This volume on Bernardino Telesio is a major contribution to the study of the Cosentine philosopher in the context of Renaissance science. It is more than merely a testimony to the scientific contribution that the conference Bernardino Telesio, the Natural Sciences and Medicine in the Renaissance, organized in 2015 by Pietro Daniel Omodeo in Berlin, offers to research on Telesio and, more generally, to scholars of the European Renaissance. It also documents the rich and productive collaboration between the Centro Internazionale di Studi Telesiani Bruniani e Campanelliani (CISTBeC) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG). The foundation of the CISTBeC owes a debt of gratitude to the Max Planck Institute, as well as to the Warburg Institute, the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance of Tours, the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici of Naples, and the University of Calabria. The principal goal of the CISTBeC is to create a digital library that assembles all manuscript and printed works by Telesio, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella and an exhaustive secondary bibliography (essays, books, monographs, and translations) devoted to these authors.
The work of these three outstanding European philosophers is essential to an understanding of the material and intellectual origins of modern science. Historians of science now agree that a truly accurate understanding of the age of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler is only possible when it is grounded in an attentive inquiry that recognizes cultural as well as social factors (in the broadest definition of the word). Today we have moved beyond the outmoded search for the “universal key” that leads to the “logic of scientific inquiry.” Utilizing the teachings of historians who are mindful of certain economic and political contexts (we are referring, for instance, to experts in the field like Leonardo Olschki, Edgar Zilsel, and Ludovico Geymonat), we have learned to be mistrustful of abstract constructs theorized in some areas of the philosophy of science. For these reasons, we are confident that nothing could be more instructive for researchers who seek to fortify the intimate connection between nature and science, which has existed since the dawn of modern science, than a close reading of the work of Bernardino Telesio, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella. Despite certain undeniable differences, their thought is at the same time both empirical and speculative, as well as practical yet visionary.
Furthermore—as the research guidelines of the MPIWS confirm—it is increasingly necessary to address the material, theoretical, practical, and cultural aspects of Renaissance science, considered in their historical complexity. In fact, a reconstruction of the historical and cultural milieu in which modern science underwent its difficult period of gestation is unavoidable. The most significant aspects would include the birth of capitalism, the emergence of the modern political state, the headlong transformation of technology and practical knowledge, and the colonial expansion of European powers on a global scale. The intellectual currents that have profoundly marked modern science stand out against this economic and political background: the culture of artists and engineers directed toward codifying knowledge related to the arts and technologies, the humanistic culture devoted to the restoration of classical texts, and the intensive work by university professors to resystematize, transmit, and critique the philosophical heritage of the Middle Ages. Modern science is derived from the very concreteness of the practical knowledge of miners, mechanics, architects, navigators, and instrument builders and also extrapolates images of wholeness from Renaissance naturalism that provided a way of rethinking nature and man’s relationship with his environment and knowledge. For instance, the critical spirit that enlivens the experimental science of a doctor, mathematician, and philosopher like Girolamo Cardano or the Copernican “philosopher of magnetism” William Gilbert shares the intellectual and moral temperament of philosophers such as Telesio, Campanella, Bruno, and Francesco Patrizi. In fact, Renaissance naturalism could be considered the “big brother” of modern experimental science because they share a common origin in the same cultural and social renewal.
The library of the Centro Internazionale di Studi Telesiani Bruniani e Campanelliani offers scholars valuable material for a broader understanding of the connections between the different branches of knowledge that characterize the European Renaissance: literature and philosophy, science and religion, cosmology and astrology, as well as art and politics. They constitute a unique terrain where theory and practice, and reality and utopia, share fertile ground. Furthermore, the creation of the CISTBeC has been instrumental in forming a network of Renaissance scholars that ranges far beyond the European institutions and research centers that first founded it. From the group of most active scholars, we would like to recognize Paolo Galluzzi (Museo Galileo in Florence), Pietro Daniel Omodeo (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), Isabelle Pantin (École Normale Supérieure, Paris) and Maria José Vega (Universidad autónoma, Barcelona), who in past years have actively contributed to animating the meetings which discussed projects and targeted research on the European Renaissance.
