Books of Secrets

Books of Secrets : Natural Philosophy in England, 1550-1600

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How cultural categories shaped--and were shaped by--new ideas about controlling nature

Ranging from alchemy to necromancy, "books of secrets" offered medieval readers an affordable and accessible collection of knowledge about the natural world. Allison Kavey's study traces the cultural relevance of these books and also charts their influence on the people who read them. Citing the importance of printers in choosing the books' contents, she points out how these books legitimized manipulating nature, thereby expanding cultural categories, such as masculinity, femininity, gentleman, lady, and midwife, to include the willful command of the natural world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 216 pages
  • 160.02 x 231.14 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252032098
  • 9780252032097
  • 1,763,092

Review quote

Kavey's book is an excellent entree into this class of writings and provides many insights into how they were constructed."--Renaissance Quarterly "An impressive achievement. Books of Secrets brings together realms too often left disparate in contemporary scholarship: gender studies, history of science, and book history. It is fascinating how Kavey deftly traces fungible notions of agency across various materials and explanations, and this refusal to settle for easy answers is one of the book's many virtues. The answers it gives are all the more profound, and persuasive, for the effort."
--Michael Schoenfeldt, author of Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England
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