Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science
ABSTRACT: At the cusp of the Enlightenment and toward the end of the early modern period, Siegmund Jacob Apin (1693–1732) wrote a treatise on pedagogy, entitled Dissertatio de variis discendi methodis memoriae causa inventis earumque usu et abusu (Dissertation on Various Methods of Learning, Invented for the Sake of Memory, and on their Use and Abuse), that appeared in a revised and augmented edition in 1731. This work offers a helpful point of orientation for the study of visual modes of learning in early modern Europe, since it provides a sort of synoptic view over diverse species of didactic and mnemonic image-usage. Apin is also a particularly valuable tour guide, as he allows us to see the waning of a world of visual representation. He lived in a transitional era, in which one form of learning and organizing knowledge was dying out and a new one was coming into existence. The first part of his dissertation refers to key printed pedagogical visual representations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including the works of Jan Amos Comenius (1592–1670), Johannes Buno (1617–1697), Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), and Leonard Fuchs (1501–1566). Among the philosophical prints discussed by Apin are the Parisian thesis prints of Martin Meurisse, Jean Chéron, and Léonard Gaultier. In the second part of the dissertation, Apin presents interesting criticisms of these mnemonic images. This dissertation allows us to appreciate both the early modern enthusiasm for epistemological visual representations and some of the reasons for their demise in the 1700s.