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A R G U M E N T S   A B O U T

“clarity”


As Richard Lanham points out in The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts, even before Ramus defanged the art of rhetoric by separating invention and content from style and ornamentation, European readers had developed tacit, unconscious interpretive behaviors which encouraged them (and us, now) to view texts as transparent, direct representations of reality. This communicative ideal was later reified into a “C-B-S” (Clarity-Brevity-Sincerity) theory of prose decorum, and is still held up as a superior model by many today, especially those pursuing language reform in government and other bureaucratic organizations.

It was during the 17th century when the Plain Language (or Plain English) movement first gathered momentum. Authors wanting to pass on lots of practical information in the applied arts & sciences felt hemmed in by normative standards of “eloquence,” the primary purpose of which was to authenticate one’s status as a gentleman — “speak, that I may see thee,” as the early 17th-century poet and playwright, Ben Jonson, so nicely put it. In preface after preface, these authors (including some women) made a virtue of necessity: a “plain” style, we are told, better suited the author’s patriotic desire to set forth in print something of profit to the commonwealth. Such authors described themselves as having collected, arranged, and published the practical things they had learned or experienced “for the public good” — in the public interest.

Consider Sir Hugh Platt’s popular how-to manual,

The Jewell House of Art and Nature. Conteining divers rare and profitable Inventions, together with sundry new experimentes in the Art of Husbandry, Distillation, and Moulding. Faithfully and familiarly set downe, according to the Authors owne experience

first published in 1594. Here, Platt made it clear that scientific learning should always seek a practical outlet, and he criticized pedantic scientists who wrapped their learning in too much Latin, or avoided putting their book-learning and vague theories to the test. In particular, those writing about chemical discoveries were notorious for their difficult jargon, and Platt was neither the first, nor the last, to accuse alchemical writers of making a vast mystery of simple matters:

But the best and most approoved Authors of the rest, have written al their learned experiments so figurativelie, and wrapped them up in such clouds of skill (and that maketh them so often to tel us, Scribimus nobis & Philosophis, scribimus filiis artis, calling their minerals by the name of Aurum nostrum, mercurius noster, stibium noster, &c.) as that no man, without a manuel maister that may even lead him by the hand thorough al their riddles, is able either to make the sweete oile of Antimonie, or to dulcifie Mercurie as it ought to be, or to bring any mettal to be medicinable by making it irreducible to it selfe.

(The Jewell House of Art and Nature, 1st edn., 1594, sig. B4r)

Rather than following the alchemists’ lead, Platt experimented with a plainer style, assuring the reading public that a more clear and open communication of discoveries would encourage “choice wits” to enrich England with so many inventions that she need no longer fear the power of Spain (sigs. B2r–v). Platt’s own zeal for applied science is obvious in his book, which teaches a wide-ranging variety of things of everyday use to his readers: how to keep meats from spoiling, how to keep fresh water from putrefaction, how to use secret ink, how to make a wind vane which will register in the merchant’s room in order that he may know at any hour whether winds are favorable, how to stain new walnut like old, how to cement broken glass, and so on. Platt describes a pistol two feet long which will shoot accurately at “eight skore” (23). To discourage gaming, he reveals

A perspective Ring that will discover all the Cards that are neere him that weareth it on his finger.

(The Jewell House of Art and Nature 6)

He gives an easy way to learn the ABC’s, and he describes an

Art of memorie which master Dickson the Scot did teach of late yeres in England, and whereof he hath written a figurative and obscure treatise, set downe briefly and in plaine termes according to his owne demonstration, with the especiall uses thereof.

(The Jewell House of Art and Nature 81)

Platt would go on to author several other treatises that simplified his own studies for the profit of the general reader, including the very popular Delightes for Ladies, to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories, at least 10 editions of which were printed between 1601 and 1636, with a title-page which counselled women to “Reade, practise, and censure” technical texts such as his own. And his early allegiance to a C-B-S theory of prose decorum paid off handsomely. Platt’s agricultural studies and his invention of a briquet of powdered coal were so well advertised that he won widespread acclaim. King James I even knighted him for his services to the commonwealth in 1605. (Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England 596)

However, even Platt’s notable success did not win the day for Plain Language advocates. Towards the end of the 17th century, writers of how-to manuals such as John Smith, and of self-help guides such as Thomas Tryon, still felt the need to justify a “plain” delivery of facts and truths in the face of what Tryon referred to as that “Tyrant Custom,” with its quite different set of norms for authors.

Clarity and/or Eloquence

The title of the 1701 reprint of Smith’s manual, The Art of Painting in Oyl (first printed in the 1670s), gives a good summary of its contents (as was customary with title-pages at the time), and reads in full:

The art of painting in oyl. Wherein is included each particular circumstance relating to that art and mystery. Containing the best and most approved rules for preparing, mixing, and working of oyl colours. The whole treatise being so full compleat, and so exactly fitted to the meanest capacity, that all persons whatsoever, may be able by these directions, to paint in oyl-colours all manner of timber work; such as posts, pails, pallisadoes, gates, doors, or any thing else that requires either use, beauty, or preservation, from the violence or injury of the weather. In which is also particularly laid down, all the several circumstances required in painting of sun-dials, printed pictures, shash-windows [sic], &c. In oily-colours. The third impression with some alterations, and many matters added, which are not to be found in the two former editions. To which is added, the whole art and mystery of colouring maps and other prints with water colours.

In his Preface to the reader, John Smith comments:

... the stile I confess is mechanick and plain, but I consider that Discourses of this nature require not Eloquence to perswade, or intice the Reader; Knowledge being best communicated by clear and significant Expressions ....

(The Art of Painting in Oyl, 2nd edn., 1687, sigs. A4rv)

Today, we would probably categorize Smith’s “discourses of this nature” as technical writing (or what Patrick Moore calls “instrumental discourse”).

And most of us today would probably agree with what, when pressed by Smith, was still a revolutionary claim about the need for clarity, not eloquence, in technical writing.

But still, the debate continues. I even contribute to it myself on occasion, my last public comment on the subject reading:

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no right or wrong here. I’ve said it before, and will say it again now: meeting arbitrary definitions of clarity is not a priority for me. Communicating appropriately given a defined purpose, audience, and situation is.

(25 Feb. 2007 post to “Discussions about Information Design” listserv, InfoD-Cafe)

Clarity and precision have been rhetorical ideals from classical times, and are not necessarily at odds with eloquence. It is true that rhetorical valuations of clarity shifted during the 20th century, when some scholars began to focus on the potential of ambiguity as a rhetorical resource, even for instrumental genres (e.g., making strategic use of abstract “condensation symbols” to “coalesce diverse emotions and create identification among even those whose specific meanings for these symbols may be incompatible”). We’ve since learned not only that human experience and symbols are inherently ambiguous, but that we cannot “produce socially plausible meanings capable of fostering people’s cooperation” or “move people to shared interpretations” without exploiting ambiguous double meanings that “drive both ways.” (Olson, “Ambiguity”; see also Ianni, “Language Is Imprecisely Reliable”)

Most recently, the ongoing flap over “clarity” took an interesting turn with Stanley Fish’s 6 May 2007 article, “The All-Spin Zone”, for his Opinionator blog at the New York Times. Fish’s critical discussion of a new book by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, produced a firestorm in at least one online academic community, which took him to task for his misuse of Aristotle. E.g.,

As far as I can tell, Fish has not been reading scholarly texts since Self-Consuming Artifacts. His tendency to get precisely wrong what someone says is disturbing at worst and good for a laugh at best. It’s laughable insofar as, for some time, I’ve found his writing to exhibit the worst tendencies of a smart but sloppy student — find a quote, ignore the context, twist it as necessary, use it as a stick to beat your drum.
     To say that Aristotle is ambivalent about persuasion is ignorant (that is my charitable reading). To say that the text of Ars Rhetorica is ambivalent about emotional appeals is accurate, and the beginning of a really interesting discussion about Aristotle, classical rhetoric, emotional appeals, the text we call The Rhetoric. It is, in short, a scholarly argument.

Among other things, Fish argued in his blog that

Clarity is not a condition of unbiased vision; it is a rhetorical achievement.

and he questioned the hidden agenda of those who still “dream of improving mankind through a program of linguistic reform” (yet another project with roots in the 17th century, although here Fish does not look any further back than George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” which he excoriates: “... a really terrible essay”).

Ironically, the ensuing online dialogue with his critics (136 comments were posted, as of 19 September 2007, when New York Times opinion editorials and news columns were made available to visitors free of charge; see the reader comments appended to the end of the blog) centered on Fish’s own lack of clarity, especially his somewhat idiosyncratic use (without identifying it as such) of terms like “spin” and “open mind.” As Fish later explained to his critics in his follow-on blog, “Another Spin of the Wheel,” posted 3 June 2007:

... That is what I meant when I said that an open mind was an empty mind. There is of course a perfectly good and uncontroversial sense of having an open mind: being receptive to new ideas in the hope that we might learn something or revise an opinion (see comments #125 and #129); but even that possibility will be shaped by the opinions we already hold, for it is from their vantage point that an idea will be received as new and worthy of consideration. Open-mindedness, insofar as it exists, is itself a constrained condition. There is no such thing as really being open-minded[.] Again this is a distinction — between open-mindedness in a perfectly ordinary but uninteresting sense and open-mindedness as an epistemological state no human being could achieve — that I failed to articulate, just as I failed to articulate the difference between spin as deception and spin as the name of our inescapable condition, and for these failures I should certainly be faulted.

But even his apologies, here and elsewhere, do not undermine Fish’s larger point about clarity. Fish never says that clarity isn’t valuable, only that it is a rhetorical achievement. If that is so (and I personally believe it is), then all our attempts to measure, prescribe or legislate “clarity” are doomed to failure. “Clarity” is not some free-floating abstraction that we can codify and teach to others, but a matter of shared interpretation, interests and context.

