WITH 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.
D E S C R I P T I O N
of the Body of Man.
WITH THE CONTROVERSIES
Collected and Translated out of all the Best Authors of Anatomy, Especially out of Gasper Bauhinus and Andreas Laurentius. By HELKIAH CROOKE Doctor of Physicke, Physitian to His Majestie, and his Highnesse PROFESSOR in Anatomy and Chyrurgerie.
Published by the Kings Majesties especiall Direction and Warrant according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the AUTHOR.
—————————Etiam Parnassia Laurus
Parua, subingentimatris se subijcit umbra.
Printed by William Jaggard dwelling in Barbican, and are there to be sold, 1615.
So maybe I’m not ready to do this.
This is not the feeling I expected have one page into this project. I mean, it’s only the title page!
At first, as I typed the text, it was thrilling. I was actually doing this thing I’d been thinking and talking about for so long. And there’s interesting stuff there, even though it’s “only” the title page: Crooke is already talking about his sources and making false claims about being the king’s personal physician, and I found the verb “are” in the line about the printer that I’d been subconsciously eliding every time I read it, and of course the printer being mentioned is Jaggard so I could start talking about him…
And then there was the Latin.
Now, I am painfully aware that I need to learn Latin. I want to learn Latin. It’s high on my list of things to do; I’ve even got a copy of Wheelock’s on the shelf, just waiting for all that spare time I have that’s perfect for learning dead languages. But I haven’t learned Latin yet. Not even a little. Still, it wasn’t when I hit those two lines of Latin on the title page that I got the feeling I was unprepared. Because there’s all sorts of other ways to figure out what a few words of Latin mean, right? With the aid of Google, it didn’t take long to find that these two lines are from early in Book II of Virgil’s Georgics, the section of the long poem devoted to agriculture and gardening. It wasn’t difficult either to find several English-language translations of the lines in question.
And that is when I felt inadequate.
Because of course those various translations were incredibly different. Specific word choices created entirely different connotations for Crooke’s use of the quote. I wasn’t about to just take the one that best fit my argument. And who am I to question the choices of these scholars, when I don’t even know the language? I certainly couldn’t just pick and choose from among them to make my own mash-up translation. Nor did I want to bog down my analysis with a laundry list of possible interpretations. I needed to make an editorial choice regarding the Latin – and if I don’t know Latin, maybe I’m not ready to do this.
But then I stopped and thought about what “this” is, what I mean for this blog to be. I want this to be a learning experience, and for that I don’t need to be an expert to begin with; in fact, it’s better that I’m not. Although I consider this a scholarly endeavor, the reality of conducting such an endeavor in a blog is that it allows for some flexibility not advisably undertaken in other formats. Additionally, it enables me to make the process public so that I can get input and advice from people more and differently learned, in this field and others, in order make this a more fruitful project and me a better scholar. So it has to be okay that these sorts of problems come up—they’re the reason I’m doing this. And it has to be okay that I make mistakes, because that is how I will learn and improve.
So, as it turns out… maybe I am ready to do this.