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Evening News

Evening News: Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe

Series: Material Texts
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Evening News
    Book Description:

    Eileen Reeves examines a web of connections between journalism, optics, and astronomy in early modern Europe, devoting particular attention to the ways in which a long-standing association of reportage with covert surveillance and astrological prediction was altered by the near simultaneous emergence of weekly newsheets, the invention of the Dutch telescope, and the appearance of Galileo Galilei's astronomical treatise,The Starry Messenger.Early modern news writers and consumers often understood journalistic texts in terms of recent developments in optics and astronomy, Reeves demonstrates, even as many of the first discussions of telescopic phenomena such as planetary satellites, lunar craters, sunspots, and comets were conditioned by accounts of current events. She charts how the deployment of particular technologies of vision-the telescope and the camera obscura-were adapted to comply with evolving notions of objectivity, censorship, and civic awareness. Detailing the differences between various types of printed and manuscript news and the importance of regional, national, and religious distinctions,Evening Newsemphasizes the ways in which information moved between high and low genres and across geographical and confessional boundaries in the first decades of the seventeenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0948-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Evening Newsconcerns journalism’s entanglement with astronomy and optics in the first decades of the seventeenth century. Part of this story, of course, involves the emergence of new technologies of communication and vision, but it is not merely the triumphal tale of the successful diffusion of scientific news in the popular and learned press. My concern is as much with what was distorted in those transmissions of information as it is with the more obvious successes of the medium. Thus while a series of readymade comparisons between the telescope and the newssheet or newsletter exists—both, for instance, had antecedents...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Jesuits on the Moon
    (pp. 29-56)

    Though his astronomical activity generated so much news, Galileo manifested little overt interest in current events. The correspondence of some of his closest friends, particularly Paolo Sarpi, Daniello Antonini, Gianfrancesco Sagredo, and Paolo Gualdo, by contrast, offers a varied budget of news ranging from international events, Venetian politics, and the endless skirmishes within clerical, university, and literary circles. Whether Galileo’s apparent silence is an index of circumspection or indifference is difficult to gauge, and it would be in any case unwise to assume that what remains to us of his correspondence is representative, especially in an era where news enjoyed...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Medici Stars and the Medici Regency
    (pp. 57-100)

    So James Howell recalled, in the first pages of hisLustra Ludoviciof 1646, the assassination of French king Henri IV by François Ravaillac in May 1610. Howell’s relative indifference to accurate details, his preference for new material, and the lack of evidence for the very existence of this particular Francisco Corvini suggest that no such “Toscan astrologer” ever leaned upon a Florentine balcony and divined the imminent death of the most powerful European monarch. What Howell’s vignette does capture, however, is the peculiar meshing of the political and the scientific in the spring of 1610: news of the king’s...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Galileo Gazzettante
    (pp. 101-134)

    In late 1604, physician and future canon Leonardo Tedeschi sent Galileo Galilei a treatise on the New Star, a subject often connected with news because of the traditional association of a related phenomenon, the comet, with plague, famine, war, and regime change. Leonardo avoided all such speculations. His tract began with the pious Aristotelian dictum that it was better and more agreeable to have even superficial and imperfect knowledge of superior and noble matters than fuller and more solid acquaintance with things here below, and he maintained that the new star, far from generating “killings, plagues, famines, horrible winds and...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Cameras That Don’t Lie
    (pp. 135-164)

    The early impression of the telescope and its precursors as analogues of the newsletter would undergo various revisions as both the optical instrument and the journalistic medium developed. This chapter examines the fiction of a modified version of the telescope—one adapted for use in thecamera obscura—as the ideal and objective transmitter of news, a notion of particular appeal to ambassadors abroad. The text that best exemplifies this fantasy, Henry Wotton’s letter to Francis Bacon describing the use Johannes Kepler made of such a device in 1620, while well known to historians of science and of art, has...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Cameras That Do
    (pp. 165-205)

    In the fall of 1611, a ponderous volume emerged from a press in the Lutheran city of Wittenberg, the second printed work in the telescopic era to mention sunspots. Unlike its predecessor, Frisian Johann Fabricius’sOn the Spots Observed in the Sun, published in the spring by the same press, this treatise alluded to the spots only in passing, and never mentioned the telescope at all.¹ For Ambrosius Rhodius, a professor of astronomy, thecamera obscurawas the instrument most worth attention, and much of theOpticais devoted to its revelations. His treatment of the question of the retinal...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Rapid Transport
    (pp. 206-230)

    The preceding chapters have been devoted to the hyperbolic impressions of optics and of astronomy that emerged in the first decades of the seventeenth century and served to evoke, if not to explain, the sudden availability and wide range of news from remote regions. All are predicated on a more or less stationary consumer, variously confronted with rumors of a Jesuit empire so extensive that it included the moon, with tales of news that seems to come before the event, with improbable presentations of Galileo as agazzettante, and with depictions of dark rooms asserting and undermining the elusive ideal...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 231-234)

    Evening Newshas sought to explain the convergence of journalism, optics, and astronomy in the early modern period in terms of both particular historical conditions and the reactions of writers and readers to the seeming simultaneity of developments in reportage and natural philosophy. While those circumstances, especially the emergence of the Dutch telescope and of serial news, the avalanche of novel astronomical information, and the looming threat of a pan-European confessional conflict have vanished, remnants of the issues confronted by those early seventeenth-century news consumers are with us still. A brief survey of newspaper names in English and in most...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 235-272)
    (pp. 273-302)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 303-306)
    (pp. 307-308)