Group Title: case study of a seventeenth-century gatekeeper
Title: A case study of a seventeenth-century gatekeeper
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Title: A case study of a seventeenth-century gatekeeper
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Language: English
Creator: Tolbert, Jane Thornton, 1952-
Copyright Date: 1992
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Copyright 1992


Jane Thornton Tolbert

To Sandra and Alexis


It is my sincere hope that this project will enable me

to establish epistolary contacts with scholars sharing an

interest in Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc. Completion of

this dissertation has been a cooperative endeavor, not

unlike the activities of Peiresc. My committee has

provided guidance and expertise throughout my work on this

study. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to

Mickie Edwardson, Robert A. Hatch, Kurt Kent, Sid Pactor,

and Les Smith for constructive suggestions and editorial

assistance. I would like to thank Dr. Smith for serving as

chairman and for helping me focus my work. I would like to

convey my gratitude to Dr. Hatch, who introduced me to the

world of Peiresc in 1988 and provided constant support in

this project.

During my studies at the University of Florida, fellow

students in seminars have provided many critiques of my

presentations. I would like to thank Brian Dolan,

Christian Gregory, Dave Lashmet, Michel Kinney, and

Kristen Walsh for their insightful comments.

Some sources used in this dissertation were located by

Interlibrary Loan. My special thanks go to Melanie Davis,

who obtained many obscure documents. I would also like to

express my appreciation to our bibliographers, Frank

Ditrilio, who kept me informed of recent publications on

Peiresc, and Delores Jenkins. Within our department, our

administrative assistant, Kaye Laurila, has been extremely

helpful in keeping me appraised of deadlines. My teaching

supervisor, Dr. Julie Dodd, has helped in scheduling

classes to enable me to devote more time to research.

My parents, E.L. and Frances, and sister, Margaret,

have all served as readers of this manuscript. Together

with my children, they have been my enthusiastic and

generous supporters.





ABSTRACT . . . . . . . .

. . . . iv

. . . .viii


1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . .

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc .
Purpose . . . . . . .
Research Questions . . . . .
Plan of Study . . . . . .
Significance . . . .
Method . . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . .

2 SOCIAL CONTEXT . . . . . .

Background . . . . .
French Academies . . . . .
Patronage and Science . . . .
Correspondence Networks . . .
Summary . . .. .. .

3 CENSORSHIP . . . . . . .

The Waning Authority of the Catholic
Censorship Procedures . ..
Role of the Inquisition . . .
Summary . . . . . . .

. . . 1

* . . 2
. .... 18

.* . 22
. . . 25
. . . 28

. . . 36

. . 37
. . . 40
. . . 51
. . .. 67
. . 77

. . . 78

. . .
* . .
* . .

4 EVASION . . . . . . . . .

The Role of Gatekeepers in Evasion . . .
Strategies of Evasion . . . . .
Religious Influences on Science ..
Summary . . . . . . . .




. . .


Arrangement of Patronage Positions ... . 125
Scientific Evidence . . . . . ... 131
Astronomy at Aix-en-Provence . . . .. 134
Interlude . . . . . . . ... 144
Scientific Activity . . . . . .. .146
Organization of Observation Stations ... .157
Summary . . . . . . . . . 157

COMMUNICATION . . . . . . . 159

Peiresc and Galileo . . . . . . 159
Telescopic Observation Stations. . . . 179
The Lunar Eclipse of 28 August 1635 ... .181
Summary ..... . . . . . . 202

7 CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . 204

Peiresc and the Development and Communication
of Scientific Activity . . . . . . 205
Peiresc, Patron of Scientific Activity . .. 213
Provengal School . . . . . . ... 217
Further Research . . . . . . . 227

GLOSSARY. ...... . . . . . . 230

CORRESPONDENTS . . . . . . ... 236



REFERENCES . . . . . . ...... 264

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . 278



GL Lettres familibres a Francois Luillier pendant
l'hiver. 1632-1633.

MC Correspondance du Pare Mersenne.

MO Oeuvres de Malherbe.

PC Les correspondents de Peiresc: Lettres inedites,
publi6es, et annothes.

PL Lettres de Peiresc.

PM Peiresc: Lettres A Malherbe (1606-1628).

PN Peiresc: Lettres a Naud6.

PV Correspondance de Peiresc avec plusieurs missionaries
et religieux de l'ordre des capuchins, 1631-1637.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of
the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Jane Thornton Tolbert

May 1992

Chairman: Dr. F. Leslie Smith
Major Department: Mass Communication

With official channels of communication regulated by

censors, many natural philosophers exchanged information in

the private academies and correspondence networks, or they

used rhetorical strategies to publicize views. Other

natural philosophers sought the protection of a patron with

ties in the church and crown.

As a gatekeeper in correspondence networks, Nicolas-

Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) was instrumental in the

development and dissemination of a new science throughout

seventeenth-century Europe. He transformed the existing

networks of the Republic of Letters into scientific channels

of communication, often sending telescopes and astronomical

instructions to correspondents in Europe and the Levant.

During his career, he corresponded with more than 500

individuals. As an intermediary between scholars in France

and Italy, Peiresc communicated Galileo's innovations and

telescopic observations. His family wealth, social

position, and prestige enabled him to legitimize scientific

activity as a means of gaining knowledge, at a time of

oppression, when new ideas threatened traditional social,

political, and religious order. His ties with influential

circles in Rome enabled him to ask for a mitigated sentence

for Galileo and pursue astronomy at a time when the

Copernican propositions were condemned.

Peiresc used the promise of gifts and improved social

status, as well as rational arguments to ensure compliance

with his requests for telescopic observations from

missionary priests. The acceptance of patronage implied the

need to reciprocate or risk the loss of status. He sent

astronomical instruments and instructions to correspondents

and established a training program for work in determining

terrestrial longitude. The standardization of instruments

and directions actually served to define the context in

which claims could be made and to determine acceptable

evidence. While letters carried detailed descriptions and

information on procedure and viewing, and the names of

witnesses, their key function was to persuade reader of the

plausibility of the claim. By communicating the results of

telescopic observations through Europe, Peiresc secured

recognition for the activities of the Provencal School.


Gatekeepers1 played a critical role in the

dissemination of early modern science through seventeenth-

century correspondence networks. Perceptive of the

interests and needs of correspondents, these individuals

held the authority to transmit, adapt, or retain

information. One of the more noteworthy gatekeepers in

seventeenth-century France was Nicolas-Claude Fabri de

Peiresc (1580-1637). His family wealth, education at

French and Italian universities, and membership in

prestigious circles enabled him to cross social boundaries.

As a magistrate of Parlement and a cleric, Peiresc could

legitimize scientific activity at a time of censorship.

Recognized for his erudition in many scientific

disciplines, he was instrumental in the dissemination of

scientific innovation through the correspondence networks.2

1In communication theory, the term gatekeepers is used
to describe those individuals controlling information flow
between sources and the public. Bazerman has used this
term to describe the role of Henry Oldenburg as editor of
the first scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions.
Charles Bazerman, Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and
Activity of the Experimental Article in Science (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 136-138.

2Mersenne to Doni on Peiresc, 2 Feb 1635, MC 5: 41.

From the south of France, Peiresc used gifts and the

promise of patronage to solicit information from his

correspondents. When he asked a missionary priest to

observe the lunar eclipse of 1635 from one of the great

pyramids in Egypt, he sent a gift of a telescope and a

silver chalice as a reminder of obligations.3 On other

occasions Peiresc sent Angora cats, mummies, rare

manuscripts, or the odd gazelle to motivate correspondents

to cooperate with requests for information and services or

as a reminder of friendship and loyalty at a time of

oppression. Under the direction of Peiresc, the scientific

community in Aix-en-Provence established a protocol of

communication, cooperation, and reward for investigations

of nature.4

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc

Born at Belgentier in 1580 into a noble family,

Peiresc was educated to assume his uncle's position in the

Parlement5 of Aix-en-Provence. Peiresc and his younger

brother, Palamede, studied astronomy at the Jesuit school

3Peiresc to Agathange de Vend6me, 28 May 1635, PV 141;
12 Sept 1635, PV 171.

4Barry Barnes and David Edge, eds., "The Organization
of Academic Science: Communication and Control," Science in
Context: Readings in the Sociology of Science (Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press, 1982), 15.

SDavid T. Pottinger, The French Book Trade in the
Ancien Regime, 1500-1791 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1958), 354.

of Tournon. At the universities of Aix and Avignon, the

brothers began reading law and philosophy, formally

continuing their education at the University of Padua


The University of Padua was famous for its law school

and its Aristotelian teachings in sciences and mathematics.

As an anti-clerical school, it provided a forum for many

theological issues prohibited in the French universities,6

which stressed reading and commentary on the texts of

Aristotle and the Holy Scriptures.7 While in France, an

examination of theological issues was permitted only among

theologians,8 at Padua debates centered on the immortality

of the soul, the nature of matter, and rational proof of


Many of the innovative thinkers of this period were

educated here. Copernicus studied at Padua in the

sixteenth century, as did William Harvey, who made the

*The University of Paris had four faculties: arts,
law, medicine, and theology.

7Ira Wade, The Intellectual Origins of the French
Enlightenment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1971), 62-63.

8Pearl Kibre and Nancy G. Siraisi, "The Institutional
Setting: The Universities," Science in the Middle Ages, ed.
David C. Lindberg (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1978), 120-141 passim.

9Wade, 63-65.

first accurate examinations of the circulatory system.10

Peiresc studied under Galileo, who privately admitted to

supporting the Copernican hypothesis.11

Presumably Peiresc and Palamede went to Padua for law

school. But here, Peiresc filled his spare time with his

visits to archaeological sites and participation in

influential circles, including those of the humanist

Giovanni Vincenzo Pinelli (Padua), of Cardinal Robert

Bellarmine (Rome), and of the physician Giambattista della

Porta (Naples).12

Peiresc did not return to Aix upon completion of his

studies in Italy. Instead, he shipped crates of artifacts

to his father, refused an arranged marriage, probably asked

for an increase in allowance, and continued his studies in

Montpellier under the direction of a well-known Protestant

jurisconsult, Pacius de Beriga.13

10Charles Coulston Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity:
An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1960), 20, 68-69.

11Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo,
trans., intro, and notes by Stillman Drake (Garden City,
NY: Doubleday, 1957), 15, 71.

12Pierre Humbert, Un amateur: Peiresc (1580-1637)
(Paris: Descl6e de Brouwer et cie., 1933), 31-32.

