Dániel MargócsyCommercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age

University of Chicago Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on December 9, 2014

Dániel Margócsy

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyDániel Margócsy’s beautiful new book opens with a trip to Amsterdam by Baron Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, and closes with a shopping spree by Peter the Great. These two trips bookend a series of fascinating forays into the changing world of entrepreneurial science in the early modern Netherlands. Commercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age (University of Chicago Press, 2014) considers scientific knowledge as a commodity, looking carefully at how the growth of global trade in the Dutch Golden Age shaped anatomy and natural history as commercial practices. Margócsy argues that commercialization stimulated “a debate over the epistemological status of visual facts in natural history & anatomy,” transforming the concept of visual representation in the process. While learning about these debates and transformations, readers are guided on a tour through a world of seashells, forgeries, and wax-filled cadavers, evidence of a commercially-driven proliferation of ways to represent living and dead bodies and a series of heated debates about them. Commercial Visions convincingly demonstrates that paying attention to the commercial aspects of early modern science can inform how we think about early modern circulation, the history of “objectivity,” and the concept of the public sphere. Don’t miss the beautiful color plates nestled in the midst of the book!

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