Lessons from History: No. 1

I have by now read a lot of 17th-century texts written in Plain English, and know all too well that what was perfectly clear to readers back then is usually quite opaque to readers today. Take Elizabeth Talbot Grey’s widely-circulated recipe for “Testacious powder,” a polychrest medication of such repute that it was reprinted countless times (e.g., the booksellers’ Hannah Woolley included a prescription for “the Countesse of Kents Powder” in her The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight) and included in the authoritative 18th-century pharmacopoeia known as Quincy’s Dispensatory:

Take the Magistery of Pearles, of Crabs eyes prepared, of white Amber prepared, Hartshorn, Magistery of white Corral, of Lapis contra Parvam, of each a like quantity, to these pouders infused put of the black tips of the great clawes of Crabs, to the full weight of all the rest, beat these all into very fine pouder, and searce them through a fine Lawn Searce, to every ounce of this pouder adde a drachm of true Oriental Bezar, make all these up into a lump or masse with the jelly of Hartshorn, and colour it with a little Saffron, putting thereto a scruple of Ambergrice, and a little Musk also finely poudered, and dry them (made up into small Trochises) neither by fire nor Sun, but by a dry air: you may give to a man twenty graines of it, and to a child twelve graines.

(A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery, ed. by William Jarvis, 1st edn., 1653, pp. 175–6)

How many 21st-century homemakers could simply follow Grey’s instructions and whip this up in the kitchen, as did Hannah Woolley and her readers? Not only do we have no idea what “Trochises” are, or a “true” vs. counterfeit “Oriental Bezar,” “jelly of Hartshorn,” or even “a dry air” for that matter — most of us would be unaware that “Crabs eyes prepared” referred to a fine powder made from concretions in the heads of crabs, and not the eyes themselves. And yet the famous recipe was, as are most recipes, a model of “clarity” at the time. (Click here to open a second window with the countess of Kent’s versions of “Gascon’s Powder,” from which her own powder derived. No doubt, 17th-century readers benefited from the juxtaposition of 4 different recipes for “Powder of Crabs Claws Compound,” which they could compare and select among, depending on availability of ingredients — such as crabs that had to be purchased in May or September — and householders’ preferred methods of production, storage, and dispensation.)

Acontextual judgments concerning the recipe’s “clarity” are further complicated by a broadly-circulated variant on the version of “Lady Kent’s Powder” published by William Jarvis in A Choice Manual (1653). The variant was first published in 1655 by W. M. in his compilation of recipes which were presented to Queen Henrietta Maria before the Interregnum, entitled

The Queens closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving, candying, and cookery; as they were presented to the Queen by the most experienced persons of our times, many whereof they were honoured with her own practice, when she pleased to descend to these more private recreations. Never before published. Transcribed from the true copies of her Majesties own receipt books, by W. M. one of her late servants.

According to W. M., the recipe for “Lady Kents powder presented by her to the Queen” reads in full:

Take white Amber, Crabs eyes, red Corral, Harts horn and Pearl, all prepared severally, of each a like proportion, tear and mingle them, then take Harts horn Gelly, that hath some Saffron put into a bag, dissolve into it while the gelly is warm, then let the gelly cool, and therewith make a paste of the powders, which being made up into little bals, you must dry gently by the fire side. Pearl is prepared by dissolving it with the juyce of Limons, Amber prepared by beating it to powder; so also Crabs eyes and Corral, Harts horn prepared by burning it is the fire and taking the shires of it especially, the pith wholly rejected.

(The Queens Closet Opened, comp. by W. M., 1655 edn., p. 274)

In the book’s prefatory epistle to the reader, W. M. states that his honorable, if unauthorized, compilation of “rare” recipes was created from “the Original papers” given the Queen, by “persons of honour and quality,” which papers he had “preserved” with “diligent care,” even in exile. W. M. thus holds “the true copies” (sig. A4r) of the recipes, and under normal conditions, “these pretious leaves had never been in common” (sigs. B2rv).

Henrietta Maria’s trusted servant acknowledges the “Sacriledge” in being the first to pick the lock of the royal closet and open it to public scrutiny: “... there are some persons still left that will view this Volume with a kinde of indignation, that these copies should be made publick by a servant, which were onely intrusted to so sacred a custody” (sig. B1r). “I ... should sooner have parted with my dearest bloud, then to have suffered them to be publick.” (sig. A3v)

But these were not normal times for an elderly servant, who “fell with the Court” at the time of the Regicide (Charles I was executed on 30 January 1649), and was still living in exile when The Queens Closet Opened was printed in 1655. Court etiquette had already been breached:

... being diffident of the alteration of these times, I could not deny the importunities of a person of Honour, to whom I was obliged, who got a transcript of one of the true copies from me, but by ill fortune either lent or lost it; which I had never known from himself, but that to my no small amazement, I found no lesse then two other copies abroad, the sad consideration whereof inforced mee to consult with my friends, who all of them advised me to dispatch my Original copy to the Presse to prevent those false ones ....

(The Queens Closet Opened, comp. by W. M., 1655 edn., sigs. A3v–A4r)

So W. M. published the queen’s collection of recipes to counter the “false” recipes from the royal recipe-book which were already in print and which W. M. considered damaging to the reputation of the exiled queen. In such manner, W. M. recast a prohibited act of publication as more “honourable” than not, and W. M. further justified opening up the royal closet to common view because “it might continue my Soveraign Ladies remembrance in the brests and loves of those persons of honour and quality, that presented most of these rare receipts to her” (sig. A4v), “as also for a more general good” and “beneficial use” (sig. B2r).

But the “truth” of the recipes in The Queens Closet Opened was always circumstantial.

At the same time W. M. touts the truthfulness of his documentary record, he also acknowledges the unavoidable accumulation of errors in printed works at the time: “... those familiar Errataes which are incident to all Editions, more especially since my infirm age could not permit me with my constant endeavours to attend the Presse, insomuch that I must ingenuously confesse some receipts are disordered in their placing, other[s] false printed” (sig. B1v).

There is no way we can know for sure which recipes in The Queens Closet Opened have been “altered or corrupted by the failing of printing” (sig. B1r), or why there are notable differences between Jarvis’s reproduction of the countess’s celebrated recipe in 1653 and W. M.’s reproduction of the recipe in 1655 (missing the key ingredient, Lapis Contra Yarvam [Lapis Contrayerva], which made the Countess’s powder recipe more efficacious than competing versions of Gascon’s Powder and the physicians’ Pulvis ex Chelis Cancrorum Compositus [Powder of Crabs Claws Compound]).

The printed recipe for “Lady Kent’s Powder” in The Queens Closet Opened may or may not be “true” to the hand-written recipe Elizabeth Grey gave to Henrietta Maria for inclusion in the royal household’s book of recipes.

Perhaps the countess gave the queen an earlier version of her recipe, before completing her own trials with Lapis Contrayerva. William Jarvis, a “professor of phisick,” would go on to conduct and document

... certain Experiments of Gascons Pouder, or the Countesses, for their operations are much of the same nature, which have many times, with very happy successe, been tryed upon severall persons by my self, and divers others by my directions ...

(William Jarvis, epistle facing p. 191 in A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery, 4th edn., 1654)

and would have been privy to the most up-to-date version of the countess’s powder recipe. W. M. would not.

Then again, perhaps the variations are attributable to uncontrolled “poetic license” on the part of an anonymous printer.

So many unresolved questions about a supposedly clear and compact text point to the inherent instability of the recipe itself, which further undermines arhetorical notions of “clarity.” Most of us who cook think of a recipe as a “living” text which materializes differently each time it is performed and/or narrated, for ourselves and for others (Giard, “Part II: Doing-Cooking,” 149ff.). In The Writing of History, Michel de Certeau described such creative interpretive practice as “bringing forth differences,” which may well be the best explanation there is for all the extant variations on “Lady Kent’s Powder.”

Jarvis was himself well aware of this, as were most medical writers at the time, who worried that their recipes would be ruined in the making and/or use. As was typical, Jarvis warned his readers to be prepared for deviations from the norm, and argued that he should not be held accountable for faults not his own.

     Courteous Reader.
Well remembring, that we are all born for the weal-publique good: I here tender to thy perusall this small, and yet most excellent Treatise, Entituled, A choice Manuall of rare and Select Secrets in Physick. If thereby thou suck abundance of Profit, I shall be superlatively glad, but if any, or perchance many unlook’d for mistaks, for want of a due application, bid thee entertain contrary thoughts, the effect not answering thy curious expectation, upon a more serious reflex, know, that nothing is absolutely perfect, and withall, that the richest and most soveraign Antidote may be often misapplied: wherefore the fault not being mine, excuse and cease to censure: For which just, and but reasonable favour, thou shalt deservedly oblige me,
     Thine,
     W. J.

(William Jarvis, epistle “To the Reader” in A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery, 1st edn., 1653, sig. A3v)

In the end, “clarity” was no insurance against medical malpractice.

Lessons from History: No. 2

Were we to play a word-association game, few of us today would blurt out “poetry” or “poem” as our first subconscious association for “clarity.” Indeed, our culture’s dissociation of these two concepts (prosodic eloquence and clarity) is probably so strong that most of us would be surprised to learn that there was ever an historical linkage.

During the early modern period, poetry was used to teach everything from handwriting to mathematics, husbandry, medicine, philosophy, politics, and law. It is true that such instrumental verse seldom rose to the kind of poetry we now think of as an “art” form, but for centuries, verse was a mode of expression admirably suited to even the most utilitarian and bureaucratic concerns.

There were several reasons for this. First and foremost, poems were memorable (especially for those who are illiterate, as was the majority of society, at least through the 17th century).

Equally important, poems brought pleasure, as well as edification, to those who heard, recited, and read them.

And poems were an efficient means of delivering information of all sorts. Like emblems, the best Renaissance and Baroque poems infolded layers of meaning within a verse. In different contexts, different meanings could be “unfolded” from a single poem, adding whole new levels of clarity and comprehension for those willing to work a little at interpretation.

Barnabe Googe (aka Goche; 1540–1594) was a 16th-century poet and translator, whose father wanted him to be a lawyer and thus arranged for Barnabe to receive legal training after he matriculated at Christ’s College, Cambridge. The law was not, however, to Barnabe’s liking, and after the death of his father in 1577, Barnabe turned to the less profitable, but “sweeter,” labors of an author. In 1560, Googe published his first major work — a translation of the first three books of Marcellus Palingenius’s philosophical, scientific, and satirical epic Zodiacus Vitæ. It was very well received, and immediately established his literary reputation.

Like many professionals who follow their own muse, Googe spent most of his adult life on the financial edge. His stepmother (Robert Goche’s second wife, whom the elder Googe married in 1552) survived his father, and Barnabe was unable to take up his full inheritance as long as Ellen Gadbury Parris Goche was still alive. To make matters worse, Barnabe had always disliked his stepmother, and relations between them were so strained that living together was impossible. As such, it was not until after his stepmother died in 1584 that Barnabe was free to move his family back from Ireland (where many a desperate Englishman hoped to make his fortune) and settle at Alvingham Priory in Lincolnshire, on inherited lands taken from the church by the crown (Robert Goche had been receiver of the king’s revenues from lands of the former religious houses in Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire).