13During his travels and education, Peiresc collected
approximately 300 medals, numerous books and manuscripts,
and two crates of ancient objects, as well as gifts for his
family. Humbert, Amateur, 38.

After studying law at the University of Montpellier

and receiving his doctorate from the University of Aix in

1604, Peiresc traveled extensively throughout France and

Europe before assuming his position with the Parlement of

Aix in 1607.14 He accompanied Guillaume du Vair, chief

justice of the Parlement (Aix), to Paris; here he was

introduced to Jacques-Auguste de Thou I, uncle of Pierre

and Jacques Dupuy and founder of the famous academy, later

known as the Cabinet Put6ane or Dupuy. Peiresc began what

became a lifelong correspondence with the Brothers Dupuy,

comparing their letters on the "theatre of the court" with

Galileo's telescope, which enhanced observation of the

skies. Peiresc established contacts with many humanists

and natural philosophers throughout England, Holland, and

Belgium, only formally assuming his duties as a magistrate

in Parlement on 24 June 1607.

Peiresc's work as a magistrate involved attending

trials, registering and implementing laws in Provence, and

serving Du Vair.15 Early in his legal career, Peiresc was

charged with ensuring the historical accuracy of a mural in

the Palace of Justice depicting the French kings. This

work involved historical research including a visit by

14Humbert, Amateur, 41-47.

15Jules-Marie Priou, "Magistrat et citoyen francais,"
Les fioretti du quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc, ed.
Jacques Ferrier (Avignon: Acad6mie du Var, 1988), 81-96.

Palamede to the tomb of Charlemagne to make sketches.16 In

1618, Peiresc earned intellectual renown and royal

patronage for his work in genealogy by disproving claims

that the King of Spain was heir to the French throne.17

Louis XIII awarded Peiresc a clerical title, Abbot of

Guitres,18 for this work. Peiresc entered the priesthood,

but retained his position in Parlement through a special

permission from Louis XIII and the pope to serve at

criminal trials.19 The position as abbot proved to be an

honor and a burden. Peiresc went to great effort to

restore and maintain the abbey near Bordeaux, a venture

fraught with problems and political implications.20

Peiresc's avid interest in numerous disciplines bought

him into contact with erudite groups throughout Europe.

His friendship with the cleric astronomer Pierre Gassendi

developed into scientific collaboration, while letters from

Paolo Gualdo (Padua) and Elie Diodati (Paris) kept him

informed of Galileo's activities.

16Humbert, Amateur, 64-65.

17Georges Cahen-Salvador, Un grand humaniste: Peiresc
(1580-1637) (Paris: Albin Michel, 1951), 84.

18This title was recognized by Pope Paul V on 5 Jan

19Humbert, Amateur, 117.

2oJean Clement, "Peiresc et le monastere de Guitres,"
Les fioretti du quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc, ed.
Jacques Ferrier (Avignon: Acad6mie du Var, 1988), 75-80.

Exchanging letters with more than 500 individuals

scattered throughout Europe and the Mediterranean basin,21

Peiresc played an important role in organizing and

extending correspondence as a means of scholarly

communication.22 But Peiresc selected and cultivated his


Peiresc did not send inquiries to anyone, but this
Prince des curieux inquired beforehand, or the
personality of his intended correspondents, of their
tastes in order to coerce or flatter them. No one
other than Peiresc knew how to obtain what he wanted:
gentleness, persuasion, ruse. . threats,
supplications, are used in turn to achieve his goals.23

Although the press provided a means of wide dissemination

of information, radical ideas could be dissimulated in

publications by using rhetorical strategies. Personal

letters offered many advantages, notably rapid exchanges

and the evasion of censors.

Peiresc's closest friend, Pierre Gassendi, wrote that

the Provengal magistrate was much admired "for his

21Robert Mandrou, From Humanism to Science. 1480-1700,
trans. Brian Pearce (Middlesex, UK: Penguin, 1978), 189.

22Harcourt Brown, Scientific Organizations in
Seventeenth Century France (New York: Russell and Russell,
1934), 5.

23Sydney Aufrere and Marie-Pierre Foissy-Aufrere,
"Peiresc, ses 6missaires et ses correspondents de l'6chelle
d'tgypte," Egypte et Provence (Avignon: Fondation du Musee
Calvet, 1985), 182.

sparkling wit and most temperate manners."24 The libertine

Jean-Jacques Bouchard described him as "without equal in

Europe for courtesy and kindness as well as for wisdom in

science. . [T]here is not a kingdom, country, or famous

town in which he does not have a correspondent."25

Bouchard wrote that Peiresc was "respectful in conversation

but with an imperious expression making him respected in

his house."26

His correspondents addressed him as a man dominating

other scholars27 or as a "castaway from antiquity."28 In

private exchanges, his friends portrayed him as jealously

guarding his role as gatekeeper in correspondence

networks.29 Peiresc encouraged his bookbinder, Simon

Corberan, in astronomical observations30 and awarded the

Prior Guillemin with improved status. Yet he did not spare

harsh words when his requests were not fulfilled or when a

24pierre Gassendi, Book 1, The Mirrour of True
Nobility and Gentility, trans. William Rand (London: J.
Streater, 1657), 27.

25Jean-Jacques Bouchard, Les confessions de Jean-
Jacques Bouchard suivies de son voyage de Paris A Rome en
1630 (Paris: Isidore Liseux, 1881), 126-127.

26Bouchard, Voyage, 131.

27Saumaise to Peiresc, 1 June 1635, PC 1: 262.

28PC 2: 267.

29Gassendi to Luillier, 9 Nov 1632, GL 8; 4 Dec 1632,
GL 19.

30Gassendi to Peiresc, 7 Feb 1634, PL 4: 453.

breach of protocol occurred. He was generous with his

books and collections; he rewarded requests for information

or services with gifts or the promise of patronage.

On the death of the great humanist and bibliophile

Pinelli in 1601, Gualdo wrote, "If our century knows a

second Pinelli, it will be Nicolas Fabri."31 Peiresc

considered himself "heir" to the Pinelli tradition. He

maintained the correspondence networks and sought occasion

to serve those who "honored him with their friendship."32

The geographical location of Aix and Belgentier, the

distance from Paris and proximity to the ports of

Marseilles and Toulon made Peiresc's homes convenient

stopping places for scholars traveling between Europe and

the Levant. Cardinal Francesco Barberini, nephew of the

pope, visited in 1625. Missionary superiors advised

priests to receive training with Peiresc and to bring

instruments to the Levant to continue the work in a method

of determining terrestrial longitude.33 With the help of

two local clerics, Pierre Gassendi of Digne and Joseph

Gaultier of la Valette, Peiresc established the Provencal

School, which became the center of European astronomy.

31Humbert, Amateur, 36.

32Peiresc to Clusius, 18 Jan 1602, PL 7: 941.

33Agathange de Vend8me to Pierre de Guingamp and
Agathange de Morlaix, 22 April 1636, PV 225-230.

Peiresc's social status and family wealth enabled him

to acquire rare manuscripts and patronize scholarship.34

Not only was Peiresc remembered as a bibliophile and

collector, but as willing to share his books, collections,

and research. It has been said that these collections did

not belong to Peiresc, but to "all the savants of Europe as

his residence provided a haven for the erudite."35 Given

the depth of his scholarship and the meticulous records of

observations, one would expect Peiresc to publish. For

many intellectuals, dedication of scholarly treatises

offered a means of enhancing personal prestige. Instead,

Peiresc said he preferred to share his "little ideas and

fantasies" with a few friends,"36 to serve as a "midwife"

to scholarly works of others.37 He secured recognition

through the quality of his work, his patronage and training

of missionary priests in astronomy, and the coordination of

international scientific activities.

34Jean Bernhardt, "Les activities scientifiques de
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637)," Nouvelles de
la republique des lettres 2 (1981): 166.

35Isaac Uri, Un cercle savant au xviie si6cle:
Francois Guyet (1575-1655) (Paris: Hachett, 1886), 41.

36Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 9 May 1634, MC 4:

37Peiresc to Gilles de Loches, 3 July 1634, PV 60.

Peiresc had to overcome personal obstacles in carrying

out his research. Tension prevailed in the house he shared

with Palamede, a niece, and a nephew. His nephew Claude

showed little concern for Peiresc's collections of

curiosities. And, as fate would have it, after Peiresc's

death, one niece used his letters as beds for silk worms

and as paper twists.38

Although Peiresc suffered from numerous ailments

throughout his life, illness did not affect his zeal for

research or astronomical observations. On one occasion, he

complained of paralysis of the right side of his body

resulting in a temporary loss of speech and movement.39 He

often sought remedies from doctors or relied on herbal teas

and what he believed to be the curative properties of musk

melons.40 He suffered from attacks of nephritis, kidney

stones, and gout.41 On 24 June 1637, Peiresc died.42

Gassendi was with him at the time of death and later

recorded in his journal, "Every night the sky was beautiful

38E. J. B. Ratherym "Peiresc," Nouvelle biographies
g~n6rale (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1862), 465.

39Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 23 May 1631, PL 2:

4oYvan Verd, "Peiresc et les m6decins," Les fioretti
du quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc (Avignon: Acad6mie
du Var, 1988), 123-124.

41Gassendi to Peiresc, 6 July 1635, PL 4: 537; Peiresc
to the Brothers Dupuy, 26 Dec 1631, PL 2: 287.

42Humbert, Amateur, 275.

but I did not have the heart to observe because of the

illness [of Peiresc] that began the 10th [of June], and

because of the painful death which occurred this 24th, a

little before 3 o'clock in the afternoon."43


Peiresc's esteemed friend and colleague, Gassendi,

portrayed him as "dominating" other scholars and going

beyond book learning to the study of things in

themselves.44 Peiresc combined an interest in antiquity

with numismatics and, as the story goes, gained recognition

in his youth for his identification of a Roman coin found

at nearby Frejus. His studies in philology were

complemented by investigations of astronomy. Peiresc

maintained that references to a lunar eclipse during the

battle of Arbela of 331 B.C.45 would permit the

determination of the distance to Carthage, destroyed in 146

B.C.46 His investigations of red droplets--commonly known

as rains of blood--covering the Provencal countryside and

viewed as a presage, demonstrated his application of the

43Gassendi, quoted in Humbert, Amateur, 275-276.

44Claude Saumaise to Peiresc, 1 June 1635, PC 2: 262-

45Alexander the Great was credited with the defeat of
Darius III of Persia in 331 B.C.

