Doherty, Meghan (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Interstitial Readings: Selected Proceedings of the 25th Annual Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies’ Graduate Student Conference June 8 (2007) – Chicago, IL
In 1648 John Wilkins published Mathematicall Magick or, the Wonders That may be performed by Mechanicall Geometry. It consisted of two books,the first concerning mechanical powers and the second concerning mechanical motions, titled Archimedes and Dædalus respectively in honor of the ancient proponents of these branches of the mechanical arts. Wilkins assures his reader that there is “ great delight and pleasure” to be found in his book and “also much real benefit to be learned.” Book 2, Chapter 7,“Concerning the Art of flying,” presents an example that combines both pleasure and benefit. In this chapter,Wilkins provides four different ways by which man might fly. The second of these categories is, “By the help of fowls.” He begins his discussion of this second method by stating: “There are others who have conjectured a possibility of being conveyed through the air by the help of fowls; to which purpose that fiction of the Ganza’s,is the most pleasant and probable.” As Mathematicall Magick was written at a time when the credibility of one’s sources was becoming increasingly important, we are forced to wonder where he gleaned this information.