The Controversies




Mikrokosmographia comprises thirteen separate books devoted to various components of the human body. Each book includes between nine and forty-three chapters. Books One through Eight are each followed by a sub-section of “controversies,” a set of between eight and sixty-four questions related to the subject matter of the preceding book.

I have not yet read the anatomy volume in its entirety (that is one purpose of this blog). However, based on the reading I have done, the controversies are of no small importance to its significance. Both the chapters and the questions are drawn from other sources; in “The Praeface to the Chyrurgeons,” Crooke explains,

My present worke is for the most part out of Bauhine for the History, Figures, and the severall Authors quoted in his Margents. The Controversies are mostwhat out of Laurentius, with some additions, subtractions and alterations as I thought fit and my wit would serve. . . . I also added Praefaces to every booke conteining the argument and purport thereof: & in the subsequent discourse many passages partly out of my owne observations . . . (❡1r)

My hypothesis for the controversies is similar to that I have for the entire text; although much of the central content is initially drawn from various sources, Crooke makes significant decisions in his concurrent roles as translator, editor, and contributing author in constructing and collating the whole. What I have noticed about the controversies I’ve read is that they in particular provide ready instances of Crooke’s clear, original contribution to the communication of knowledge that happens in this book, because he can hardly resist mediating between contending sources as well as adding his own two bits to the debate. And, indeed, it seems an appropriate place for him to do so.

I’ll examine various individual instances of this occurring as I reach those parts of the text. But I want to mention that I do think it is key to note that Crooke is quite plain and direct about his heavy reliance on various sources yet still promotes his own role in the production of this volume. I’ll also examine this topic more closely as we move on into the preface.