46See Peiresc to Arcos, 18 Oct 1635, PL 7: 164; 30 May
1636, PL 7: 178.

scientific method to natural phenomena and his willingness

to question traditional explanations. In astronomy,

Peiresc stressed the need for long-term telescopic

observations of planetary movements and the standardization

of instruments and instructions.

As a powerful patron with connections in many

influential circles, Peiresc was able to promote scientific

activities at a time when the church used censorship and

the Inquisition to reestablish its waning authority. He

exploited friendships and used patronage to organize

telescopic observation stations through Europe and the

Levant for work on determining terrestrial longitude. He

circulated Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief

World Systems, condemned in 1633, through the

correspondence networks to the broader scientific

community. As a gatekeeper in correspondence networks,

Peiresc played an instrumental role in the development and

communication of scientific activities in early

seventeenth-century France.47

47Increasing scholarship has been directed to the
importance of these individuals in the dissemination and
development of early modern science. Among recent works
are those by: Peter Dear, Mersenne and the Learning of the
Schools (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988); Robert A.
Hatch, The Collection Boulliau (BN, FF. 13019-13059), An
Inventory (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical
Society, 1982); Lynn Sumida Joy, Gassendi the Atomist:
Advocate of History in an Age of Science (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1987); and David S. Lux,
Patronage and Royal Science in Seventeenth-Century France

(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989).

-----" -~-----

Amateur or "Proto-scientist"?

The amateurs or virtuosi of the seventeenth century

professed an interest in the arts and sciences and

displayed a passion for collecting curiosities. But they

showed little concern for the social value of research.48

These amateurs were not seeking the advance of knowledge or

material progress. They were merely pursuing an interest.

In his Annales celestes, the eighteenth-century

astronomer Alexandre-Guy Pingr6 made the following entry

for the year 1637: "This year astronomy lost, not quite a

great astronomer, but an amateur to whom astronomy, [and]

physics . have the greatest obligations."49 Because of

his diverse interests, encyclopedic knowledge, and absence

of publications, Peiresc has been described as an amateur.

But his vast erudition, numerous journals of observations,

and collections of curiositiesso lend support to Gassendi's

assessment that Peiresc "does not neglect anything and

takes advantage of all he can."51 Be it measuring

48Walter E. Houghton, Jr., "The English Virtuoso in
the Seventeenth Century," Journal of the History of Ideas 3
(1942): 53-55.

49Alexandre-Guy Pingr6, Annales celestes, ed.
Guillaume Bigourdan (Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1901), 121.

50FranCoise Charles-Daubert, "Libertinage et
erudition: Peiresc relais de l'Europe savante," Peiresc ou
la passion de connaitre, ed. Anne Reinbold (Paris: J. Vrin,
1990), 47.

51Gassendi to Diodati, 29 Aug 1634, MC 4: 340.

elephants, organizing telescopic observations, or

dissecting chameleons, Peiresc never lost an occasion to

learn. He wrote that he "let no opportunity escape . .

For as much as experience uncovers pure truth, and insofar

as I can devote myself to this work in peace and quiet, I

would let no day pass without some research."52

A desire for knowledge led Peiresc to seek distant

correspondents. His requests for information and services

were accompanied by gifts, which obliged correspondents to

respond. By sending instruments, instructions, and a model

for reporting astronomical observations, Peiresc specified

the criteria for observations and defined a "rhetorical

site"53 in which scientific claims could be made.

Peiresc represented a departure from the traditional

use of ancient textual authorities to support claims about

nature, maintaining that observation and inquiry would

provide the foundations of a new science.54 Peiresc

advocated the need for "conclusive proof" as opposed to the

earlier tendency to base claims on "simple conjecture."55

52Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 7 April 1633, PL 3:

53The author would like to thank Christian Gregory,
who stressed the need to examine the rhetorical site of
scientific communication. Personal Communication,
Gainesville, FL, fall 1991.

54Peiresc to Arcos, 17 Oct 1634, PL 7: 142.

55Peiresc to Gassendi, 13 Nov 1633, PL 4: 383.

He often emphasized that several observations of the

heavens would correct misconceptions about astronomy. To

legitimize this new empirical approach, he spoke of study

of the Book of Nature as a means of gaining knowledge of

God and demonstrated that scientific activity led to

material progress.56

Peiresc did not serve only to transmit scientific

initiatives, but he extended correspondence networks and

developed a research program.57 As a liaison between

scholars in France and Italy, Peiresc communicated

Galileo's discoveries and introduced the telescope to

Northern Europe. He developed a research program at the

Provencal School and advanced practical applications of

astronomy as shown by his method of determining terrestrial


His quest for information was not limited to

astronomy; his inquiries cover a range of topics. He

developed plans for transporting water to Aix.58 He

studied the rituals and traditions of the natives of Guinea

56Peter Dear, "Totius in verba: Rhetoric and
Authority in the Early Royal Society," Isis 76 (1985): 146.

57Peiresc's role as organizer of the new science was
similar to that of the seventeenth-century editor of the
Philosophical Transactions, Henry Oldenburg. Marie Boas
Hall, "Oldenburg and the Art of Scientific Communication,"
Journal for the History of Science 2 (1965): 286.

58Peiresc to Mersenne, 1 May 1635; MC 4: 110; and 8
May 1635, MC 5: 176.

and solicited information on customs in Ethiopia.59 He

inquired about the location of marine fossils in Italian

mountains,60 the eruption of Vesuvius,61 and religious

practices based on sun worship.62

Devoting his career to the cultivation of

correspondents, Peiresc recognized the importance of

communication and reward to secure information and

cooperation. On his death, scientific activities of the

Provencal School and exchanges of information through

personal correspondence networks were interrupted. Within

20 years, the deaths of Mersenne (1648), Gassendi (1655),

and the Brothers Dupuy (Pierre Dupuy in 1651; Jacques Dupuy

in 1656) brought an end to an era of scientific innovation

in private academies. Emphasis changed from telescopic

discovery and group endeavor to isolated individual work in

the so-called Parisian school, and to teaching in the

Jesuit schools.63 The establishment of the Accademia del

Cimento (Florence, 1657) and the Royal Society of London

"5Paul Amargier, "Peiresc et Marseille," Les fioretti
du quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc, ed. Jacques
Ferrier (Avignon: Acad6mie du Var, 1988), 99.

soPeiresc to Menestrier, 22 Feb 1629, PL 5: 559.

s1Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 4 July 1633, PL 2:

62Peiresc to Arcos, 25 Jan 1634, PL 7: 123.

63Pierre Humbert, "Les astronomers francais de 1610 A
1667," Bulletin de la Soci6t6 d'6tudes scientifiques et
arch6ologiques de Draguignan 44 (1942): 7-9.

(1662) indicated the need for an equivalent French

institution. After the founding of the Paris Academy of

Sciences (1666), most astronomical activity was carried out

under the auspices of a state-supported and controlled

institution, which limited endeavors to acceptable

topics.64 Scientific activity was directed toward the

glorification of the king and the power of France.


Communication is a critical component of scientific

activity, offering a means of establishing priority of

discovery, popularizing innovation, and of mobilizing

research funding.65 Through communication, claims can be

transformed from speculation into knowledge.66

Hundreds of journals are available today for the

publication of scientific findings. In the seventeenth-

century, books, broadsides, and newspapers, provided the

means of communication. But control by clerical and royal

censors and publication delays forced natural philosophers

to exchange information in personal correspondence


64Roger Hahn, The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution:
The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666-1803 (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1971), 10.

65Bazerman, 22-23.

66Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow
Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1987), 26-29.

Prior to the emergence of the periodical press in

France (ca. 1631) and the first scientific journals (ca.

1666), personal correspondence played a significant role in

the development and dissemination of early modern science.

Barring plague or civil unrest, letters sent through the

postal system took from five67 to nine days to travel

between Aix-en-Provence in the south of France and Paris,

while letters exchanged between Paris and Rome took

approximately nine to 14 days through the papal courier

service.68 In addition to expediting the exchange of

information, correspondence offered a means of evading

censors of the Faculty of Theology or the Sorbonne. Mail

was not sent along the most direct route but through what

has been called nodall points"69 or gatekeepers in

correspondence networks.

The main purpose of this study is to provide an

examination of the role of Peiresc as a gatekeeper and

patron in the development and dissemination of scientific

initiatives in seventeenth-century France. Peiresc's

67See Ren6 Pillorget, Les movements insurrectionnels
de Provence entire 1596 et 1715 (Paris: Editions A. Pedone,
1975), 136 n. 473; and Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 4
July 1632, PL 2: 308.

68E. Rodocanachi, "Les courriers pontificaux du
quatorzieme au dix-septieme siecle," Revue d'histoire
diplomatique 26 (1912): 426.

69Sarah S. Gibson, "Scientific Societies and Exchange:
A Facet of the History of Scientific Communication,"
Journal of Library History 17 (1982): 148.

correspondence provides a window to the world of the

organizers of early modern science. As a magistrate, he

could legitimize scientific activity at a time of

oppression. His gatherings in the south of France provide

one example of the intellectual activity taking place

outside of Paris, in the provinces.

Peiresc's social position enabled him to carry out

investigations of natural phenomena when new ideas

threatened social and political order. As a gatekeeper

with ties in influential European circles, Peiresc had the

authority to transmit, adapt, or retain information. He

controlled content and direction of information exchanges,

hence affecting the formulation of scientific claims.

The promise of patronage and the exchange of gifts

were critical in the development and communication of

scientific initiatives. Patronage offered scholars

financial support; more importantly, it provided a means of

self-advancement and legitimation of scientific activity in

a time of oppression.7o Patronage brought recognition to

telescopic observations when a new science of empiricism

threatened the authority of the Scriptures and Aristotle.

Peiresc secured social recognition for his observations by

demonstrating the practical applications of science, by

70Mario Biagioli, "Galileo's System of Patronage,"
History of Science 28 (1990): 12.

citing the names of witnesses, and by communicating results

to influential individuals. Without patronage, a

mathematician or astronomer could never achieve the status

of a philosopher or theologian at a university. The Medici

patronage enabled Galileo to leave his position of

mathematician at the University of Padua and become a

"philosopher" in the court of a prince.71 As Frank Wigham

has pointed out, the prince served as the "original source

and final arbiter of reward, but also the source of social

place itself."72 While compliance with requests for

information or services brought prestige, refusal to

cooperate could result in loss of patronage.

