoria (artificial memory) to the ars excerptendi (note taking). Within the rhetorical tradition relying on creating memorable images for topics (res) and words (verba) the idea of an ark was often used as a memory palace as seen in Hugh of St. Victor's De arca Noe mystica, or ‘‘The Ark of Noah According to the Spiritual Method of Reading" (1125–30). It starts the movement from natural and artificial memory to a form of external and mechanical memory represented by his physical filing cabinet.

      Reference Yates and Carruthers for Hugh of St. Victor.