Informations and abstract
This essay offers a comparative analysis of two books that are, in many respects, exemplary cases of the making of natural history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These books are the commented translation of Dioscorides's Materia Medica, published in 1555 by the Spanish physician Andrés Laguna, and the Animalia Mexicana, published in 1628 by the German physician Johannes Faber. In spite of the seventy years that lie between the two works and even though they have come into being in different ways, they have one fundamental thing in common: Rome as their main setting. Starting from this evidence, the essay comparatively investigates the two books as «working sites», which means complex processes that took place over a long period of time and were characterized by many spatial discontinuities. Furthermore, the analysis conceptualizes their making as communicative processes, where the act of writing and publication had specific, important roles. The essay looks first at the paths of mobility and processes of circulation from which the books originated and how the city of Rome and its different locations impacted on the lives and experience of the authors. Then, the different cartographies of Rome as the capital of natural knowledge the two books propose are examined, paying utmost attention to the diverse meanings attributed to the Roman experience, when put into writing. By investigating all the further moments in the making of these natural histories, the essay sheds light on the different spatial configurations the itineraries followed by the books' many protagonists allow us to trace and their individual meanings. Within this framework, the books' publishing phases will finally emerge as communicative and situated actions, that offer promising vantage points for analyzing the spaces and frameworks of reference as well as the diverse publics in relation to which these works were composed.