Having been a royal ward while a minor, and having spent the bulk of his majority unable to control or possess his inherited lands, Googe had a keen interest in estate law, and this personal interest spilled over into his writing. In the mid-1570s, while his stepmother was still alive, Googe translated Rei Rusticæ Libri Quatuor by the German humanist and protestant reformer, Conrad Heresbach (1496–1576). The resulting Foure Bookes of Husbandry, first published at London in 1577, was Googe’s second most popular work, and again, his translation was widely praised by contemporaries.

Googe’s Foure Bookes of Husbandry is relevant to our debate over “clarity” because it concludes with a poem explaining the knot of legalities involved with land ownership:

Olde English rules, for purchasing land.

   Who so wilbe wise in purchasing,
   Let him consider these poyntes folowing.

   FIRST see that the lande be cleare,
          In title of the selleare.

   And that it stand in danger,
          Of no womans dowrie.

   See whether the tenure be bond or free,
          And release of every feoffee.

   See that the sellar be of age,
          And that it lye not in morgage.

   Whether a tayle be thereof founde.
          And whether it stand in statute bound.

   Consider what service longeth theretoe,
          And what quitrent thereout must goe.

   And yf it be come of a wedded woman,
          Thinke thou then on coverte baron.

   And yf thou may in any wyse,
          Make thy charter with warrantise.

   To thee, thine heires, assignes also,
          Thus should a wise purchaser do.

(Barnabe Googe, Foure Bookes of Husbandry, 1577 edn., p. 195)

 

The poem was not part of Heresbach’s Rei Rusticæ Libri Quatuor, and is Googe’s own clear summary of the law, pulled from English oral tradition, and strategically located at the end of his book for rhetorical effect.

The poem would appear again in print in 1720, under the heading “Directions relating to the Purchasing, and Measuring of Land,” where it would be paired with tables in applied mathematics in the 4th revised and expanded edition of N. H.’s best-selling The Compleat Tradesman: or, the Exact Dealers Daily Companion. (Click here to open a second window with the poem on real estate law, as refashioned for 18th-century sensibilities, along with a reproduction of page 1 of the accompanying surveyor’s table. Tabular calculations such as this helped establish the standards of measurement on which a thriving trade depends, as does the modern art of survey. To this end, N. H. added more tables relating to the buying or selling of any commodity, either by number, weight or measure, to the revised 2nd edition of The Compleat Tradesman, published in 1684. Click here to open a second window with one such table, added by N. H. as Chapter 32, which documented regional variations in standardized measures, “For the better instructing of Young Traders” and surveyors.)

N. H.’s The Compleat Tradesman was first published in 1684 as a “Pocket Companion” for “all merchants, whole-sale-men, shop-keepers, retailers, young tradesmen, countrey-chapmen, industrious yeomen, traders in petty villages, and all farmers, and others that goe to countrey fairs and markets; and for all men whatsoever, that be of any trade, or have any considerable dealings in the world” (from the title-page). Designed as a compendium of “all things absolutely necessary to be known by all those who would thrive in the world, and in the whole art and mystery of trade and traffick” (title-page), The Compleat Tradesman pioneered a new kind of business book, combining the practicality of the almanac with the scope of “Voluminous Treatises” written by scholars, the encyclopedist’s mission concerning the organization and control of knowledge, and the literary style of popular self-help handbooks which appealed to aspiring members of the middle class.

What lay scattered in divers Volumes, are reduced (in a method wholly new) under their proper Heads, briefly, yet (I hope) not obscurely. I have intermixt many new things, which fell within my own observation (or my friends) respecting Trade and Commerce, some of which were never to my knowledge (I am sure never in this Method) Published.

(Epistle Dedicatory, The Compleat Tradesman, 1st edn., 1684, A3v)

Throughout, N. H., a “Merchant, in the City of London,” touted the life lessons learned from work experience, and he used a building metaphor, with which his audience would have been familiar, to describe his innovative communications project:

In Erecting such a troublesome and various Edifice, the Spectator, at first view, will hardly conceive how much Pains was bestowed in Digging the Foundation, in raising Scaffolds, in finding, conveying, and fitting Materials, in contriving the Architecture, in removing the Rubbish, &c. Other Builders consult only their own Brains, and the Dead, (that is, Books) whereunto access may be had at all Hours: But, in this Work, the Living, and the choicest among them, were to be advised with; whereof some were far distant, others seldom at leisure; some unwilling to Communicate their Knowledge, others not at all affable.
     However, If the Reader, reaping in Few Minutes, the Fruits of many Hours Labour, shall receive any Content, I shall not only be satisfied for this, but encouraged for another like Enterprize.

(Epistle Dedicatory, The Compleat Tradesman, 1st edn., 1684, A4rv)

The new formula worked very well, indeed. Sales of The Compleat Tradesman were brisk, resulting in revised and expanded 2nd and 3rd editions that same year, along with a second companion volume, entitled The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, which also came out in 1684. This book — concerned with finance, profitability, and opportunity in a newly-globalizing economy — still fascinates, and was deftly framed with a classic psychological appeal:

How useful this Treatise may be in these hard times, wherein Money is so hard to come at, I leave to you to judge; only this I shall say, that this Book and its first part will make you all (if you follow the excellent Instructions therein given) both Honest and Compleat Dealers, and in a little time very Rich and Wealthy men.

(Epistle Dedicatory, The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, A2r)

N. H. believed that all successful citizens had social responsibilities which required balancing wise spending and saving, the public good with private gain. He delivered these beliefs in verse and in memorable aphorisms, such as: “Riches are for spending, and spending for Honour and good Actions; therefore Extraordinary Expence must be limited by the worth of the occasion.” (The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, 18) “Ordinary Expence ought to be limited by a mans Estate, and governed with such regard, as it be within his compass.” (The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, 18) “[I]f a man will keep but of even hand, his Ordinary Expences ought to be but to the half of his Receipts; and if he think to wax Rich, but to the third part.” (The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, 18) “A man had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of Expence, to be saving again in some other; as if he be plentiful in Dyet, to be saving in Apparel; if he be plentiful in the Hall, to be saving in the Stable, and the like.” (The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, 19) “Misery is ever the Companion of borrowed Money.” (The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, 88)

N. H.’s simple “Rules of Thriving” for merchant capitalists were expressed in 34 stanzas of doggerel poetry. (Click here to open a second window with N. H.’s advice in verse for tradesmen and farmers trying to build wealth — which N. H. colorfully branded the “art of money-catching.”) N. H.’s poem was written during an intensely religious age, when dominant Christian values framed activities in both the private and public spheres. His versifying reflects and reproduces the tastes of the times under a restored monarchy confronting political and religious strife that would lead to yet another revolution in 1688, with leisured and middle classes benefiting from economic expansion sustained by the global reach of colonialism. But some of the underlying assumptions and values are timeless. N. H.’s poetic advice for tradesmen still speaks, over three centuries later, to aspiring entrepreneurs living under the post-modern economic regimes of finance capitalism and consumer capitalism.

As we in the U.S. continue our debate over the need for better-regulated, more clear and transparent financial transactions, we might do well to ponder Googe’s and N. H.’s creative approach to teaching financial literacy.

Who is to say that a clever ditty or jingle might not prove more effective at protecting 21st-century consumers, faced with ever more complicated financial products, than the usual forgettable prose warnings, delivered in Plain English and plain print?

Lessons from History: No. 3

Even when Plain English was used in centuries past by authors who were far better trained in the rhetorical arts than are most of us today, “clarity” was more often the ideal than the reality.

That gifted “Mechanick” Robert Hooke, whose prose style has been praised by 21st-century scientists such as the oceanographer Ellen Tan Drake, dealt in difficult subjects and unfamiliar ideas that required more than the Clarity-Brevity-Sincerity trinity to properly convey. Even Hooke’s good friend, John Aubrey, once remarked:

I wish he had writt plainer, and afforded a little more paper.

The occasion was an epistolary exchange with the Oxford antiquary, Anthony Wood (aka Anthony à Wood), with whom Aubrey collaborated and corresponded for about 25 years. In 1669, Wood began compiling a biographical dictionary of all the writers and prelates educated at Oxford, from the 15th year of Henry VII’s reign (1500 CE) up to Wood’s own death in 1695.

Wood’s many sources included the plethora of texts written by Oxford alumni, the university registers and libraries, the London record offices, cathedral archives, and the indefatigable researches of John Aubrey. With his unusually profuse and diverse acquaintance, Aubrey was well positioned to help Wood with such a daunting project. For years, Aubrey collected information on Oxford writers (and all manner of other men and women, too), sending his notes on 17th-century notables to Wood for incorporation into his manuscript. The resulting two-volume work, published by Wood in 1691–2 with the title Athenæ Oxonienses, “benefited immensely from Aubrey’s researches and from the lively style in which they were delivered” (Parry, n. pag.).

Robert Hooke went to Christ Church, Oxford in 1653/4 (Hooke did not receive a bachelor’s degree, but was granted his MA degree in 1663), and was a published author — hence a proper subject for Wood’s biographical register — as well as one of Aubrey’s 14 special “amici.” (Indeed, the impecunious Aubrey — who from 1671 lived the life of a peripatetic scholar, reliant on the hospitality of various patrons and friends — used Hooke’s rooms in Gresham College as the place to which he had his letters addressed.)

