Early-Modern Magnetism: Uncovering New Textual Links between Leonardo Garzoni SJ (1543–1592), Paolo Sarpi OSM (1552–1623), Giambattista Della Porta (1535–1615), and the Accademia dei Lincei

Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu 85 (2):303-363 (2016)
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William Gilbert’s work, De magnete (1600), often is referred to as the first monographic study on magnetism in the early-modern period. Recently, however, it has been argued that the Jesuit, Leonardo Garzoni, wrote an experimental study on the subject twenty years earlier and that his research influenced particularly the work of Giambattista Della Porta and Paolo Sarpi,two important protagonists in the history of studies in magnetism. However, to date, Garzoni’s authorship of an anonymous treatise in manuscript, located at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, and taken to bear witness to his research, has been based only on circumstantial evidence. This article outlines the identification of two further manuscript copies of this treatise, which have not been studied so far. It shall be argued that the evidence contained in these manuscripts corroborates the assumption that Garzoni indeed is the author of the work that was transmitted anonymously. Moreover, it can be shown that the work was completed and prepared for print later on. These findings also allow us to argue more conclusively that Paolo Sarpi knew Garzoni’s work and passed it to Giambattista Della Porta, who bequethed his copy to the Accademia dei Lincei and thereby made it available to some of the academy’s most important members, Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc and Cassiano Dal Pozzo. Finally, the dynamics of this textual transmission provide insights into how scholars approached the study of ‘magnetism’ in the early-modern period.

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Christoph Sander
Technische Universität Berlin


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