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Wouter de Vries MA

PhD candidate


Imagining Earth. Prints as Evidence in Natural Philosophical Discourse, 1650-1750

VU University Amsterdam
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Inger Leemans, Prof. dr. Reinier Munk, Prof. dr. Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2017

This PhD-project analyses the use of prints in research on the history of the Earth, between 1650 and 1750. Topics such as the Creation and the Deluge were highly debated by natural philosophers as well as by historians and theologians. Images came to play an important role in publications on this topic, as scholars aimed to make the invisible visible and depict that which cannot otherwise be witnessed. Scholars, engravers and publishers such as Willem Goeree, Thomas Burnet and Pieter de Hondt experimented with the use of prints both to elucidate their points as to serve as evidence for their claims. For not only did the amount and intended function of images change, their mode of representation changed as well: what appear to be ‘allegorical’ representations are replaced by seemingly more ‘realistic’ scenes over the course of the seventeenth century.
This project aims to map developments in the representation of the earth in natural philosophical, theological and historical discourse, in order to investigate how prints and the visualization of ideas came to play a central role in the practice of science and scholarship. It moves beyond a conception of prints as mere visualizations or carriers of knowledge, claiming that prints and visualization came to lie at the heart of the natural philosophic process on this topic. The study combines art-historical, historical and philosophical theories to research the historical representation and understanding of the earth, while simultaneously providing innovative insights and methodologies for studying the history of knowledge, prints and images.