Notebooks and Baconianism in Early Modern England
Richard Yeo, Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science (University of Chicago
Press: Chicago & London, 2014), ISBN 9780226106564 and 6731 (e-book), 384 pp.
This book is an examination of the practice of note-taking in the scientific circles of seventeenth-century England, with a focus on the Baconians, on those groups and figures that saw Baconian natural history or the large-scale accumulation of empirical particulars as the bedrock of all scientific knowledge. Boyle, Hooke, Locke and Hartlib are the characters discussed at length in this context, with Pell, Beale, Evelyn, Lister, Ray and others present alongside them to complete and, in some cases, complicate the narrative. Yeo argues that these figures made note-taking part of the scientific ethos and that the form their notes took was heavily influenced by humanist practices of information management. His study, then, is meant to add another brushstroke to the ‘humanist origins of modern science’ picture that has emerged in the last few decades of scholarship.