In September of 1689, Aubrey sent Wood crucial information about his friend Hooke, in an effort to promote Hooke’s claim to what Aubrey called “the greatest discovery in nature that ever was since the world’s creation” — referring to the recent discovery of the principles of gravity and orbital motion. Hooke and Newton were by then locked in an acrimonious dispute over priority, as explained by Hooke’s ODNB biographer, Patri J. Pugliese:

Following Oldenburg’s death in 1677, Hooke was elected as one of two secretaries to the Royal Society. In this capacity he initiated correspondence with a number of members who had not been heard from in recent years, among them Isaac Newton. In 1672, when Newton had submitted his “New theory about light and colours” to the Royal Society, it had sparked heated debate and exchanges of letters. Hooke had been particularly critical of Newton’s underlying view that light consisted of a stream of particles, though Newton had insisted that his conclusions did not depend upon that hypothesis. In spite of that earlier dispute the exchange of letters in 1677, which also dealt with the refraction of light, was thoroughly cordial.
   In November 1679 Hooke again entreated Newton to communicate his thoughts on philosophical matters, inviting him to comment on Hooke’s work: “And particularly if you will let me know your thoughts of that of compounding the celestiall motions of the planets of a direct motion by the tangent & an attractive motion towards the centrall body, Or what objections you have against my hypothesis of the lawes or causes of Springinesse.” (Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 2.297)
   Newton replied that he had not heard of these hypotheses. He proposed an experiment to detect the effects of the earth’s rotation on a falling body, including a diagram in which the path of fall is extended within the body of the earth. Hooke corrected Newton’s diagram only to be corrected in turn by Newton with a new diagram based on the assumption of a constant force towards the centre of the earth. Hooke replied that his own supposition was that gravitational attraction acted “in a duplicate proportion to the Distance from the Center Reciprocall” (ibid., 2.309), that is, as the inverse square of distance. Given this correspondence it is not surprising that Hooke felt that Newton had learned the inverse square law of gravity from him. He could not know that over a decade earlier Newton had not only supposed this relation, but had tested it by calculation two different ways. Hooke’s insistence that he deserved some credit from Newton for this proposition, and Newton’s refusal to acknowledge any debt to Hooke whatsoever, led to mutual resentment that never abated. While Newton had good reason not to acknowledge a debt to Hooke for the inverse square relation, recent scholarship credits Hooke with introducing Newton to the idea of analysing orbital motion as the sum of a tangential velocity and a deflection towards a centre (Westfall; Cohen, ‘Newton’s discovery’). This became a key feature of Newton’s subsequent analysis of orbital motion in the tract De Motu and in the Principia (1687), while it had not figured in his earlier demonstrations on the inverse square law.

(Pugliese, n. pag.)

Aubrey justified his own involvement in the matter when he told Wood in a postscript to his letter of 1689, “’Tis such a hard matter to get people to doe themselves right.” Aubrey felt that Hooke needed to champion his discovery and defend his claim to priority more clearly, so Aubrey drafted the following record of events for Wood:

About 9 or 10 years ago, Mr. Hooke writt to Mr. Isaac Newton, of Trinity College, Cambridge, to make a demonstration of this theory, not telling him, at first, the proportion of the gravity to the distance, nor what was the curv’d line that was thereby made. Mr. Newton, in his answer to the letter, did expresse that he had not known of it; and in his first attempt about it, he calculated the curve by supposing the attraction to be the same at all distances: upon which, Mr. Hooke sent, in his next letter, the whole of his hypothesis, scil. that the gravitation was reciprocall to the square of the distance, which a would make the motion in an ellipsis, in one of whose foci the sun being placed, the aphelion and perihelion of the planet would be opposite to each other in the same line, which is the whole coelestiall theory, concerning which Mr. Newton hath a demonstration, not at all owning he receiv’d the first intimation of it from Mr. Hooke. Likewise Mr. Newton haz in the same booke printed some other theories and experiments of Mr. Hooke’s, as that about the oval figure of the earth and sea: without acknowledgeing from whom he had them.

Aubrey then had Hooke review and comment on the draft of his letter for Wood, at which point Hooke amended this particular passage of Aubrey’s to read:

About 9 or 10 years ago, Mr. Hooke writt to Mr. Isaac Newton, of Trinity College, Cambridge, to make a demonstration of this theory, not telling him, at first, the proportion of the gravity to the distance, nor what was the curv’d line that was thereby made. Mr. Newton, in his answer to the letter, did expresse that he had not known of it; and in his first attempt about it, he calculated the curve by supposing the attraction to be the same at all distances: upon which, Mr. Hooke sent, in his next letter, the whole of his hypothesis, scil. that the gravitation was reciprocall to the square of the distance, which a would make the motion in an ellipsis, in one of whose foci the sun being placed, the aphelion and perihelion of the planet would be opposite to each other in the same line, which is the whole coelestiall theory, concerning which Mr. Newton hath a demonstration, not at all owning he receiv’d the first intimation of it from Mr. Hooke. Likewise Mr. Newton haz in the same booke printed some other theories and experiments of Mr. Hooke’s, as that about the oval figure of the earth and sea: without acknowledgeing from whom he had them, though he had not sent it up with the other parts of his booke till near a month after the theory was read to the Society by Mr. Hooke, when it served to help to answer Dr. Wallis his arguments produced in the Royal Society against it.

(Click here for the complete text of Aubrey’s letter, as sent to Wood in 1689.)

Aubrey, concerned that more evidence than this was needed to bolster Hooke’s claim to priority of discovery, enclosed an annotated excerpt, in Hooke’s autograph, from the conclusion of Hooke’s first Cutler Lecture, An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth (read to the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge in 1671, and published in 1674). The MS. enclosure varies slightly in orthography and wording from the copy of Hooke’s lecture that was printed on pp. 27–8 in 1674, without errata, so it’s impossible to know if the subtle changes to the text were introduced to the published version by the printer in 1674, or by Hooke, copying out the conclusion of his lecture for Wood, in 1689. Regardless, the more noticeable amendment to the lecture text originated with Hooke, and is in his autograph.

Of note, Hooke interpolated his transcription of the lecture for Wood in order to emphasize the tie-in between his printed lecture of 1674 and his correspondence with Newton in 1678 (click here for the full text of Aubrey’s 1689 letter to Wood, enclosing the communication from Hooke). Presumably, Hooke felt that such edits would clarify matters for Wood and others, trusting — as he too often did — that the evidence clearly recorded in the journal book of the Royal Society spoke for itself.

Aubrey, on the other hand, thought more artful persuasion was called for (hence Aubrey’s closing comment to Wood, “I wish he had writt plainer, and afforded a little more paper.”) And Aubrey was right. Hooke’s and Newton’s arguments about orbital motion were at the same time boldly imaginative and nuanced; the evidence concerning what each man knew, and when he knew it, was open to interpretation; and our intellectual influences are often more indirect, associational, and correlative than demonstrably causative. Over three centuries on, scholars continue to debate the extent of Newton’s unacknowledged borrowings from Hooke, with conflicting definitions of archaic terminology at the center of the debate.

Drake, for instance, has challenged Newton scholar Richard Westfall’s attempt to discredit Hooke’s claim to priority based on Westfall’s “misinterpretation” of Hooke’s hypothesis on congruity and incongruity of bodies, which was central to his kinetic theory of matter.

Westfall (1969) seizes upon these rather archaic-sounding words [“congruity” and “incongruity” of bodies], uttered in Hooke’s first paper [Tract on Capillary Attraction (1661 O.S., 1660 N.S.)] when he was only 25 years old, to convince the reader not to take Hooke’s startling pronouncements on gravitational law too seriously, on the grounds that these ideas really show him to mean “particular” gravities rather than universal gravitation when he discusses celestial mechanics. To Westfall, Hooke was thus worlds behind Newton on the universal law. It is my opinion that Westfall misinterpreted Hooke’s concept of congruity and incongruity. Hooke is referring to bodies and motions at the atomic or molecular level rather than at the planetary level. When Hooke speaks of vibrations he is referring to the oscillations of the “particles of matter,” in his development of a kinetic theory of matter.

(Drake, Restless Genius 133n21)

Here, and elsewhere in Drake’s questioning of historians’ reliance on a highly selective (and possibly doctored) publication record, “clarity” is not a given, but a rhetorical construct refashioned by generations of Newton scholars, to the decided disadvantage of Hooke and his supporters.

In similar vein, Drake takes on conventional wisdom yet again with her reinterpretation of Hooke’s notion of “centripetal force,” arguing that it was this which allowed Newton to understand the physics of celestial motions and develop his laws of gravitation — as Aubrey and Hooke also asserted in their letter of 1689 to Anthony Wood (although they used different arguments, geared to a 17th-century audience, in order to make the case).

[Hooke’s] concept of centripetal force, necessary to the universal law of gravitation and later (in 1679) communicated to Newton, allowed the latter to think correctly about gravitation. Up to that moment, Newton wrote only in terms of the exact opposite effect, that of the vis centrifuga (centrifugal force). In the course of the correspondence between Newton and Hooke in the year 1679–1680, Hooke presented Newton with a complete statement of the gravitational problem including the following points:

(1) the force of attraction between two bodies is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them;

(2) this force differs within the body of the Earth;

(3) the attraction decreases with the increasing centrifugal effect in low latitudes;

(4) the gravitational force of attraction provides the centripetal force necessary to keep planets in orbit—in Hooke’s own words to Newton, “compounding the celestial motions of the planets of a direct motion by the tangent and an attractive motion towards the central body”;

(5) and calculations should be made from the centers of the Sun and planets.

Hooke published his ideas on celestial mechanics in his Attempt to prove the motion of the earth by observation, London, 1674, 13 years before the publication of Principia. Newton, however, claimed to have arrived at his universal law of gravitation at his country home in Woolsthorpe during the plague years 1665 or 1666 (it is not clear which), during his annus mirabilis (his “marvelous year” when the legendary apple fell). This date, of course, would clearly predate Hooke’s expression of the law except that there is clear proof that as late as 1675, Newton still thought that the planets and Sun were kept apart by “some secret principle of unsociableness in the ethers of their vortices,” and that gravity was due to a circulating ether that had to be replenished in the center of the Earth by a process like fermentation or coagulation (letter to Oldenburg December 7, 1675, Turnbull, 1959, vol. I:368; Patterson, 1950, p. 32–33). Hooke, in contrast, possessed a highly sophisticated understanding of the gravitational theory at least by 1679, and most likely for at least a decade before. He definitely formulated the physical hypothesis and stated the mathematical problem, although there is no evidence extant that he followed this with mathematical analysis. Many of Hooke’s papers, however, are lost, some perhaps have even been put into unsympathetic hands and therefore destroyed (Patterson, 1949, p. 339–341). Patterson considers that “the Leibniz-Hooke letters would be of particular interest could they be found, since they were from the period of Hooke’s correspondence with Newton on the subject of gravitation, and touched upon the ‘universal algebra’ upon which Leibniz was then at work” (Patterson, 1949, p. 340–341). Leibniz, of course, was another enemy of Newton and a co-founder of the calculus. A diagram constructed by Hooke was found recently among the Wren papers in the Trinity College Library, Cambridge, and photocopied by Pugliese (1989). Physicist Michael Nauenberg (1994) analyzed the diagram and concluded that Hooke was indeed very close to at least a geometric solution of the elliptical orbit. By the end of 1679, Hooke had claimed to his friends that he had worked out the whole theory; he noted in his diary for January 4th, 1680, “— perfect Theory of Heavens.” The only proof that Newton had developed his theory by the plague years is some unsubstantiated statements made by Newton himself to friends, one of them, William Whiston, almost 30 years after the supposed event. An example of Newton’s untruthfulness is cited by Patterson (1950): Newton wrote a letter to Oldenburg on June 23, 1673, to be forwarded to Huygens, in which he claimed to have expressed his gravitational theory and then referred to this letter in his later correspondence with Halley as evidence of his priority over Hooke. Later authors have supported Newton’s claims by quoting this passage from a copy of his June 23rd letter, reposited at the Royal Society. But Huygens’ editors have proved with photostatic copies that the passage concerning gravitation does not appear in Huygens’ copy of the letter. The Royal Society copy, therefore, must have been doctored to produce the desired effect. Newton gained his vast reputation, therefore, partly by planting evidence to establish priority, if not by himself, at least by his followers. He became less than civil to Hooke and always refused to give him credit for this most productive idea. Hooke was deeply saddened and hurt by this neglect of one of his greatest achievements.

(Drake, Restless Genius 32–33)

Aubrey would himself feel the sting of plagiarism several times, which must have strengthened his resolve to “get people to doe themselves right” (from Aubrey’s letter of 1689 to Anthony Wood). He first learned the need for a vigorous defense against intellectual piracy in 1681 when Richard Blackbourne of Trinity College, Cambridge, used Aubrey’s “Life of Mr Thomas Hobbes of Malmesburie” to produce his own life of Hobbes in Latin.

Aubrey’s next run-in with a plagiarist occurred in 1692 when the preeminent botanist-zoologist, John Ray, neglected to credit Aubrey and Hooke as sources for his hypothesis on the formation of terrestrial features (the earth’s mountains, valleys, and seas), as published by Ray in his Miscellaneous Discourses Concerning the Dissolution and Changes of the World (1692). In 1691, Aubrey had sent Ray a review copy of his MS., Memoires of Naturall Remarques in the County of Wilts (published posthumously in 1847 as Natural History of Wiltshire), which included a chapter titled “An Hypothesis of the Terraqueous Globe. A Digression.” wherein Aubrey paid tribute to Hooke as “first discoverer,” circa 1663 or 1664, of the hypothesis. Ray had reviewed Aubrey’s MS. favorably, stating that he derived “great pleasure & satisfaction” from everything in it except for the section recounting Hooke’s hypothesis of the terraqueous globe; this, Ray (a theologian) found offensive, and he recommended that Aubrey delete it, contending that it “is but a Digression, & aliene from your subject, & so may very well be left out.” (qtd. in Drake, 108)

Aubrey disagreed, annotating his copy of Ray’s letter with the comment:

This Hypothesis is Mr. Hooks. I say so, and it is the best thing in the Book; it (indeed) does interfere w[it]h ye 1 chap. of Genesis.

(qtd. in Drake, Restless Genius 108)

So when Ray’s Miscellaneous Discourses was rushed through the press early in 1692 with “two large Digressions” concerning the creation of the world, espousing Hooke’s hypothesis of the terraqueous globe within a Christian framework stressing the power & wisdom of God — complete with Hooke’s citations from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pliny, Strabo, and Kircher — with nary a mention of Hooke or Aubrey, both men were distressed. An irate Aubrey wrote to Anthony Wood:

Your advice to me was prophetique, viz. not to lend my MSS. You remember Mr. J. Ray sent me a very kind letter concerning my Naturall History of Wilts: only he misliked my Digression, which is Mr. Hooke’s Hypothesis of the terraquious Globe whom I name with respect. Mr. Ray would have me (in the letter) leave it out. And now lately is come forth a booke of his in 8o which all Mr. Hooke’s hypothesis in my letter is published and without any mention of Mr. Hooke or my booke. Mr. Hooke is much troubled about it. ’Tis a right Presbyterian trick.

(Letter from Aubrey to Wood, 13 Feb. 1692; qtd. in Drake, Restless Genius 109)

Little did Aubrey know then that Wood would soon turn on him, as well.

Wood never acknowledged Aubrey’s help in his prefaces, nor did he assist Aubrey to get into print on his own account; and the only record he left of their relationship, other than private letters, were the sour and unappreciative remarks that he put into his Life. Here he remembered Aubrey only as “a pretender to Antiquities” and as “a shiftless person, roving and magotie-headed, and sometimes little better than crased” (Life and Times, 2.117). When some of the living subjects of Athenae began to complain about their biographies in the newly published book, Wood wrote to Aubrey blaming him for supplying information that had aroused the anger of numerous gentlemen against Wood, even though it was clear that Aubrey had advised Wood to use his judgement when editing his material for publication. Aubrey came to realize that he was being exploited, and, tolerant and generous-minded though his nature was, Wood’s ingratitude finally provoked him to protest. In 1694, when Wood’s book had been published, and Wood returned some of Aubrey’s manuscripts in mutilated condition, Aubrey expostulated, “I thought you so deare a friend that I might have entrusted my life in your hands and now your unkindness doth almost break my heart” (Brief Lives, 1.13).

(Parry, n. pag.)

As for Hooke (and his rivalry with Newton), Wood had nothing much to say about either man in print (the Athenæ Oxonienses of 1691–2) or in manuscript (Wood’s autobiography and journal MSS.). This was perhaps because Newton was at Cambridge (not Oxford), and because Hooke’s decidedly unglamorous and secular career as Europe’s first professional research scientist was little esteemed by the man who pretentiously styled himself “Anthony à Wood” from 1660 on (Wood followed contemporary fashion in also Latinizing his name, using “Antonius à Bosco” as an alternate to the more “vulgar” English form from about 1670).

For whatever reason, the ferment of ideas, which so agitated the 17th-century scientific community, does not appear to have interested Wood.

No lack of clarity on Hooke’s part was responsible for this state of affairs.

Nothing Hooke or Aubrey wrote would have drawn Anthony à Wood to inquire into the phenomena and principles of nature.

He was not to be provoked or engaged in Hooke’s cause, by any rhetorical means.

References

**  Pre-20th-Century Works  **

Anon. The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery. Containing, I. The art of preserving and candying fruits & flowers, and the making of all sorts of conserves, syrups, and jellies. II. The physical cabinet, or, excellent receipts in physick and chirurgery; together with some rare beautifying waters, to adorn and add loveliness to the face and body: and also some new and excellent secrets and experiments in the art of angling. III. The compleat cooks guide, or, directions for dressing all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish, both in the English and French mode, with all sauces and sallets; and the making pyes, pasties, tarts, and custards, with the forms and shapes of many of them. Ed. by T. P. London: Printed for B. Harris, and are to be sold at his shop, at the Stationers Arms in Swithins Rents by the Royall Exchange, 1675.

This unauthorized work, based on the best-selling books of Hannah Wolley, was anonymously published in 1675 with a spurious portrait of Wolley, and was for centuries attributed to her, as the bookseller intended it to be.
     The enterprising Hannah Wolley (aka “Woolley,” an alias sometimes used by her male impersonators) was an early-modern version of Martha Stewart. She offered a range of women (not just wealthy ones) practical guidance — “the Product of my Thirty years Observations and Experience” — on operating their households, educating their children, and caring for the sick. Her own accomplishments ranged from needlework and crafts to medicine and surgery, from cooking to arithmetic, and her writings on domestic economy were translated and read across Europe. Wolley’s brand was lucrative enough to attract the attention of unscrupulous publishers such as Benjamin Harris, who was known to pirate and republish unauthorized editions in order “to get money” (e.g., not only did Harris capitalize on Wolley’s brand, but he also pirated the almanacs of astrologer John Partridge, whose brand was similarly linked with brisk sales).
     The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight was twice reprinted in 1677, with further editions appearing in 1683, 1684, 1685, 1686, and 1696, all issued by Harris, his partners and heirs (e.g., it was a woman, Sarah Harris, who brought out The Sixth Edition Enlarged in 1686).
     The book’s prefatory epistle “To All Ladies and Gentlewomen” is signed by a “T. P.” whom I believe may have been Thomas Passenger, bookseller “at the Three Bibles and Star on London-Bridge” who brought out the anonymously-published The Compleat Servant-Maid in 1677 and 1691 — another work in the same domestic-advice genre which was also misattributed to Hannah Wolley.

Aubrey, John. “Brief lives,” chiefly of contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between the years 1669 & 1696; ed. from the author’s mss. by Andrew Clark .... 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898.

Aubrey, John. The natural history of Wiltshire. Ed. by John Britton. London: Printed by J. B. Nichols and Son, 1847.

B., M., ed. The ladies cabinet enlarged and opened: containing many rare secrets, and rich ornaments of several kindes, and different uses. Comprized under three general heads. Viz. of 1. Preserving, conserving, candying, &c. 2. Physick and chirurgery. 3. Cookery and houswifery. Whereunto is added, Sundry experiments, and choice extractions of waters, oyls, &c. Collected and practised, by the late Right Honorable and learned chymist, the Lord Ruthven. With a particular table to each part. London: Printed by T. M. for M. M. G. Bedell, and T. Collins, at the middle Temple-Gate, Fleet-street, 1654.