Research Questions

An examination of the use of patronage, communication,

and reward systems will provide insight into the process of

science and the role of the lesser known organizers of

scientific activity prior to the establishment of a state-

supported academy. The major question investigated in this

study is stated as follows:

71Mario Biagioli, "Galileo the Emblem Maker," Isis 81
(1990): 231-232.

72Frank Wigham, Ambition and Privilege, The Social
Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1984), 46.

What was the role of Peiresc in developing and

disseminating scientific initiatives through the

correspondence networks?

In responding to this question, the following subordinate

questions will be examined:

1. What were the responses of natural philosophers to

attempts by the church and state to prevent the spread

of a new experimental science?

2. What was the extent of scientific censorship in France

and did it achieve its intended effect?

3. What types of strategies were devised to dissimulate

information and evade censors? What was Peiresc's role

in the communication of information?

4. How did Peiresc use patronage to extend correspondence

networks and organize scientific activity? How did he

obtain compliance for his requests for information and

legitimize telescopic observations in the wake of

Galileo's sentencing?

5. How did Peiresc and members of the Provengal School

secure recognition for their observations in the

broader scientific community?

Plan of Study

This study includes seven chapters, a glossary, and

appendices containing biographical introductions to

Peiresc's friends, documents and letters relating to the

Galileo affair and to astronomical observations. Chapter 1

offers a biographical introduction to Peiresc and an

overview of the plan of study. Chapters 2, 3, and 4

provide an examination of the new intellectual gatherings

in the private academies, the exchange of information in

personal correspondence, and use of censorship to protect a

traditional conception of the world. Of specific concern

is the role of Peiresc in controlling the exchange of

information and in legitimizing scientific investigations

through the use of rhetorical strategies and through his

social position.

Chapter 2 offers a discussion of the social context of

the period, focusing on the private academies and

correspondence networks, which provided the setting for

intellectual exchanges. Among the more elite gatherings

were those of the Brothers Dupuy in Paris and of Peiresc in

the south of France, which played an important role in the

development and communication of a new experimental


The introduction of a scientific method based on

observation and inquiry and the publication of a Bible in

the vernacular contributed to a questioning of the

criterion of certainty, in traditional terms, reason or

divine revelation. Faced with the Protestant Reformation

and the rise of new intellectual centers outside the

university setting, the church implemented censorship to

restore its waning authority and protect the conception of

a finite and hierarchical world. As shown by the

discussion in Chapter 3, the church implemented censorship

to restore the authority of the Scriptures and protect the

conception of a finite and hierarchical world. But

rivalries between censoring agents and divided loyalties

among Catholics73 resulted in ineffectual efforts to

monitor channels of communication.

With the press and book trade regulated by censors,

many natural philosophers exchanged information in the

private academies and through correspondence networks or

relied on rhetorical strategies to publicize views. Others

sought the protection of a patron with ties in the church

and state. Chapter 4 provides an examination of

strategies of evasion used by Peiresc and his

contemporaries to communicate new ideas.

Chapters 5 and 6 offer an investigation of Peiresc's

use of patronage to develop and disseminate astronomical

observations. A system of rewards and gift-giving provided

an effective means of soliciting information and achieving

cooperation in organizing celestial observation stations.

These chapters also provide an examination of Peiresc's use

of rhetorical strategies to legitimize telescopic

73The Catholic Church was divided between
Ultramontanes, who were loyal to the pope, and the
Gallicans, primarily the magistrates of Parlement, who
supported the French king.

observations at a time when the Copernican propositions

were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. The exchange

of scientific information along correspondence networks,

the establishment of an acceptable rhetorical format for

scientific claims,74 and the interaction of individuals and

groups are of specific concern in these chapters.

Chapter 7, the conclusion, provides an assessment of

Peiresc's role in the development and communication of

astronomical information at a time of censorship. The

extension of the correspondence networks and the successful

establishment of the Provencal School can be attributed to

Peiresc's exacting but generous personality. He provided

funding and established a research program, which focused

on projects (e.g., selenography, training) that would

contribute to a method of determining terrestrial

longitude. His death and the absence of a patron and

successor brought an effective halt to the activities of

this group.


The use of correspondence as a primary source reflects

a shift in interest from the "context of justification" to

74Christian Gregory, Personal Communication,
Gainesville, FL, fall 1991.

the "context of discovery"75--from the final published

product of science to the ongoing process of communication,

conflict, cooperation, and innovation. Correspondence is

the key; it reveals the interaction of individuals and

groups and the broader social, political, and cultural

underpinnings of the Scientific Revolution.

Through correspondence, the historian can trace an

idea from its inception to its publication, or in the case

of Galileo's Dialogue, to its condemnation. Peiresc's

letters provide a case study for his work on determining a

method of terrestrial longitude and reveal the process of

scientific innovation.76 From the time he procured a

telescope and made his first observations to the

coordination of observations stations throughout Europe and

the Levant, Peiresc systematically recorded and transmitted

his work in astronomy.

As one of the more prolific correspondents of the

early seventeenth century, Peiresc established contacts

with hundreds of individuals, often for the purpose of

acquiring specific information. A study of his

correspondence networks, role of a gatekeeper, and use of

75"Context of discovery" and "context of
justification" are terms attributed to the philosopher Hans
Reichenbach. Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening:
Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 5-6.

7SHerbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science:
1300-1800, rev. ed. (New York: Free Press, 1965), 9.

patronage offers a means of understanding the importance of

communication in scientific innovation. As suggested by

the pioneering works of Guillaume Bigourdan,77 Harcourt

Brown,7s and Ren6 Pintard,79 a thorough study of Peiresc's

role in the correspondence networks and private academies

is needed to fill the hiatus in scholarship on the

organizers of the new science.

Recent scholarship has offered a portrayal of Peiresc

as a multifaceted individual--a magistrate in Parlement, a

natural philosopher, and as a figure of transition between

the Renaissance and a new science. This study provides

another interpretation: Peiresc's use of patronage and his

role as a gatekeeper in the correspondence networks is

considered critical in the development and dissemination of

scientific initiatives.

From the perspective of communication research, this

study of the exchange of information through correspondence

networks will contribute to an understanding of the

relationship between the communication and the production

77Guillaume Bigourdan, Histoire de l'astronomie et
l'observation et des observatoires en France (Paris:
Gauthier-Villars, 1918).

78Harcourt Brown, Scientific Organizations in
Seventeenth Century France (1934, New York: Russell and
Russell, 1967).

79Ren6 Pintard, Le libertinage 6rudit dans la premiere
moiti6 du xviie siecle (Paris: Boivin, 1943; repr. Geneva:
Slatkine, 1983).

of scientific knowledge.80 Correspondence not only

provided a rapid and efficient channel of communication, it

offered a means of securing recognition and legitimation

for claims.


When censorship and oppression determined views

expressed in published texts, historian Harcourt Brown has

emphasized, "[T]he real substance of the radical ideas of

an age has circulated in manuscript, under the cloak."81

To understand intellectual activity in this period,

historians must look beyond printed texts and examine

private exchanges in the correspondence networks.

Scope of the Study

This study is defined in terms of spatial, temporal,

and thematic parameters. While many of the private

academies were located in Paris, Peiresc's gatherings at

Aix attest to the intellectual activity in Provence. He

was a contemporary of the great thinkers of the period,

including Galileo and Descartes, as well as of the

organizers of the new science, such as Pierre Gassendi and

Marin Mersenne. As a gatekeeper in the correspondence

80Shapin has shown the importance of communication in
securing assent for claims about nature. Steven Shapin,
"Pump and Circumstance: Robert Boyle's Literary
Technology," Social Studies of Science 14 (1984): 481.

81Brown, Scientific Organizations, xiv.

networks, he served as liaison between scholars in France

and Italy. His contacts with priests in the Levant enabled

him to organize telescopic observation stations. His

exchanges with hundreds of individuals facilitated the

acquisition of artifacts and information that he used to

enhance his personal prestige.

While secondary sources served to identify significant

periods in Peiresc's life, primary sources convey a

diversity of information that is often qualitatively

different from publicized views--daily routines, hopes and

frustrations, cooperation and rivalry.82 Content of

letters ranged from astronomical investigations to the

curative properties of melons, or the "scandal" caused by

the bordello of the Bishop of Riez.83 Correspondence

reveals subtleties of language--rhetorical strategies to

dissimulate and legitimize scientific endeavors, and the

use of persuasion and manipulation to secure compliance for


One challenge presented by this study was to link the

activities of the scientific subculture with the broader

social context. An examination of the role of the patron

82Ren6 Taton, "Le r6le des correspondances
scientifiques dans la diffusion de la science aux xvii et
xviii si6cles," Proceedings of the International Congress
on the History of Sciences (Tokyo: Science Council of
Japan, 1974): 221.

83Peiresc to Valavez [Palamede], 26 July 1626, PL 6:

and gatekeeper provides a means of understanding how

scientific initiatives were carried out in the private

academies were legitimized and disseminated to the broader

reading community. Patronage is a system of relationships

between patrons and clients, often arranged by an

intermediary,84 in which social status and legitimacy can

be traded for services or information.85 Peiresc used

patronage to develop communication networks and secure

cooperation for his requests. As his authority was

grounded in the established institutions of the church and

crown, he could legitimize scientific activities.

Furthermore, portraying Peiresc as a gatekeeper in

communication networks offers a means of understanding his

role in processing, disseminating, and adapting information

to individuals and groups.

To understand the scientific community of the

Provencal School, shared values, beliefs, and commitments

are explored. Communication reveals controversies and

rivalries, and offers a means of accessing beliefs. The

subtleties of language and the adaptation of style and

content to the recipient further contribute to the

understanding of group dynamics.

84Biagioli, "Patronage," 3-4.

s8Barnes and Edge, 16.


Primary sources. The published correspondence of

Peiresc86 covers a period of nearly 40 years. Smaller

collections of related correspondence are edited by Raymond

Leb6gue,87 Bernard Rochot,88 Phillip Wolfe,89 and

Apollinaire de Valence.90 The major volumes of published

correspondence edited by Tamizey de Larroque are incomplete

and unorganized. The Mersenne correspondence is

annotated and indexed, providing a baseline for scientific

activity of this period. These collections of published

letters have provided the basis for this study.

86Philippe Tamizey de Larroque, ed., Lettres de
Peiresc 7 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1893).

