🔖 The use of the geometrical playing-cards, as also A discourse of the mechanick powers. By Monsi. Des-Cartes. | Beineke Library

Bookmarked The use of the geometrical playing-cards, as also A discourse of the mechanick powers. By Monsi. Des-Cartes. Translated from his own manuscript copy. (brbl-dl.library.yale.edu)
Call Number:
Creator: Descartes, René, 1596-1650
Date: 1697.
Publisher: Printed and sold by J. Moxon at the Atlas in Warwicklane,
Type of Resource:
Signatures: [A]¹B-F⁸G³.
The wrapper for the cards has title: Geometre and the mechanick powers represented in a pack of playing cards, made and sold by J Moxon att the Attlas in Warwick lane London.
First part (p. 1-53) probably written by Joseph Moxon.
BEIN K8 D44 Rg697: Imperfect: t.p. and p. 85 badly mutilated and mounted; wrapper frayed and mounted.
Physical Description:
1 p.l., 85 p. ; 17 cm. and 52 cards (in engr. wrapper) 9 x 6 cm.
The use of this image may be subject to the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) or to site license or other rights management terms and conditions. The person using the image is liable for any infringement.
Curatorial Area: Beinecke Library
Catalog Record:
Source Digital Format:
High Resolution (image/tiff)
Object ID: 11529500
    |   Metadata record
Cite this   |   Text this   |   Report this
h/t Dan Cohen via Humane Ingenuity 8: Ebooks: It’s Complicated

This was probably a great memory exercise for Monsi. Des-Cartes in simply making these. But on first blush, I have to think that he’s also creating a memory palace of sorts for the information itself! Because the deck of cards can be a predetermined path of sorts, going through the deck in the prescribed order he’s laid out allows it to be a journey to which he’s attaching the images on the cards as well as encoding the information within the text by which to memorize it. To me this is very reminiscent of the “Sermon on the Six Wings of the Seraph” described as:

The earliest of the four preachers’ arts is the so-called sermon on the six wings of the seraph, using as the organizing figure the six-winged creature described in Isaiah 6. Ascribed to the late twelfth-century Parisian master Alan of Lille, it became quickly popular as one of the model sermons of his ‘‘art of preaching.’’ But it is not a sermon. It is instead an art for preachers needing to invent sermons. It describes how to use sets of five themes on each of six basic subjects, or res, all keyed to a memorable organizing ‘‘picture.’’ Only the first of these themes is developed as an actual sermon might be, evidently to serve as a model. The work as a whole provides a fine example of memoria rerum and is related, through centuries of (mostly orally disseminated) classroom tradition, to the picture-like example of the technique of memoria rerum used in a courtroom setting, which is described at the beginning of the first century B.C.E. in the Rhetorica ad Herennium (3.20.33).
The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, Edited by Mary Carruthers and Jan M. Ziolkowski (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002)

Color copy of an illuminated manuscript featuring a six winged seraph with memory prompts written on individual feathers via the Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University from The tower of virtues and the orchard of spiritual grace MS 416, fol. 8r.

Published by

Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *