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The World Upside Down. The Geographical Revolution in Humanist Commentaries on Pliny's Natural History and Mela's De situ orbis (140-1700)

'The World Upside Down. The Geographical Revolution in Humanist Commentaries on Pliny's Natural History and Mela's De situ orbis (140-1700)', in: Enenkel, K.A.E. & Nellen, H. (Eds.), Neo-Latin Commentaries and the Management of Knowledge in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period (1400-1700).Humanistica Lovaniensia Supplementa 33 (Leuven: Leuven UP, 2013), pp. 139-197.

Author
Dr. S.T.M. (Susanna) de Beer
Date
01 January 2013

Although much of the information presented in ancient geographical treatises became obsolete during what is termed ‘the Geographical Revolution’, the interest in these texts by no means declined, on the contrary, as the wealth of new text editions and commentaries shows. This article seeks to clarify this seeming paradox through a detailed analysis of a selection of early modern commentaries on Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia and Pomponius Mela’s De situ orbis. As mediators between ancient text and early modern reader these commentaries provide valuable clues as to how these ancient texts were read and to what purpose, and teach us how ancient authority functioned in a period of transition. This study argues that whether or how the commentaries problematized the relationship between ancient and early modern knowledge was not primarily determined by the actual knowledge of the new geographical developments, but depended on a number of parameters, among which the commentators’ position in current scholarly debates and expected readership were the most important.
 

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