87Raymond Lebegue, Peiresc A divers (Paris: CNRS,
1985); Leb6gue, Peiresc: Lettres A Malherbe (1606-1628)
(Paris: CNRS, 1976).

88These exchanges between Gassendi and Luillier
provide insight into Peiresc's personality. Bernard
Rochot, Lettres familibres A Francois Luillier pendant
I'hiver 1632-1633 (Paris: J. Vrin, 1944).

89Phillip Wolfe, ed., Peiresc: Lettres a Naud6
(Seattle: Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature,

90Le Pere Apollinaire de Valence, ed., Correspondance
de Peiresc avec plusieurs missionaires et religieux de
l'ordre des capuchins. 1631-1637 (Paris: Alphonse Picard,

91Paul Tannery, Cornelis de Waard, and Armand
Beaulieu, eds. Correspondance du Pere Mersenne, 16 vols.
(Paris: Beauchesne et fils, 1932).

Secondary sources. Biographies by Georges Cahen-

Salvador and Pierre Humbert offer a general introduction to

Peiresc's diverse interests, scientific investigations, and

ties with intellectual circles. Several edited editions92

of articles on Peiresc, such as the Fioretti and Peiresc ou

la passion de connaitre, provide well-researched

examinations of Peiresc's scientific activity and ties in

the church and crown.

The more significant studies remain those by Harcourt

Brown93 and Seymour L. Chapin.94 In his Scientific

Organizations, Brown has identified critical issues: the

scientific and intellectual activity taking place in the

French provinces and the role of Peiresc in the

correspondence networks, as an intermediary between

scholars in France and Italy, and as a close friend of the

92These editions include: Jacques Ferrier, ed., Les
fioretti du quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc (Avignon:
Academic du Var, 1988); Anne Reinbold, ed., Peiresc ou la
passion de connaitre (Paris: J. Vrin, 1990); Henri Dubled,
Jean Bernhardt, Pierre Costabel, and Agnbs Bresson, eds.,
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637), humaniste et
savant, sa famille et ses amis (Carpentras: Mus6e Comtadin,

93Harcourt Brown, Scientific Organizations in
Seventeenth Century France, New York: Russell and Russell,
1934; and "Peiresc," Dictionary of Scientific Biography, v.
10, 1973: 488-492.

94Seymour L. Chapin, "The Astronomical Activities of
Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc," Isis 48 (1957): 13-29.

Brothers Dupuy. Brown also has portrayed Peiresc as a

patron and organizer of the new science, and as an amateur

and a "proto-scientist."

Chapin introduced Peiresc's astronomical activities,

described participants of the Provencal School in terms of

competence and involvement, and assessed Peiresc's role in

the development of early modern astronomy. Chapin has

suggested that Peiresc's utilitarian concerns were among

the factors motivating his work in a method of determining

terrestrial longitude.

Astronomical sources. Pingre95 has identified

participants observing celestial phenomena in the

seventeenth century. Guillaume Bigourdan96 and Pierre

Humbert have indicated the level of involvement and

competence of many individuals assisting Peiresc. Humbert

has written numerous articles on lesser known astronomers,

on instrumentation and procedure, and on published

instructions sent by Peiresc to the missionary priests.97

95Alexandre-Gui Pingr6, Annales celestes du dix-
septieme siecle, ed. Guillaume Bigourdan (Paris: Gauthier-
Villars, 1901).

96Guillaume Bigourdan, Histoire de l'astronomie
d'observation et des observatoires en France (Paris:
Gauthier-Villars, 1918).

97Pierre Humbert, "Les astronomers francais de 1610 a
1667," Bulletin de la Soci6t6 d'6tudes scientifiques et
archeologiques de Draguignan 44 (1942-1943): 5-72; and
L'oeuvre astronomique de Gassendi (Paris: Hermann, 1936).

Limitations. The primary sources used in this study

are the published letters of Peiresc and Mersenne. The

editing of the Peiresc correspondence and expurgation of

passages judged "too scientific"98 by Philippe Tamizey de

Larroque, editor of the Peiresc correspondence, have

limited the conclusions that can be drawn, particularly

concerning the competence and involvement of members of the

Provencal School.

Attempts to understand Peiresc as a communicator and

organizer of scientific activity is biased somewhat by what

Pintard has described as the "role of conjecture."99

Peiresc and Gassendi did not explicitly address assumptions

or beliefs. They did not express their support of the

Copernican system.1oo At other times, they dissimulated

views. Often what is not said is as revealing as what is

said.o10 Hence, this study offers one interpretation of

the role of Peiresc in patronizing and communicating

scientific activity.

9aPierre Humbert, L'oeuvre astronomique de Gassendi
(Paris: Hermann, 1936), 7 n. 1.

99Pintard, ix-x.

100Gassendi described his conception of the Copernican
system in a letter to Peiresc. Gassendi to Peiresc, 26 Feb
1632, PL 4: 259; he wrote that he was pleased Boulliau was
a Copernican, Gassendi to Boulliau, 24 Jan 1634, MC 4: 11.

10Taton, 218.


From an early age, Peiresc displayed an interest in

natural philosophy, taking advantage of opportunities to

explore nature and solicit information from friends.

Contacts with diverse scholars, earlier cultivated by

Pinelli, provided the foundation for Peiresc's personal

correspondence networks. The promise of patronage and

gifts enabled him to secure information and cooperation in

investigations of natural phenomena; social position and

family wealth allowed him to establish and maintain ties

with influential circles. In the following chapters, an

examination of Peiresc's interactions with individuals and

groups provides a means of understanding the role of

patronage and communication in legitimizing scientific

activity, securing information, and developing scientific

initiatives in early seventeenth-century France.


Peiresc's gatherings at Belgentier have been described

as "the retreat and rendezvous of all men of talent"1 where

the conversations were "carefree."2 This academy in

Provence was just one of many of the scholarly circles in

France. Private academies were held in the house of a

patron, an individual whose official position afforded

sufficient income to provide a library and instruments as

well as protection from censors. Members of the private

academies gathered on a regular basis to share books,

literary news, results of scientific inquiries, or letters

from correspondents. Travel accounts,3 dissections,4 a

conjunction of planets,5 or the care of Angora cats6 were

valid subjects of inquiry in the academies and

1Jean-Jacques Bouchard, Les confessions de Jean-
Jacques Bouchard suivies de son voyage de Paris A Rome
(Paris: Isidore Lixeux, 1881), 128.

2Bouchard, Voyage, 131.

SPeiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 13 July 1633, PL 2:
556; Gassendi to Peiresc, n.d. May 1635, PL 4: 483.

4Peiresc to Jacques Dupuy, 25 July 1634, MC 4: 251;
Gassendi to Diodati, 29 July 1634, MC 4: 339.

5Peiresc to Paolo Gualdo (a friend of Galileo's), 20
Feb 1605, quoted in Pierre Humbert, Un amateur: Peiresc
(1580-1637) (Paris: Desclbe de Brouwer et cie., 1933), 77.

6Peiresc to Guillemin, 15 Sept 1610, PL 5: 1.

correspondence. Discussions were not confined within these

academies, but were transmitted through correspondence

networks to be shared with members of other scholarly



The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French

universities promoted a traditional world-view based on the

Scriptures and texts of Aristotle. Medieval Christianity

appropriated a number of Aristotelian and Platonic

concepts. The hierarchy of being, the cosmic division

between the sublunar and supra-lunar regions, the perfect

spheres moving with uniform motion coupled with the

Aristotelian Prime Mover supported the conception of a

world moved and sustained by God. Hence, the introduction

of a new ordering of the world had implications for the

organization of society or at least a church-informed


The rhetoric of the new science emphasized empiricism

as opposed to the traditional reading of the Scriptures and

Aristotle. Galileo's telescopic observations of the moon,

an obvious example, revealed that earth's nearest neighbor

was not a perfect celestial globe but marked with mountains

and craters. The discovery of sunspots also provided

evidence refuting the Platonic conception of immutable

heavenly bodies and the Aristotelian distinction between

the sublunar and supra-lunar realms.

The emerging world-view also had implications for the

scholastic or pedagogical framework. The medieval

university maintained a hierarchy among academic

disciplines which recognized theology as the only science

that could yield truth and certainty whereas astronomy and

mathematics could only provide information about the world

of appearances or as perceived by the senses.7 The

Ptolemaic system of equants and epicycles was not

considered a reality, but rather a means of "saving

appearances" or explaining planetary movements. Beginning

with Copernicus (On Revolutions, 1543)8 and Galileo, many

of the new astronomers presented what they considered real

systems rather than hypothetical schemes. Copernicus and

Galileo explained what appeared to be anomalies under the

Ptolemaic system--retrograde motion and the variation in

the brightness of Venus. But they were reluctant to

publicize their views from fear of ridicule by colleagues

and later from fear of censors.9

7Edward Grant, Physical Science in the Middle Ages
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 33.

SCopernicus's conception of a heliocentric world was
not revolutionary in itself. Aristarchus of Samos had
developed a similar system in the third century B.C. But,
Copernicus presented his theory in terms of a real rather
than a hypothetical system.

9Galileo to Kepler, 4 Aug 1597, quoted in Ren6 Taton,
"Le r6le des correspondances scientifiques dans la
diffusion de la science aux xviie et xviiie siecles,"
Proceedings of the 14th International Congress on the

History of Sciences (Tokyo: Science Council of Japan,
1975), 217.

Peiresc's position in the church and Parlement assured

favored protection from censors and enabled him to

legitimize his scientific initiatives. He followed in the

Scriptural and Baconian tradition, justifying the

observations of nature as a means of knowing God through

his works;10 as Galileo claimed, God is revealed in two

"books," the Holy Scriptures and the "Book of Nature."

Peiresc demonstrated that observational astronomy had

practical applications--the determination of terrestrial

longitude11 and the reform of the church calendar.

Accurate tables of planetary movements would enable a more

precise dating of the vernal equinox and hence religious

feast days, such as Easter. These practical applications

provided a means of securing the cooperation of missionary

priests in observations.

The origins of investigations of nature in the

seventeenth-century private academies can be traced to the

earlier Italian gatherings of Girolamo Ruscelli (Accademia

Segreta) and Giambattista della Porta (Accademia Secretorum

Naturae),12 which legitimized observation and inquiry by

O1Robert K. Merton, "Puritanism, Pietism, and
Science," The Sociological Review 28 (1936): 1, 7.

11Peiresc to Menestrier, 22 Feb 1629, PL 5: 559.