M. B.’s recipe book was first published in 1639, with the title The Ladies Cabinet Opened, and 250 recipes, the bulk of which related to “Physick and chirurgery [surgery].” The book was so well received by readers that M. B. reissued it in an enlarged, and better organized, edition in 1654. The new The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened ... whereunto is added, Sundry Experiments, and Choice Extractions of Waters, Oyls, &c. Collected and Practised, by ... Lord Ruthven ... had swelled to include 477 recipes total, 249 of which were “rare Secrets in nature, belonging both to Physick and Chirurgery, not unworthy the knowledg and practice of most piercing spirits.” These “piercing spirits” were 17th-century housewives — those “Industrious improvers of Nature by Art; especially, the vertuous Ladies and Gentlewomen of this Land” to whom M. B. addressed the 2nd edn. of his recipe book, reprinted in 1655, 1657, and 1667.
     Among the many recipes added to the 1654 edition of The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened was a medical receipt earlier printed by William Jarvis in Lady Kent’s A Choice Manual of Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chyrurgery: “The Apothicaries Gascon’s powder, with its use” (The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened, 1654, Part 2, Sect. 1, No. 185, p. 126). M. B.’s 1654 version of Pulvis Gasconicus (Gascoigne’s/Gascon’s Powder) did not differ substantively from Jarvis’s version of 1653, the differences between the two having mostly to do with orthography. However, M. B. did alter the instructions of the final paragraph, most probably in the interests of increased clarity, condensing Jarvis’s two final paragraphs into one, reading: “You must get your crabs for this powder, about May or in September; take them before they are boiled: When you have made these, set them neither by the fire, nor in the Sun, but in a dry aire, till they grow hard. The dose is ten or twelve grains.” Click here to open a second window with Jarvis’s version of “The Apothecaries Gascon Pouder, with the use” (see recipe No. 2), as printed in 1653, for a detailed comparison.
     Most of the recipes in M. B.’s The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened are unattributed, with a few notable exceptions: Gascon’s Powder; “A very Gentle purge” reprinted from Gerard’s Herball (1597), revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson (1633, 1636); “Doctor Stevens his Water”; “Doctor Lewins Unguentum Resatum, good for the heat in the Back”; two recipes from M. R. for “A great and sore Plurisie” and “An approved Remedy to stay Vomiting”; and two recipes attributed to women, “The purge of Assarabacha, which the Lady A. D. used to rectifie her stomack any way offended” plus “A Medicine to breake and heal sore brests of Woman, used by Midwives, and other skilful women in London.”

Chambers, Ephraim. Cyclopædia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences. Containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify’d thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine: the figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses, of things natural and artificial: the rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial: with the several systems, sects, opinions, &c. among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, criticks, &c: the whole intended as a course of antient and modern learning. Compiled from the best authors, dictionaries, journals, memoirs, transactions, ephemerides, &c. in several languages, by E. Chambers. 2 vols. London: Printed for James and John Knapton, John Darby, Daniel Midwinter, Arthur Bettesworth, John Senex, Robert Gossing, John Pemberton, William and John Innys, John Osborne and Tho. Longman, Charles Rivington, John Hooke, Ranew Robinson, Francis Clay, Aaron Ward, Edward Synon, Daniel Browne, Andrew Johnston, and Thomas Osborn, MDCCXXVIII [1728].

Chambers, Ephraim, and George Lewis Scott, et al., ed. A supplement to Mr. Chambers’s Cyclopædia: or, universal dictionary of arts and sciences. In two volumes. 2 vols. London: Printed for W. Innys and J. Richardson, R. Ware, J. and P. Knapton, T. Osborne, S. Birt, T. and T. Longman, D. Browne, C. Hitch and L. Hawes, J. Hodges, J. Shuckburgh, A. Millar, J. and J. Rivington, J. Ward, M. Senex, and the Executors of J. Darby, MDCCLIII [1753].

Googe, Barnabe. Foure bookes of husbandry, collected by M. Conradus Heresbachius, counseller to the hygh and mighty prince, the Duke of Cleve: conteyning the whole arte and trade of husbandry, with the antiquitie, and commendation thereof. Newely Englished, and increased, by Barnabe Googe, Esquire. At London: Printed by Richard Watkins, 1577.

H., N. The compleat tradesman: or, The exact dealers daily companion. Instructing him throughly in all things absolutely necessary to be known by all those who would thrive in the world, and in the whole art and mystery of trade and traffick, and will be of constant use for all merchants, whole-sale-men, shop-keepers, retailers, young tradesmen, countrey-chapmen, industrious yeomen, traders in petty villages, and all farmers, and others that goe to countrey fairs and markets; and for all men whatsoever, that be of any trade, or have any considerable dealings in the world. Composed by N. H., merchant in the city of London. Price 1 s. London: Printed for John Dunton at the Black Raven, over against the Stocks-Market, 1684.

The 1st edn. of N. H.’s best-selling The Compleat Tradesman: or, the Exact Dealers Daily Companion, published by the bookseller, John Dunton (1659–1732).
     N. H. would continue to innovate with Dunton, who brought out N. H.’s The Ladies Dictionary in 1694, and “was the first bookseller to realize the market potential among female readers.” However, Dunton does not appear to have learned much in the way of business sense from N. H. or his books. Dunton’s publishing business suffered a precipitous decline beginning in the late 1690s, after his first wife, Elizabeth, died in 1697. Elizabeth had all the business acumen N. H. celebrated in The Compleat Tradesman and The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, and the Duntons’ publishing house at the sign of the Black Raven in The Poultry thrived under her direction. Without her guiding hand at the helm, Dunton’s business began to fail, and a second marriage he hoped would rectify the situation (with an infusion of money from his new mother-in-law) instead proved a disaster. Dunton, who soon turned to “scurrilous, ‘abusive scribblings’, and public attacks centring upon his personal grievances” began to publicly self-destruct, and “in his final years ill health and financial ruin unhinged his mental state.” (Berry, n. pag.)

H., N. The compleat tradesman: or, The exact dealers daily companion. Instructing him throughly in all things absolutely necessary to be known by all those who would thrive in the world; and in the whole art and mystery of trade and traffick; and will be of constant use for all merchants, whole-sale-men, shop-keepers, retailers, young tradesmen, countrey-chapmen, industrious yeomen, traders in petty villages; and all farmers, and others that go to countrey fairs and markets; and for all men whatsoever, that be of any trade, or have any considerable dealings in the world. Composed by N. H. merchant in the city of London. The second edition with large additions. London: Printed for John Dunton, at the Black Raven, at the corner of Princes-street, near the Royal-Exchange, 1684.

The 2nd edn. of N. H.’s best-selling The Compleat Tradesman: or, the Exact Dealers Daily Companion. The revised and expanded 2nd and 3rd edns. of The Compleat Tradesman, also brought out by John Dunton in 1684, further improved on N. H.’s literary innovations for business books directed at tradesmen and plain citizens.
     With the 2nd edn., N. H. substantially revised the book’s organization, and added new material, such as Chapter 32, an “Account of Weights, Measures, and Numbers” for “the better instructing of Young Traders.” Click here to open a second window with an HTML transcription of N. H.’s new Chapter 32.

H., N. The compleat tradesman: or, the exact dealers daily companion. Instructing him throughly in all things absolutely necessary to be known by all those who would thrive in the world; and in the whole art and mystery of trade and traffick; and will be of constant use for all merchants, wholesale men, shopkeepers, retailers, young tradesmen, country chapmen, industrous yeomen, traders in petty villages, and all farmers. To which is added, the travellers guide, and others that go to country fairs and markets; and for all men whatsoever, that be of any trade, or have any considerable dealings in the world. Composed by N. H. merchant, in the city of London. London: Printed by Tho. Norris, at the Looking-Glass on London-Bridge, 1720.

The 4th edn. of N. H.’s best-selling The Compleat Tradesman: or, the Exact Dealers Daily Companion. This posthumously-published 4th edn. was revised and expanded by its 18th-century printer-publisher, Thomas Norris.
     Norris added new, updated content, such as the whole of Chapter 35 (“Directions relating to the Purchasing, and Measuring of Land”), juxtaposing an 18th-century version of Barnabe Googe’s “Olde English rules, for purchasing land” (1577) with the applied mathematician’s help for surveying, a multi-page “Table for Land Measure.”
     Click here to open a second window with the refashioned poem on real estate law and reproduction of page 1 of the surveyor’s table comprising Chapter 35.

H., N. The pleasant art of money-catching, newly and fully discover’d. Being the second and last part of that very useful book, intituled The compleat tradesman. Comprehending the following pleasant and necessary heads, viz. I. How to pay debts without money. II. How to get a great estate in a little time. III. How many wayes money may be saved in diet, apparel and recreations, with the pleasant and genteel humours of the money-catchers of this dunning age. IV. The reasons why we should always keep money in our pockets, with the new way how to do it. V. Directions to all tradesmen how they may quickly supply themselves with money enough at all times, when they are in straights and necessities. VI. Directions how to travel all England over without a farthing of money, with a true account of those that have done it. VII. Choice rules, whosoever speedily follows, will certainly thrive, though they went down the wind before. VIII. An account of a strange ship that sails by land as well as by sea that often ruins our English money-catchers. Lastly, you have the account and character of those persons who will never thrive should they trade to the dayes of Methusalem; with abundance of pleasant as well as useful heads besides, too many to be mention’d in a title-page. Composed by N. H. author of The compleat tradesman. London: Printed for J. Dunton over against the Stocks-Market, 1684.

Click here to open a second window with N. H.’s crude but memorable 34 stanzas, from The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching, giving the “Rules of Thriving” for 17th-century merchant capitalists.
     NOTE: Popular handbooks such as The Pleasant Art of Money-Catching were well used by owners, and because they also tended to be more cheaply printed — so that the lowly apprentice, and the “young Shop-keeper ... setting up in the World,” and the village tradesman could all afford them — have not held up as well, over time, as some of the grand folios printed for posterity. Today, good copies of 17th-century best-sellers are rare, indeed.
     For this reason (poor print quality), I am unable to make out the word towards the end of stanza 8 of the poem (rhymes, probably loosely, with “all”). In contrast, the dashed line at the beginning of stanza 2 (for which the reader is supposed to supply a name) was an intended ambiguity, and printed as such in the original of 1684.

Hooke, Robert. An attempt for the explication of the phænomena observable in an experiment published by the Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq., in the XXXV experiment of his epistolical discourse touching the aire. In confirmation of a former conjecture made by R. H. London: Printed by J. H. for Sam. Thomson at the Bishops Head in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1661.

Also known as: Tract on Capillary Attraction.

Hooke, Robert. An attempt to prove the motion of the earth from observations made by Robert Hooke Fellow of the Royal Society. London: Printed by T. R. for John Martyn Printer to the Royal Society, at the Bell in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1674.

Jarvis, William, ed. A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery; collected, and practised by the Right Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased. As also most exquisite ways of preserving, conserving, dandying, &c. Published by W. J. gent. London: Printed by G. D. for William Shears, 1653.

The 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle owned a copy of this editio princeps (1st edition), printed in 1653 by a woman: Gertrude Dawson. (Click here to open a second window giving the 4 Powder of Crabs Claws recipes, including Lady Kent’s celebrated testaceous powder recipe, printed in the best-selling 1st edn. of A Choice Manual in 1653.)

