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Luminaries in the Natural World

The Sun and the Moon in England, 1400-1720

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Anna Marie E. Roos

Known and observed by all levels of society, the sun and moon, or the «luminaries,» were a continuous thread in the tapestry of late medieval and early modern English culture. Tracing this specific thread is a novel means of understanding changes in epistemological conceptions of the natural world realized in the Scientific Revolution. This book demonstrates that the luminaries were transformed from peerless bodies that radiated powerful forces into objects of scientific study, and in the case of the moon, a place to visit imaginatively with its own geography and probable inhabitants. Utilizing literary, historical, and visual evidence, Luminaries in the Natural World indicates how and why these changes in solar and lunar perceptions occurred among the scientific community from 1400 to 1680, breaking new ground with its emphasis on influences from cartography, astrology, and hermeticism. The author then turns to an analysis of the extent to which this cognitive shift occurred in larger English society, exploring conceptions of fashionable curiosity about the natural world from 1680 to 1720.