12William Eamon and Francoise Paheau, "The Accademia
Segreta of Girolamo Ruscelli, A Sixteenth-Century Italian
Scientific Society," Isis 75 (1984): 339-340.

proclaiming that "the most majestic wonders of nature are

not to be concealed, that in them we may admire the mighty

power of God, His wisdom, His bounty, and therein reverence

and adore Him."13 Della Porta maintained that the study of

nature would "remove all blindness and malice, which are

wont to dazzle the sight of the mind and hinder the

truth."14 Investigations of nature secured increasing

social recognition as they contributed to material progress

and knowledge of God through His works.

French Academies

Private academies, headed by a powerful patron,

offered a forum for discussing new ideas.15 Membership was

determined by social standing, with the exception of the

conferences at the Bureau d'adresse, which admitted the

general public. These early scientific academies developed

13Giambattista della Porta, Preface, Natural Magic,
ed. Derek J. Price (New York: Basic Books, 1957), n. pag.

14Della Porta, "Preface," n. pag.

15Pintard has described the bourgeoisie as the
"infantry of science." While Peiresc had a noble heritage,
the families of Gassendi and Mersenne were farmers;
Boulliau's father was a notary and Naud6's a bailiff. Ren6
Pintard, Le libertinage 6rudit dans la premiere moiti6 du
xvii siecle (Paris: Boivin, 1943; repr. Geneva: Slatkine,
1983), 78.

a protocol of scientific investigation involving

empiricism, cooperation, and communication.16

Origins and Development

The Italian antecedents of the French societies

established a private, patron-supported tradition.

The Accademia Secretorum Naturae (Naples) and the Accademia

Segreta popularized the "secrets" tradition17 of alchemists

among its members.18 The Accademia dei Lincei (1603-1630,

Rome),19 led by Prince Federico Cesi, introduced

experimentation and largely discredited the Aristotelian

underpinnings of astronomy. While these academies

maintained secrecy in proceedings, they often communicated

their observations to other scientific groups and the

16Sarah S. Huckaby, "The Accademia dei Lincei: A Study
in 17th Century Scientific Communication," Fifth Library
History Seminar (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University
Press, 1972), 171.

17Movable type had a role in transforming the esoteric
or secrets tradition into public knowledge. The secrets
tradition refers to certain practices--often recipes and
formulas--whereby individuals could understand the
mysteries or secrets of nature. William Eamon, "From the
Secrets of Nature to Public Knowledge," Reappraisals of the
Scientific Revolution, ed. David Lindberg and Robert
Westman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 340-

18Eamon and Paheau, 339-340.

19Galileo was a member of this academy.

public through correspondence and publications.20 In

Paris, gatherings at the study of the President of the

Parlement of Paris, Francois Auguste de Thou I, shifted

emphasis from philology to natural philosophy under the

direction of his nephews, Pierre and Jacques Dupuy.21 In

the south of France, traveling scholars and missionary

priests visited Peiresc, often receiving instruction in

scientific endeavors before leaving for Italy and the


Private Academies

Gassendi valued exchanges in private academies,

writing that the "true philosophy is found in refuge under

the roof of some individuals who practice it in the shadow

and in the silence."22 The freedom they enjoyed was not

sanctioned by religious or political institutions, rather

it was a personal freedom--the freedom to express one's

opinion without fear of reprisals. One individual told the

20The Lincei sponsored the publication of Galileo's
Letters on Sunspots in 1613, his Assayer in 1623 on the
controversy over the comets, and other works on botany,
bees, and musical harmony. Huckaby, 171-181.

21Harcourt Brown, Scientific Organizations in
Seventeenth Century France (New York: Russell and Russell,
1934), 10.

22Gassendi to Reneri, Oeuvres completes, 6 vols.
(Lyon: n.p., 1658), 4: 30, quoted in Isaac Uri, Un cercle
savant au xviie siecle: Francois Guyet (1575-1655) (Paris:
Hachette, 1886), 29.

Dupuys that "had I lost the honor of your good graces for

having a differing opinion . the freedom of the

Cabinet23 [Dupuy] would have suffered."24

A cabinet has been defined as a private room which

contained books and objects, a place in which to retire and

pursue scholarly endeavors.25 It contained books,

instruments, and artifacts, as well as a variety of

curiosities. Unique and bizarre collections impressed

friends or attracted visitors. The cabinets of

curiosities, once condemned by the church due to their

association with the occult or hidden qualities of

nature,26 were recognized at this time as representing

knowledge and learning,27 and as attesting to the prestige

23The term cabinet has been used in several ways in
this study. It can refer to an academy (e.g., Cabinet
Dupuy), to a room in which discussions are held, or to a
place where curiosities are displayed.

24La Hoguette to the Brothers Dupuy, 16 May 1649,
Lettres de Ph. Fortin de la Hoguette A J. Dupuy (1644-
1649), quoted in Pintard, 97.

25Bernard Beugnot, "L'ermitage parmi les livres,"
Revue franchise d'histoire du livre 24 (1979): 688.

26Krzystztof Pomian, Collectors and Curiosities, Paris
and Venice, 1500-1800, trans. Elizabeth Wiles-Portier
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), 59.

27William Eamon, "From the Secrets of Nature to Public
Knowledge: the Origins of the Concept of Openness in
Science," Minerva 23 (1985): 332.

of patrons.28 Some cabinets were open to visitors and

served to popularize the study of natural phenomena. As

Peiresc stressed to one correspondent in Rome, visitors

interrupted a natural philosopher in his work:

You did not tell me that you have set up now such a
beautiful cabinet and have enriched it with such
rarities, that you need to be chained to stop from
receiving the gallant men who can visit you daily,
S a diversion capable of consuming much time.29

Membership in the private academies was limited to an

elite group of intellectuals. Family wealth and social

status did not ensure entry to these gatherings. Some

individuals, such as the wealthy but dull magistrate Habert

de Montmor, were excluded from the Cabinet Dupuy.30

Traveling scholars and visitors needed letters of

recommendation to be admitted. These letters addressed the

merits of the individual, official position, and family

ties. Peiresc said Arcos was "a friend of extraordinary

merit."31 Describing Gassendi as skilled in philosophy and

mathematics, Peiresc asked that his friend be admitted to

the Cabinet Dupuy. He made excuses for his lack of

28Giuseppe Olmi, "Science-Honour-Metaphor: Italian
Cabinets of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," The
Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in
Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe, ed. Oliver Impey
and Arthur MacGregor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 8.

29Peiresc to Menestrier, 25 Aug 1631, PL 5: 590.

30Uri, 17.

31Peiresc to Brothers Dupuy, 22 Nov 1632, PL 2: 376.

friendship with influential circles. "This country, removed

from the trade of books and visits of distinguished

individuals as typical of your region, cannot produce

individuals having circles of cultivated friends as found

there [Paris]," Peiresc explained. "But I still hope that

you will find pleasure in his modest and gentle


The more noteworthy gatherings in the early

seventeenth century were held by the Brothers Dupuy (ca.

1616) in Paris and by Peiresc (ca. 1607) in Aix-en-

Provence. The library of the Cabinet Dupuy on the Rue des

Poitevins, near the Boulevard St. Michel, contained 16,000

books and manuscripts.33 Peiresc described the cabinet as

the "true domicile of virtue34 and the rendezvous of all

lettered men of the nation and abroad."35 As many as 50

individuals met daily in the late afternoons at the Cabinet

Dupuy to exchange news of foreign governments,

publications, and scientific activities,36 or to carry on

32See Peiresc to Brothers Dupuy, 21 April 1628, PL 1:

33Uri, 11.

34Virtue referred to the "giving of favor and reward."
Linda Levy Peck, Court Patronage and Corruption in Early
Stuart England (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 13.

35Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 12 May 1628, PL 1:

36Brown, Scientific Organizations, 14.

"useful and agreeable" discussions.37 Libertines Francois

Luillier, Gabriel Naud6, and Jean-Jacques Bouchard

attended, as did the Jesuit confessor Jacques Sirmond and

the physician Guy Patin. Also there were astronomers and

mathematicians, including the priest Marin Mersenne and the

cleric astronomers Pierre Gassendi and Ismael Boulliau.38

There were other scientific circles in Paris.

Mathematicians and astronomers, such as Claude Mydorge,

Ismael Boulliau, Rene Descartes, and Gassendi attended

Mersenne's circle (1635-1648), which he described as "the

noblest of all academies in the world, dedicated to


Peiresc modeled his academy on the Cabinet Dupuy,

which he attended while in Paris from 1616-1623.40 The

proximity of Aix to the ports of the Mediterranean Sea made

his cabinet a convenient stopping place for scholars

traveling between Europe and the Levant. Missionary

priests stopped here for training in telescopic

observations. Among the visitors were ambassadors, agents

to the king, adventurers., and traveling scholars.

Gassendi noted that Peiresc often "spent his time in the

37Uri, 16.

38Pintard, 93-94.

39Letter of 1635, Pintard, 91.

40Brown, Scientific Organizations, 8.

company of such men, interposing frequent reading, and the

cultivation of rare plants . [and on occasion] detained

[visitors] as long as he could."41

Peiresc's gatherings also attracted a local

population; the Chief Justice of the Parlement of Provence

Guillaume Du Vair attended, as did the Hellenic scholar

Francois de Villeneuve and the poet Francois de Malherbe.42

Villeneuve later participated in Peiresc's astronomical

observations; Malherbe served as a liaison to the crown

upon taking a position with the royal entourage in Paris.

Among the regular members of these meetings were Gassendi

and Joseph Gaultier de la Valette, a cleric and an

experienced astronomer. The priest Pierre Antelme of

Fr6jus and Tonduti de St. L6gier may have also attended.

There were other scientific gatherings in the French

provinces, indicative of intellectual activity taking place

at this time.43 Francois-Gilles Mac6, professor of

mathematics and medicine at the University of Caen, led

discussions and made astronomical observations.44 His

41Pierre Gassendi, Book 4, The Mirrour of True
Nobility and Gentility, trans. William Rand (London: J.
Streater, 1657), 41-42.

42Humbert, Amateur, 50.

43Brown, Scientific Organizations, 215.