Returning for a moment to the inspiration for this new volume, we would like to mention, among the scholarly contributions of international importance published by the CISTBeC, the recent study entitled Le edizioni antiche di Bernardino Telesio: censimento e storia [Early Editions of Bernardino Telesio: a census and history], which was edited by Giliola Barbero and Adriana Paolini (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2017). This volume is the result of exhaustive research and offers, for the first time, a census of the early editions of Telesio’s work, and also reconstructs their circulation among the libraries of the world. Made possible by valuable funding by the Carical Foundation directed by Mario Bozzo, the research identifies 718 copies, of which 543 were analyzed first-hand by Barbero and Paolini. An index card has been created for each copy that includes a detailed description of the book and a reconstruction of its trajectory from the printing press to readers, resulting in a goldmine of data, information, technical details, and the names of illustrious (and not so illustrious) owners. There is also an important bibliography that, as Angela Nuovo authoritatively suggests, recalls (through the number of copies it analyzes) Owen Gingerich’s outstanding work on Copernicus’ De revolutionibus.
Now the history of these copies/editions of Telesio’s work will finally be available to interested scholars, including notes on ownership and censorship, the presence of marginalia and annotations, glosses, markers, corrections, comments, critical remarks, and transfers from one library to another. Scholars can even reconstruct the geography of the institutions (convents, academies, universities, and colleges) and obtain information about their distribution (appearances at fairs and the sale price of a single volume). The index cards also describe the binding (the quality of the material used for the cover and plates often reflects the importance that the owner gave to the text) and indicate with which other works (on medicine, natural philosophy, or optics) Telesio’s texts were occasionally bound (knowing which treatises by other authors the first Telesian editions were associated with helps us understand the literary reception of the Cosentine philosopher’s thought).
One highly important fact among many concerns the number of copies that have been found: 136 copies of the third edition (1586) of De rerum natura—versus 43 of the first edition (1565) and 73 copies of the second (1570)—tell us (as Barbero and Paolini correctly point out) that the broadest distribution of Telesio’s thought is owed to the editio maior in nine books. In fact, between the first and last editions, the number of surviving copies (43, 73, and 136) more or less progressively doubled, which informs us of Telesio and his printers’ increasing investment in the copy run. The inquiry into the circulation of these copies throughout various European libraries and the identity of their owners speaks volumes about the fortune of the Cosentine philosopher’s opus. The census shows an ample foreign presence of the third edition of De rerum natura (and the Geneva in-folio copy that reproduces it) in different public and private libraries (of the 136 copies, less than half, 68, appear in Italy), and the copies found in England, Hungary, France, and Germany attest to the interest in Telesian thought beyond the borders of Italy. This interest was reinforced by specialized readers, like Henri Savile (an Oxford mathematician and astronomer who introduced Francis Bacon to Telesio’s work), Markus Welser (a German humanist and editor), Andreas Dudith (an Italo-Hungarian clergyman who was close to the Reformation milieu and a student of astronomy) and the great French bibliographers Pierre and Jacques Dupuy (savants and librarians to the King of France), Jacques Auguste de Thou (an historian and the owner of an extraordinary library that merged with the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal), and Gabriel Naudé (doctor, librarian, and the author of the famous treatise Advice on creating a library.)
On the basis of these results, we are convinced that a similar census of the works of Tommaso Campanella, conducted according to the same scholarly criteria, would produce equally extraordinary results. With the economic support of the President of the Region of Calabria, the Centro Internazionale di Studi Telesiani Bruniani e Campanelliani has already formed a team of specialists to begin research. We hope that within a reasonable period of time students of Campanella will finally have access to invaluable information about the presence of his works in international libraries, and above all be able to access a blueprint of their circulation and ownership.
We welcome the new contributions and new directions for further research provided by this volume of Renaissance and Telesian studies. Most of the essays collected here were first presented at the aforementioned conference in Berlin in 2015. Its success and the first phase of editorial work was gratefully supported by the Collaborative Research Centre 980 “Episteme in Motion” (Freie Universität of Berlin, funded by the German Research Foundation, DFG). The conclusion of the project was made possible through the generous support of the European Research Council that financed the consolidator research project “Institutions and Metaphysics of Cosmology in the Epistemic Networks of Seventeenth-Century Europe” on scientific culture in the early modern era, which is led by Omodeo (European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, GA n. 725883 Early Modern Cosmology).
In this difficult time for the future of the social sciences and primary academic research, we feel that it is even more important to form alliances in order to carry out projects that require multifaceted abilities and diversified intellectual energy. Shared ideas and passions are not only useful to advance knowledge; they also assist in creating a network of scholars whose collegiality and collective efforts are an invaluable instrument for the transformation of knowledge into a way of life.
University of Calabria, President of the Centro Internazionale di Studi Telesiani Bruniani e Campanelliani
Director, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Vice-President of the Centro Internazionale di Studi Telesiani Bruniani e Campanelliani