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‘Many Other Things Worthy of Knowledge and Memory’:
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its Annotators, 1499-1700

RUSSELL, JAMES,CHARLES (2014) ‘Many Other Things Worthy of Knowledge and Memory’:
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its Annotators, 1499-1700.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Due to its elaborate woodcuts and artificial language, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499, hereafter ‘HP’) has traditionally been presented as a fringe anomaly within the histories of the book and of Italian philology. Other studies have examined the influence of the HP in art and literature, but there has been little study of the role of readers in mediating that influence. This framing of the HP as unreadable visual marvel has impeded consideration of Aldus’ creation as a used text within the wider fabric of humanism.

Liane Lefaivre’s conceptualisation of the HP as a creative dream-space for idea generation was a significant step towards foregrounding the text’s readers. This thesis set to testing this hypothesis against the experiences of actual readers as recorded in their marginalia.
A world census of annotated copies of the HP located a number of examples of prolific annotation, showing readers making use of the HP for a variety of purposes. Benedetto and Paolo Giovio applied a Plinian model of extractive reading to two copies at Como and Modena, reading the HP in a manner analogous to the Natural History. Ben Jonson read his copy of the 1545 HP as a source for visual elements of stage design. An anonymous second hand in Jonson’s copy read the text as an alchemical allegory, as did the hands in a copy at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi) combed the text for examples of verbal wit, or acutezze, while comparing Poliphilo’s journeys through an architectural dream with his own passages through Rome. Informed by analogy with modern educational media, I have reframed the HP as a ‘humanistic activity book’, in which readers cultivated their faculty of ingegno through ludic engagement with the text.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Sep 2014 08:55

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