M., W., comp. The Queens closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, preserving, candying, and cookery; as they were presented to the Queen by the most experienced persons of our times, many whereof they were honoured with her own practice, when she pleased to descend to these more private recreations. Never before published. Transcribed from the true copies of her Majesties own receipt books, by W. M. one of her late servants. Vivit post funera virtus. [London]: Printed for Nathaniel Brook at the Angel in Cornhill, 1655.

The queen of the title is Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), queen-consort of Britain’s Charles I. Sized as a compact duodecimo volume which sold for 2s. 6d., the book was a profitable title for 17th-century London booksellers, who reprinted it many times (e.g., in 1658, 1659, 1661, 1662, 1671, 1674, 1679, 1683, 1684, 1696, 1698, and 1710).
     The Queens Closet Opened is divided into 3 sections — “The Pearl of Practice,” “The Queen’s Delight,” and “The Compleat Cook” — and helped popularize, in an age before television, the household practices (and lifestyles) of Britain’s rich and famous, including: royalty (Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth, Charles I and Henrietta Maria, Queen Mary, Lady Elizabeth, daughter to Charles I); eminent physicians and surgeons (Sir Theodore Mayerne, Dr. King, Dr. Bates and Dr. Stephens, etc.); and other social elites (William Laud [Archbishop of Canterbury], the Bishop of Worcester, Francis Bacon [Viscount St. Albans], Lord Spencer, Lord Sheffield, Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir Walter Raleigh, Mr. Justice Hutton and his learned brother Judge Ellis, etc.).
     As was typical for early domestic advice books featuring the recipes and recommendations of celebrities and other notables (“Persons of Honour and Quality”), numerous women are presented as medical and/or culinary authorities, and quoted accordingly: the Countesses of Arundel, Worcester, Oxford, Kent, and Rutland; Ladies Mounteagle, Abergany, Nevil, Spotswood, Denny, Gifford, Hobby, Leonard, Smith, Goring, Mildmay, Bray, Dacres, Thornburgh, Mallet; and more.

Newton, Isaac. Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. Autore Is. Newton, Trin. Coll. Cantab. Soc. Matheseos Professore Lucasiano, & Societatis Reglis Sodali. Imprimatur S. Pepys, Reg. Soc. Praeses. Julii 5. 1686. Londini: Jussu Societatis Regiae ac Typis Josephi Streater. Prostat apud plures Bibliopolas, Anno MDCLXXXVII [1687].

Platt, Hugh. Delightes for ladies, to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories: with beauties, banquets, perfumes and waters. Reade, practise, and censure. London: Printed by Peter Short, 1602.

Platt, Hugh. The jewell house of art and nature. Conteining divers rare and profitable inventions, together with sundry new experimentes in the art of husbandry, distillation, and moulding. Faithfully and familiarly set downe, according to the authors owne experience, by Hugh Platte, of Lincolnes Inne gentleman. London: Printed by Peter Short, dwelling on Breadstreat-hill, at the signe of the star, and are to be solde in Paules Church-yard, by William Ponsonby, 1594.

As decribed above, Platt here freely disclosed numerous discoveries for the common good. “The first part lists 103 experiments, ranging from the practical to the fantastic. These include recipes for preserving fruit, flowers, meat, and water, and for a tooth-cleaner; a cheap way to erect a small bridge without the need to place supports in the water; a chafing dish to keep food warm without coals; how to keep garments free from moths; how to dispose of wasps and rats; a cement for mending glasses; and how to know what cards your opponent is holding. The second part deals with soils and manures, the third with distillations, the fourth with moulding and casting metals, and the fifth, entitled ‘An offer of certain new inventions which the author proposes to disclose upon reasonable considerations’, covers a diversity of topics such as the brewing of beer without hops, the preservation of food in hot weather and at sea, mnemonics, and fishing.” (Lee, n. pag.)
     However, Platt also wrestled with the contradictions of full public disclosure for one who wished to profit personally from some of his inventions (such as his “newe and admirable arte of setting of corne,” a cheap candle, and his “pump not weighing twenty pound in weight, & yet sufficient to deliver five tuns of water in one hower”).
     The Elizabethan inventor was quick to criticize the famous Neapolitan magus Giovan-Battista Della Porta for his obscure discussion of craft know-how and useful technologies in his Magiæ Naturalis (Naples, 1558): “... let us see whether we are able to pierce and penetrate into these thicke and foggie clowdes of skill, which [Porta] hath in so many close and figurative termes (as willing to vaunt of his owne wit, but unwilling to benefit others) so strangely delivered unto us.”
     But even Platt’s own Jewel House of Art and Nature, modeled on Porta’s earlier work, relied on a strategic use of ambiguity, especially in Part 2, later cited by Platt as “the literall and secret sence of my booke of Husbandrie.”

Quincy, John. Pharmacopoia officinalis & extemporanea: or, a compleat English dispensatory, in four parts. Containing I. The Theory of Pharmacy, and the several Processes therein. II. A Description of the Officinal Simples, with their Virtues and Preparations, Galenical and Chymical. III. The Officinal Compositions; being such of the London and Bates’s Dispensatory, as are now in use: together with some others of Uncommon Efficacy, taken from the most Celebrated Authors. IV. Extemporaneous Prescriptions, distributed into Classes sutable to their Intentions in Cure. By John Quincy M.D. London: Printed for A. Bell at the Cross-Keys and Bible in Cornhill, T. Varnam and J. Osborn at the Oxford-Arms in Lombard-Street, and W. Taylor at the Ship in Paternoster-Row, M.DCC.XVIII. [1718].

Ray, John. Miscellaneous discourses concerning the dissolution and changes of the world. Wherein the primitive chaos and creation, the general deluge, fountains, formed stones, sea-shells found in the earth, subterraneous trees, mountains, earthquakes, vulcanoes, the universal conflagration and future state, are largely discussed and examined. By John Ray, Fellow of the Royal Society. London: Printed for Samuel Smith, at the Prince’s Arms in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1692.

Smith, John. The art of painting in oyl. Wherein is included each particular circumstance relating to that art and mystery. Containing the best and most approved rules for preparing, mixing, and working of oyl-colours. The whole treatise being so full compleat, and so exactly fitted to the meanest capacity, that all persons whatsoever, may be able by these directions, to paint in oyl-colours all manner of timber-work; such as posts, pails, palisadoes, gates, doors, or any thing else that requires either use, beauty, or preservation, from the violence or injury of the weather. In which is also particularly laid down, all the several circumstances required in painting of sun-dials, printed pictures, shash-windows, &c. In oily-colours. The second impression with some alterations, and many useful additions. By John Smith, C.M. London: Printed for Samuel Crouch, at the corner of Popes-Head-Alley in Cornhill, 1687.

The 2nd edition.

Smith, John. The art of painting in oyl. Wherein is included each particular circumstance relating to that art and mystery. Containing the best and most approved rules for preparing, mixing, and working of oyl colours. The whole treatise being so full compleat, and so exactly fitted to the meanest capacity, that all persons whatsoever, may be able by these directions, to paint in oyl-colours all manner of timber work; such as posts, pails, pallisadoes, gates, doors, or any thing else that requires either use, beauty, or preservation, from the violence or injury of the weather. In which is also particularly laid down, all the several circumstances required in painting of sun-dials, printed pictures, shash-windows, &c. In oily-colours. The third impression with some alterations, and many matters added, which are not to be found in the two former editions. To which is added, the whole art and mystery of colouring maps and other prints with water colours. London: Printed for Samuel Crouch, at the corner of Popes-Head-Alley in Cornhill, 1701.

The 3rd edition, with added material about the coloring of maps and prints.

Tryon, Thomas. The way to health, long life, and happiness, or, A discourse of temperance and the particular nature of all things requisit for the life of man, as all sorts of meats, drinks, air, exercise, &c. with special directions how to use each of them to the best advantage of the body and mind. Shewing from the true ground of nature whence most diseases proceed, and how to prevent them. To which is added, a treatise of most sorts of English herbs, with several other remarkable and most useful observations, very necessary for all families. The whole treatise displaying the most hidden secrets of philosophy, and made easie and familiar to the meanest capacities, by various examples and demonstrances. The like never before published. Communicated to the world for a general good, by Philotheos Physiologus. London: Printed and sold by Andrew Sowle at the Cloaked-Billet in Holloway-Lane near Shoreditch, 1683.

Wood, Anthony. Athenae Oxonienses. An exact history of all the writers and bishops who have had their education in the most ancient and famous University of Oxford, from the fifteenth year of King Henry the Seventh, dom. 1500, to the end of the year 1690. Representing the birth, fortune, preferment, and death of all those authors and prelates, the great accidents of their lives, and the fate and character of their writings. To which are added, the Fasti, or, Annals, of the said university, for the same time. 2 vols. London: Printed for Tho. Bennet at the Half-Moon in S. Pauls Churchyard, 1691–1692.

Wood, Anthony. The life and times of Anthony Wood, antiquary, of Oxford, 1632–1695, described by himself. Collected from his diaries and other papers by Andrew Clark ... Volume II: 1654–1681. With illustrations. Oxford: Printed for the Oxford Historical Society at the Clarendon Press, 1892.

 

**  20th-Century and 21st-Century Works  **

Berry, Helen. “Dunton, John (1659–1732), bookseller.” Oxford dictionary of national biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 20 April 2007, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8299 >.

Certeau, Michel de. The Writing of History. Trans. by Tom Conley. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. (ISBN-10: 0231055757 and ISBN-13: 9780231055758.)

Cohen, I. B. “Newton’s Discovery of Gravity.” Scientific American 244 (1981): 166–79.

Drake, Ellen Tan. Restless Genius: Robert Hooke and His Earthly Thoughts. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. (ISBN-10: 0195066952 and ISBN-13: 9780195066951.)

Fish, Stanley. “The All-Spin Zone.” Posted 6 May 2007 to Fish’s New York Times blog, entitled the Opinionator. Accessed from < http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/the-all-spin-zone/ > on 19 September 2007; URL revised to < http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/the-all-spin-zone/ > when accessed on 28 January 2010.

With 136 comments as of 19 Sept. 2007.

Fish, Stanley. “Another Spin of the Wheel.” Posted 3 June 2007 to Fish’s New York Times blog, entitled the Opinionator. Accessed from < http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/another-spin-of-the-wheel/ > on 19 September 2007; URL revised to < http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/another-spin-of-the-wheel/ > when accessed on 28 January 2010.