44In 1618, Isaac Beeckman, the Dutch scholar and
friend of Descartes, came to Caen to study medicine. At
that time, Mac6 showed him a telescope. H. Prentout,
"Francois-Gilles Mac6: Un professeur de math6matiques a
l'Universit6 de Caen au commencement du xvii siecle,"
M4moires de l'Acad6mie Nationale des Sciences de Caen,

academy at Caen, carried on by his nephew Pierre-Daniel

Huet, became one of the centers of experimentation in the

country.45 Scientific groups, often associated with Jesuit

schools, emerged in other provincial cities, including

Tournon and Avignon in the south of France.46

Conferences at the Bureau d'adresse

The Bureau d'adresse was a combination pawn shop,

printing press, employment office, medical dispens, and

public academy. The weekly conferences of Theophraste

Renaudot47 at the Bureau d'adresse were held on Monday

afternoons from 1629 to 1642.48 According to Renaudot,

these conferences functioned to "rescue the liberal

sciences from the bondage of scholastic obscurities [e.g.,

university teaching], and to render things intelligible

without obliging the studious to the unpleasing and

(1911): 4-6.

45Brown, Scientific Organizations, 216.

46Francois de Dainville, "Foyers de culture
scientifiques dans la France mediterran6nne du xvie au
xviiie siecle," Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs
applications 1 (1947-1948): 289-300.

47Cardinal Richelieu was the patron of Renaudot.

48The conferences were held on Monday afternoons from
August 1633 through August 1642.

perpetual task of first surmounting the difficulties of

exotic words."49

Renaudot, who communicated and popularized a new

experimental science to the public, was probably more

interested in promoting a personal agenda than in educating

public. He used various channels of communication to

publicize information--a medical clinic, conferences and

demonstrations, a newspaper, and published proceedings of

meetings. He opened a medical dispensary to treat

indigents--a move contested by the Faculty of Medicine,

notably by Guy Patin.50 Furthermore, he promoted chemical

treatment of disease, a practice condemned by physicians,

who relied on the traditional methods of purges and


Renaudot's scientific conferences reflected

discussions carried out in the private academies and

letters.52 While his Gazette (ca. 1631) contained mainly

49Eusebe Renaudot, ed., Preface, General Collection of
Discourses of the Virtuosi of France, trans. G. Havers
(London: printed for Thomas Dring and John Starkey, 1664),
n. pag.

5OHoward Solomon, Public Welfare, Science, and
Propaganda in Seventeenth-Century France: The Innovations
of Th6ophraste Renaudot (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1972), 46-47, 170.

51Solomon, 171.

52For example, the subject of echoes, described in
exchanges with Mersenne, was also discussed in a conference
in November 1633. Villiers to Mersenne, mid-November,
1633, MC 3: 546 n. 1. Conference on the movement of the
earth and a theory of the tides took place within six
months of the condemnation of Galileo's Dialogue Concerning

news of foreign countries and the French crown, his

published proceedings of his conferences at the Bureau

d'adresse included a range of topics: natural magic, truth

and certainty, love and vengeance, and movement of the

earth. Two subjects were excluded from discussion:

"Not only is slander banished, but for fear of
irritating minds easily upset by problems of religion,
all such concerns are referred to the Sorbonne. The
mystery of affairs of State, the nature of divine
things, of which those who have the most to say, say
the least, we refer them to the Council [du Roil from
where they proceed. All the rest are here, to give
free play to your imagination.""53

Renaudot carefully avoided topics that could lead to

censorship by theologians of the Sorbonne or conflict with

the crown. Hence, through public conferences Renaudot

extended communication of scientific initiatives from an

elite community to a general audience.

His popularization of scientific activities through

public conferences earned him little respect from the

scientific community, which scorned this "wretched printer

. . boastful of wares with which he degrades himself by

the price of profaning and divulging his conferences to

lowly people."54 These criticisms arose primarily from

Renaudot's inaccuracy in reporting and his inclination to

the Two Chief World Systems in 1633. MC 3: 602 n. 2;
Renaudot, 10: 57, 19: 115.

53Preface Premiere centuries, quoted in Solomon, 64-65.

54Peiresc to Brothers Dupuy, 15 Jan 1634, PL 3: 15.

divulge information that could lead to the persecution of

natural philosophers. The lack of respect shown by the

scientific community toward the gazeteer also stemmed from

Renaudot's ties with Cardinal Richelieu, who resented the

power and prestige of private academies.55

The published proceedings of these conferences were

presented in the form of anonymous dialogues. The absence

of the speaker's name enabled the reader to evaluate the

material on the basis of content rather than the social

status of the author--so Renaudot said.

Patronage and Science

Patrons of private academies not only provided funding

and protection for scientific investigations, but rewarded

productive clients with social status and prestige.

Furthermore, patrons could legitimize scientific activity

as their own authority was rooted in institutions of the

church and crown. For a private academy to succeed, it

needed a patron with a sense of responsibility and the

ability to manipulate and persuade friends, a well-defined

55Some of the antagonism between members of the
private academies and the cardinal could be attributed to
the corruption in the entourage of Richelieu and Marie de
Medici (1573-1642), mother of Louis XIII. Jules-Marie
Priou, "Magistrat et citoyen frangais," Les fioretti du
quadricentenaire de Fabri de Peiresc, ed. Jacques Ferrier
(Avignon: Acad6mie du Var, 1988), 90.

research program, and funding.56 An academy also needed a

communication system through which to distribute

recognition and disseminate results.57

Peiresc's ties with influential circles, his

erudition, and his family wealth contributed to the

successful establishment of an academy in Aix-en-Provence,

which became known as the Provencal School. Peiresc used

patronage to solicit scientific information from

correspondents and organize telescopic observations. He

used personal, political, and clerical ties to secure

cooperation for telescopic observations at the time of

Galileo's sentence.

Patronage was not free but imposed obligations such as

the need to respect protocol and to reciprocate.

Correspondents responded to Peiresc's requests for

information or risked the loss of patronage. To understand

how scientific activity developed in the private

gatherings, this section provides an examination of

Peiresc's academy in terms of the following aspects: the

use of patronage to develop and legitimize scientific

activity, the popularization of scientific activity through

56Harcourt Brown, "L'Acad6mie de physique de Caen
(1666-1675)," Extrait des m6moires de l'Academie des
sciences, arts et belles-lettres de Caen 10 (1938): 80-84.

57Barry Barnes and David Edge, eds., "The Organization
of Academic Science: Communication and Control," Science in
Context: Readings in the Sociology of Science (Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press, 1982), 15.

a cabinet of curiosities, the establishment of a protocol

of communication and cooperation, and the development of a

research program at the Provengal School.

Peiresc's Use of Patronage

Known as a patron of scholars, Peiresc offered lodging

and the use of his libraries; he financed publications and

arranged patronage positions for clients. Peiresc not only

provided protection and financial support, but legitimized

scientific activity and conferred social status on

individuals.58 Peiresc informed one priest that telescopic

observations would "not be injurious to your pious and

charitable conquest of souls. On the contrary, this could

one day serve as bait to attract others gradually to follow

your example."59 The treasurer of France, Francois

Luillier, wrote that Peiresc "facilitated observations, and

all those who love sciences are immeasurably obligated [to

him]."6o Often missionary priests stopped in Aix for

instructions in telescopic observations before traveling to

the Levant. On his return from Egypt, the priest Th6ophile

Minuiti brought two mummies, one of which contained an

ancient papyrus book inscribed with hieroglyphics that

58Mario Biagioli, "Galileo's System of Patronage,"
History of Science 28 (1990): 4-5.

59Peiresc to Colombin de Nantes, 1 Aug 1634, PV 82.

6oLuillier to Peiresc, 1 June 1634, PC 2: 276.

Peiresc estimated to be 2000 years old.61 Cardinal

Francisco Barberini and his entourage visited Peiresc in

October 1625.62 Although Peiresc was making funeral

arrangements for his deceased father at that time, he

invited the cardinal to visit his cabinet and offered him a

treasured book as a gift--a book Peiresc had just received

from the Brothers Dupuy. As Peiresc explained, the

cardinal's "unexpected visit did not leave us the means of

presenting him with something else. I am sure you will not

take this badly."63

Peiresc financed the first scientific expedition for

telescopic observations in 1611 and made plans for a second

in 1636. He supported Gassendi's scholarship in atomism

and Mersenne's work in musical harmony.64 He offered to

help Thomas Arcos during his imprisonment in Tunisia.65

The successful arrangement of patronage positions in

elite circles attested to Peiresc's personal influence and

prestige. Naud6 sought improved status and asked Peiresc

61Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 8 Aug 1632, PL 2:

62Peiresc to Valavez [Palamede], 29 Oct 1625, PL 6:

63Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 20 April 1625, PL 1:

64Mersenne to Peiresc, 20 March 1634, PC 2: 502.
Peiresc to Mersenne, 8 July 1634, MC 4: 236.

e5Peiresc to Arcos, 13 July 1630, PL 7: 85.

for a letter of recommendation, similar to that which

"succeeded for Monsieur Bouchard, who now has a place in

the [Vatican] palace."66 Naud6 wrote Peiresc:

It seems to me that you can legitimately demonstrate to
His Holiness [Cardinal Bagni] that for nearly four
years I have been in Rome and have put my hopes in his
kindness and generosity . [and have not obtained a
position which] could ease my great expenses to
maintain myself outside my own country and that if he
does not choose to reward me with something, it is
almost impossible to remain in Rome serving the
cardinal honorably.e7

As a powerful patron, Peiresc could offer gifts or social

status as inducement to work harder. After his bookbinder,

Simon Corberan, showed skill in astronomical observations,

Peiresc sent him to observe the lunar eclipse of August

1635 from nearby Mount St. Victoire. The successful

accomplishment of this task could have enabled Corberan to

achieve prestige among elite astronomers of the Provencal

gatherings. But Corberan failed to carry out the

observations--he fell asleep--and hence, lost prestige and

the possibility for advancement.

Maintaining patronage relationships required a

continual exchange of services. At times, Peiresc

overwhelmed clients with requests for information--copying

inscriptions in churches, delivering Angora cats and orange

flower water, or visiting cabinets of collectors. Peiresc

66Naud6 to Peiresc, 20 July 1631, NP 143.

67Naud6 to Peiresc, 20 July 1634, PC 2: 37.

also sought to control behavior through praise and

rebuke.68 Manners and civility were signs of honn6tet6--

"refined, proper social behavior"69--and reflected on the

prestige and image of the patron. He criticized Prior

Denis Guillemin's affectations of speech. "[U]nderstand

that plain speech is worth thirty times more than a flowery

style," he advised.70 The need for concise writing

reflected the concern for "functional" reporting of

scientific activities, more highly valued than the

elaborate style which could enhance personal prestige.71

In his own letters, Peiresc has been described as using "no

phrases which were luxuriant or undigested. For he always

expressed what he intended with common words yet not

without elegance and civility."72

He scolded Mersenne for neglecting protocol--omitting

titles in letters and forgetting the names of superiors in

his correspondence, and confusing dates.73 Peiresc

68Peiresc to Guillemin, 17 Dec 1624, PL 5: 40.

