UCLA » College » Social Sciences » History
April 19, 2021
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Zoom (details below)

Spring 2021 Colloquium

April 19 | 4PM - 5PM PST

Gideon Manning (Cedars-Sinai)

“False Images Do Not Lie: Medicine, Editors’ Decisions, and the Case of René Descartes’s Treatise on Man

How to discuss the role of illustrations in the early modern period in a way that is responsive to the concepts and vocabulary of the time remains elusive. In this talk, which builds from the medical tradition outward, I will suggest that the technical language of historia-actio-usus (history-action-use), which originates in Aristotle and Galen and is then standardized among anatomists in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, provides us what has been missing. I will specifically consider the case of René Descartes’s posthumously published Treatise on Man, which appeared in Latin translation in 1662 and then in French in 1664. The original manuscript of the Treatise contained perhaps one or two images, but the text called for many more. Accordingly, the editors had to make numerous decisions. I will demonstrate how the language of historia-actio-usus, which Descartes also used, allows us to better understand the editors’ decisions and the many differences between the illustrations in the 1662 and 1664 editions of same text.

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