With 63 comments as of 19 Sept. 2007.

Fish, Stanley. Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. (ISBN-10: 0820702986 and ISBN-13: 9780820702988.)

Giard, Luce. “Part II: Doing-Cooking.” In The Practice of Everyday Life. Volume 2: Living and Cooking. By Michel de Certeau, Luce Giard, and Pierre Mayol. Trans. by Timothy J. Tomasik. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. 149–247. (ISBN-10: 0816628777 and ISBN-13: 9780816628773.)

Ianni, Lawrence. “Language Is Imprecisely Reliable.” College Composition and Communication 29.3 (Oct. 1978): 233–36.

Jackson, Brooks, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2007. (ISBN-10: 1400065666 and ISBN-13: 9781400065660.)

Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. (ISBN-10: 0226468852 and ISBN-13: 9780226468853.)

Lee, Sidney, rev. by Anita McConnell. “Plat [Platt], Sir Hugh (bap. 1552, d. 1608), Writer on Agriculture and Inventor.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 9 Feb. 2011, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22357 >.

Moore, Patrick. “Instrumental Discourse Is As Humanistic As Rhetoric.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 10.1 (Jan. 1996): 100–118.

Moore’s essay started a lively debate, with follow-on commentary by John Hagge (pp. 461–75), Melinda Kreth (pp. 476–82), Carolyn Miller (pp. 482–86), Janice (Ginny) Redish (pp. 486–90), and Patrick Moore himself (pp. 491–502) in the October 1996 (vol. 10, no. 4) issue of the Journal of Business and Technical Communication.

Olson, Kathryn M. “Ambiguity.” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. by Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 21–25. (ISBN-10: 0195125959 and ISBN-13: 9780195125955.)

Parry, Graham. “Wood, Anthony [Anthony à Wood] (1632–1695), Antiquary.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, Jan. 2008. Accessed 24 Feb. 2010, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29864 >.

Patterson, Louise Diehl. “Hooke’s Gravitation Theory and Its Influence on Newton, I: Hooke’s Gravitation Theory.” Isis: An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Civilization 40.4 (Nov. 1949): 327–41.

Patterson, Louise Diehl. “Hooke’s Gravitation Theory and Its Influence on Newton, II: The Insufficiency of the Traditional Estimate.” Isis: An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Civilization 41.1 (March 1950): 32–45.

Pugliese, Patri J. “Hooke, Robert (1635–1703), Natural Philosopher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, May 2006. Accessed 24 Feb. 2010, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13693 >.

Turnbull, H. W., et al., eds. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton. 7 vols. Cambridge, Eng.: Published for the Royal Society at the University Press, 1959–77.

Westfall, R. S. “Hooke and the Law of Gravitation.” British Journal for the History of Science 3 (1966–7): 245–61.

Westfall, R. S. Introduction. In The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke. Ed. by Richard Waller. London, 1705. Facs. rpt. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1969.

Wright, Louis B. Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England. 1935. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1958.

NOTE:  This website is no longer participating in the Powell’s Books, Inc. Partner Program.

As of 29 August 2012, we will no longer earn a percentage on books purchased through our links to Powells.com (or Amazon.com). Hence, I have decided to drop all such links. There’s no point in pushing one particular out-of-state retailer over another when local, independent bookstores everywhere need our support.

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“A perspective Ring” — This piece of jewelry, designed for cheating at cards, was at the time Platt wrote still exclusively a French technology, of which English workmen were not yet capable. Platt describes the optics hidden in the French gambler’s ring, which functioned like a mirror, as follows: “A Christall stone or Glasse of the bignesse of a two pennie peece of silver, or thereaboute, beeing the just halfe of a rounde Baall or Globe, and cutte hollow within, having a good foyle sweetlie conveyed within the concave superficies thereof, and the stone it selfe neatly polished within and without, will give a livelie representation to the eye of him that weareth it, of all such Cardes as his companions which are nexte him doe holde in their handes, especiallie if the owner thereof doe take the upper ende of the Table for his place, and leaning nowe and then on his elbowe, or stretching out his arme, doe applie his Ring aptlie for the purpose. I have discovered this secret rather to discorage yong Novesses from Card-play, who by one experiment may easily ghesse, how manie sleights & cousonages, are dayly practised in our dicing and gaming houses....” (Sir Hugh Platt, The Jewell House of Art and Nature 6)

“Dickson the Scot” — Platt here refers to the Elizabethan philosopher, propagandist, and spy, Alexander Dicsone (bap. 1558, d. 1603/4), whose “figurative and obscure treatise,” De Umbra Rationis & Judicii, sive, De Memoriae Virtute Prosopopæia (On the Shadow of Reason and Judgement), published at London in 1584, was based on the mnemonic theories of his friend, the Italian hermetic philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno (1548?–1600). Dicsone taught his art of memory in England during the 1580s, charging 20 shillings per student. In this age before personal digital assistants, and even hand-written, paper-based to-do lists, Dicsone’s art of memory was, according to Platt, “verie sufficient to procure an assured and speedie remembra[n]ce of any 10. 20. 30. or 40. principall thinges more or lesse, that we shall take in charge to perfourme, and therfore verie necessarie for him that is charged with many errandes, and would discharge them all in such order as they are delivered unto him, as also for the remembrance of all such pleasant tales and histories as shall passe in table talke, from conceipted wits. In which two especial uses, I have often exercised this Art for the better helpe of mine owne memorie, and the same as yet hath never failed mee.” Dicsone’s art of memory also proved useful for cheating at cards. Platt reports ruefully that “I have heard of some of Maister Dickson his schollers, that have proved such cunning Card-players heereby, that they could tell the whole course of all the Cardes, and what every gamester had in his hande. So readie are we to turne an honest and commendable invention into meere craft and cousenage.” (Sir Hugh Platt, The Jewell House of Art and Nature 85)

“Most recently” — i.e., September 2007, when I posted the first draft of this webessay.

“Parvam” — This is a printer’s error. Later editions consistently use “Yarvam.” The booksellers’ Hannah Woolley, author of The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight (1st edn., 1675) also used “contra Yarvam” in her recipe, by which was meant the Contrayerva root imported from Peru (and known as Lapis Contrayerva when made into a fine powder). The root-stock and scaly rhizome of species of Dorstenia (D. Contrayerva and D. braziliensis, family Urticaceæ) was used in Peru as an antidote for arrows poisoned with juices from the Yerva (white Hellebore), from which use it derived its Spanish name. Lapis Contrayerva was thought to be “of great efficacy in the Small Pox, Measles, Fevers, and all Cases where either a Diaphoresis or Perspiration is requir’d,” being “one of the best Anti-epidemicks yet known,” and reportedly successful even against the dreaded plague. (Chambers, Cyclopaedia, 1728, s.v. Contra-Yerva)

“Trochises” — i.e., troche or trochisk, “A flat round tablet or lozenge, made of some medicinal substance powdered, worked into a paste with mucilage or the like, and dried.” (Oxford English Dictionary) By the early 18th century, this was considered an out-moded format. Quincy reports that “of those few [troches] the [Royal] College [of Physicians of London] retain [in their Pharmacopoeia Londinensis], half are not now in use, or ever made. The main Design of this Form seems to have been to preserve in readiness for present Use, Substances which stood in need of some Preparation, and took up time to reduce into Powder, and which by lying in a dry Powder would likewise be subject to decay sooner than in this Form. Many of these also are contrived for the Manner of taking them, which is gradually dissolving in the mouth, as most of the Balsamick and Pectoral kind; and few else are now in use, besides those commonly call’d Lozenges.” (Quincy, 1718, pp. 415–416)

“Oriental Bezar” — i.e., Lapis bezoar orientale or Oriental bezoar-stone. This refers to a concretion found in the stomach or intestines of wild goats “call’d Pazan” native to the region then known as Persia. The gastric “stone” is formed of concentric layers of animal matter deposited round some foreign substance (the stone of a fruit, straws, hair, marcasites, pebbles, talc, sand, etc.) which serves as a nucleus. Oriental Bezoar was imported to England from Hyderabad, India (the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh) and the city of Cannanore (Kannur district in the Indian state of Kerala). “The true oriental bezoars were, about eighty years ago [the 1670s], so common in Cononor, that those of the bigness of a pigeon’s egg were frequently brought to market at six or seven reals a piece, and those of the bigness of a hen’s egg at twelve reals.” During the first decades of the 18th century, “A Stone of one Ounce is sold in the Indies for 100 Franks, and one of four Ounces for 2000 Livres.” Because of its expense and exotic origins, several types of bezoar-stone, natural and artificial, and of varying quality, were marketed in England. Chambers gives 3 tests which anyone capable of making the Countess of Kent’s Powder could easily perform to guarantee that the Oriental bezoar they were using was genuine. (Chambers, Cyclopaedia, 1728 and 1753 Supplement, s.v. Bezoar)

“jelly of Hartshorn” — This, too, needed to be made by the enterprising 17th-century housewife. A recipe for hartshorn jelly is given by M. B. in his The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened ... whereunto is added, Sundry Experiments, and Choice Extractions of Waters, Oyls, &c. Collected and Practised, by ... Lord Ruthven ..., and reads: “Take two ounces of Harts-horne, filed (not scraped) very fine, steep it in a quart of faire water, and let it stand so all night upon hot embers, stirring it when you go to bed, and covering it: In the morning put four pints of water more to it, then boil it a good space on the fire, till it wil jellie, and when the liquor is almost three quarters boyled in, then strain it, and put to it a little Sugar, and as much juyce of Lemmons as will make it sharpe, and a little Ambergreece: Then let it stand and coole, and so put it up for your use. It is Excellent good for those that are brought low with burning Agues, giving them three or foure spoonfuls fasting, morning and evening, and about nine in the forenoone, and three in the afternoone.” (1654, Part 2, Sect. 1, No. 152, p. 111)

“Aubrey’s ‘Life of Mr Thomas Hobbes of Malmesburie’” — An MS. precipitated by the death of Aubrey’s great friend Hobbes in December 1679, although Aubrey had been assembling material for it before that, having promised Hobbes that he would write his biography as early as 1667.

8o — Common 17th-century abbreviation for octavo, a size of book traditionally produced by folding a standard printing sheet three times to form a section of eight leaves. Books with pages of this size were cheaper to produce, and appealed to a more popular audience.