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The Role of Gardens in the Development of Early Modern Thought

Cristian Benţe


The volume Gardens as Laboratories. The History of Botany through the History of Gardens, Volume 6, Issue 1 of the Journal of Early Modern Studies, attempts to reconstruct the role played by gardens in the development of early modern European thought. The volume comprises nine articles, the first one is introductory, the following five articles are focused on the role of gardens and botanical knowledge from the perspective of natural history, whilst the last three essays tackle the subject of plants and gardens as perceived by art and literature. All these articles were presented, as Fabrizio Baldassarri emphasizes, at the conference Manipulating Flora. Gardens as Laboratories in the Renaissance and Early Modern Europe which was held at the University of Bucharest, in January 2016 (p. 14). The first article is written by Fabrizio Baldassari, one of the editors of the volume, and, as the title clearly suggests, “Introduction: Gardens as Laboratories. A History of Botanical Sciences” (pp. 9-19), it is an introductory article meant to offer both a general presentation of the volume and a valuable insight into the history of gardens. Thus, the author makes a very precise and meaningful chronology of gardens, starting from the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and emphasizes the transformation of gardens into laboratories where theories and hypothesis were tested by experiment, in the 16th and 17th centuries: “the seventeenth century extended the meanings of gardens, positioning them as ideal locations to further the quest for scientific knowledge – the new way of investigating nature in early modernity” (p. 12).

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