Mellon/White Science & Print Culture Workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daniel Selcer (Duquesne University) and Theresa Smith (Harvard University Library)
“Facsimile, Indiscernibility, and Images of the Copernican World”
November 12, 2009 @ 3:00 pm
4207 Helen C. White (SLIS Commons)
A manuscript facsimile necessarily differs from the original it reproduces. It is nevertheless a literary object in its own right, with the peculiar property of rendering accessible to scholarly scrutiny the often inaccessible ground for the production of a print edition. What are we to make of a case where multiple facsimiles of the same manuscript differ among themselves? Between 1944 and 1974 no less than nine facsimiles of the autograph of Copernicus' De revolutionibus were published, a profusion related to the manuscript's current inaccessibility to researchers. In the early 1970s, Charles Eames took a series of stunning photographs of the manuscript. The facsimiles and Eames' photos, however, reveal an apparent contradiction: there both is and is not a hole in the manuscript page at the center of Copernicus' emblematic diagram of the heliocentric universe. The stakes of the seemingly trivial empirical question of whether such a hole exists, we argue, involve an interrogation of the material nature of textual production, the staged physicality of scientific inquiry, and the limits of the constitution of literary objects.
Daniel Selcer is an associate professor of philosophy at Duquesne University, where he teaches the history of early modern thought. He has published in Representations, Continental Philosophy Review, and other journals. His Philosophy and the Book: Early Modern Figures of Material Inscription will appear this winter from Continuum Books.
Theresa Smith is a paper conservator for Special Collections in the Harvard University Library and has worked at the Fogg Art Museum and the Kupferstichkabinett-Berlin. She is a member of the editorial board of Restaurator and has published in Technè: La science au service de l'histoire de l'art et des civilisations and the American Institute for Conservation's Book and Paper Group Annual.
Christine Pawley, Director
Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America
University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Library and Information Studies
Room 4234 Helen C. White Hall
600 N. Park Street
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 263-2945
Fax: (608) 263-4849
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