69Jacques Revel, "The Uses of Civility," ed. Roger
Chartier A History of Private Life (Cambridge: The Belknap
Press, 1989), 3: 90.

70Peiresc to Guillemin, 6 Sept 1624, PL 5: 30.

71Steven Shapin, "Pump and Circumstance: Robert
Boyle's Literary Technology," Social Studies of Science 14
(1984): 495.

72Gassendi, Book 1: 14.

73Peiresc to Mersenne, 20 Aug 1635, MC 5: 354-356.

believed that this disregard for protocol reflected

adversely on the patron. "If you would take the trouble to

reread your letters before sealing them . you would not

have made that error in the date of 15 August when it could

have only been the tenth."74 On another occasion, he

pointed to inaccuracies in Mersenne's dedication, "[Y]ou

made me a councilor of Dijon which is in Burgundy. One

would not pardon such a great mathematician and hence, a

geographer, for not knowing if the Parlement of Dijon is in

Provence or Burgundy."75 Mersenne made an attempt to

appease Peiresc in his letters. "I did, in fact, forget

the name of M. Dormalius, . for Dijon, I have already

told you that the error of my pen astounded me."76 These

efforts to justify errors, omissions, or a slip of the pen

might suggest that Mersenne was more concerned with

maintaining Peiresc's patronage than with inaccuracies in

his text.

A breach of protocol could result in loss of honor or

prestige. When the Dupuys' nephew did not visit Peiresc,

he wrote, "I am so outraged and mortified . because at

74Peiresc to Mersenne, 20 Aug 1635, MC 5: 356.

75Peiresc to Mersenne, 17 July 1635, MC 5: 323.

76Mersenne to Peiresc, around 1 Sept 1635, MC 5: 372.

one time he gave me his word, which was a type of binding

contract for a lord of his status.""77

The Cabinet of Peiresc

Peiresc's residences at Aix and Belgentier contained

extensive libraries, gardens, and his collections of

curiosities. The library held more than 5000 books and 200

manuscripts,78 which included works by Galileo, Giulio-

Cesare Vanini, who was burned at the stake, and Tommaso

Campanella, imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, as well

as ephemerides, treatises from antiquity, ecclesiastical

doctrines, and Arabic texts.79 Not only did Peiresc

collect and lend books, but he had them bound with morocco

leather and stamped with a motif in gilt.o8

His gardens at Belgentier were said to be among the

more famous in France. Several varieties of jasmine and

orange trees bloomed.81 There were papyrus and coconut

plants, ginger from India, and vineyards from the Levant.82

77Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 15 Dec 1629, PL 2:

78H. Omont, "Les manuscrits et les livres annotes de
Fabri de Peiresc," Annales du midi 1 (1889): 317.

79Cecilia Rizzi, Peiresc e l'italia (Turin:
Giappochelli, 1965), 297-316.

80Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 3 Feb 1629, PL 2: 9.

e8Humbert, Amateur, 167-168.

82Gassendi, Book 4, 43-44.

He shared unusual species of plants with the gardeners of

the king and pope83 and wrote of sending the eau de naffe

(orange flower water) to friends.84 Not only did he seek

to procure unusual plants, but he experimented with


Naud6 compared Peiresc's cabinet to a "'very

frequented marketplace, containing the most precious

merchandise . no ships enter the ports of France

without bringing Peiresc marble statues, manuscripts . .

and antiquities.'"86 Before the theft of his ancient

medals, Peiresc estimated his collection to contain 18,000

pieces.87 His more precious artifacts were a tripod from

Fr6jus and a book of hieroglyphics. He kept his scientific

instruments--including five telescopes--in Aix. Shelves

were lined with books, packets of letters from

correspondents,88 journals of observations,89 two large

83Gassendi, Book 4, 42.

84Humbert, Amateur, 164-165.

85Gassendi, Book 4: 45.

86Gabriel Naud6, quoted in Uri, 41.

87Humbert estimated that at Peiresc's death, there
were 18,000 medals which did not include 1,300 lost in a
theft of 1623. Humbert, Amateur, 144-145.

88Gassendi, Book 6: 197.

89Jean Bernhardt, "L'inventaire posthume de la
bibliotheque," Peiresc ou la passion de connaitre, ed. Anne
Reinbold (Paris: J. Vrin, 1990), 14-19.

teeth said to belong to a giant,90 shells, fossils, and

lodestones. From correspondents, Peiresc solicited

specific information, which concerned the location of

marine fossils in the mountains, the direction of currents

and tides off the coast of North Africa,91 the customs

among cannibals,92 and the eruption of Vesuvius.93 Of

other correspondents, he asked for eye-witness reports on

the serpents said to lick the wounds of lepers94 and on the

plum tree reportedly growing in the stomach of a

Spaniard.95 Peiresc meticulously recorded the responses in

his journals of observations and communicated information

to correspondents. He requested plaster imprints of vases,

has reliefs, and figurines, instructing his correspondents

on the procedure of making molds.96 Possession of rare and

unique objects provided a means of improving personal

9OArcos to Aycard, 24 June 1630, quoted in Alexandre-
Jules-Antoine Fauris de Saint-Vincens, ed., "Suite des
lettres indites de Peiresc communiques A M. Million "
Magasin encyclopedique 5 (1806): 116, 121.

91Peiresc to Arcos, 17 Oct 1634, PL 7: 142.

92Peiresc to Colombin de Nantes, 1 Aug 1634, PV 81.

93Peiresc to Bouchard, 14 July 1632, PL 4: 77.

94Peiresc to Menestrier, 4 Oct 1635, PL 5: 788.

95Peiresc to Naud6, 3 Jan 1636, PN 70; in another
letter Peiresc described it as a thorn that had grown
roots. Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 18 March 1636, PL 3:

96Peiresc to Menestrier, 20 Oct 1633, PL 5: 658.

prestige in the eyes of visitors. Curiosities also served

as the currency of exchange in sustaining or initiating

patronage relationships.

The walls of the cabinet of Peiresc were hung with

portraits of influential friends and representatives of the

elite European intellectual circles--individuals Peiresc

described as "the most famous men I have known who have

given me the honor of their respect . who have allowed

me to serve as their humble servant."97 Some of these

paintings were acquired as gifts; others were commissioned

by Peiresc.98 These paintings, often measuring two feet by

two and a half feet,99 were displayed in the cabinet. They

served to impress friends or visitors by forging an

association between influential individuals and this

Provencal magistrate.

There was a portrait of the German patron Mare Welser,

who published Christopher Scheiner's letters on sunspots

and who exchanged news with Galileo. A painting of the

Italian savant Pinelli demonstrated ties with European

humanists, while those of Cardinal Barberini and his uncle,

Pope Urban VIII, implied connections to Rome. The Brothers

Dupuy and Francois Malherbe represented ties with Parisian

97Humbert, Amateur, 135-136.

98See Peiresc to Chalette, 8 May 1627, PL 7: 877;
Peiresc to Naud6, 3 Jan 1635, PN 33-34.

99Peiresc to Chalette, 8 May 1627, PL 7: 877-878.

academies and the royal court. Peiresc also had paintings

by well-known artists, including a portrait of Peter Paul

Rubens by Anthony Van Dyck.100 Amidst these portraits was

one of Peiresc by a Flemish painter, Louis Finson. The

cabinet also contained portraits of ancient figures--the

Greek navigator Pytheas by Rubenslol and two Emperors of

the Holy Roman Empire, Charlemagne and Frederick I.o10

In his cabinet were a variety of living plants and

animals, such as the Rose of China from Barberini, said to

change colors three times daily.10o The gazelle named

Alzaron, who preferred roaming about the furnished rooms,

might have been here.1o0 There were cages of chameleons--

some of which Peiresc claimed slept with his valet.10o His

letters carried detailed descriptions of their behavior--

their ability to change color, which he said the "ancients

100Humbert, Amateur, 134-136.

101Peiresc used Pytheas's measurements of the latitude
of Marseilles as the basis for his comparison in 1636.

102Humbert, Amateur, 136.

103Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 26 Dec 1631, PL 2:

104Peiresc to Arcos, 3 Aug 1634, PL 7: 132.

105Humbert, Amateur, 260.

attributed to their timidity,"106 as well as observations

of their sleeping habits and food preferences.107

Peiresc was thorough in his investigations and

attentive to detail.108 It may have been from pragmatism

or scientific interest, but Peiresc never lost an occasion

to learn. He participated in the autopsy of a friend who

had a kidney stone said to rotate with the moon. Peiresc

likely kept a jar containing the kidney stone in his

cabinet. He dissected his chameleons when they died,

sending information on the anatomy of the eyes, tongue, and

reproductive organs to interested correspondents.109 He

arranged for a prisoner to eat a hearty meal before

execution in order to more effectively study the digestive

process with Gassendi.11o He performed an autopsy on his

pet dog, Sultana, to determine the cause of death.111

106Peiresc to Aycard, 4 Nov 1633, PL 7: 316.

107Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 24 Oct 1633, PL 2:

o10Gassendi to Diodati, 29 Aug 1634, MC 4: 340.

109Peiresc to Arcos, 30 May 1636, PL 7: 169; Peiresc
to the Brothers Dupuy, 24 Oct 1633, PL 2: 629; Peiresc to
Aycard, 4 Nov 1633, PL 7: 316.

11oGassendi to Diodati, 29 Aug 1634, MC 4: 340.

111Gassendi, Book 2: 148.

Protocol of Patronage

Private academies were founded on a protocol for

scientific investigations. Peiresc established a procedure

for acceptable observations and distributed reward for

compliance. Patronage and gift-giving were important

components in the development and dissemination of

scientific activity.

After Peiresc visited a cabinet in Marseilles and

received "small curiosities," he reciprocated with gifts of

books and offers of service.112 But not all members of the

scientific community were willing to cooperate or share.

When the Jesuit Jacques Sirmond would not lend a book,

Peiresc planned to complain to Cardinal Barberini "as

sometimes these little methods are required" for

compliance.113 The collector Jean Hall never returned one

of Peiresc's rare books;114 the Baron de Flayosc's widow

did not allow Gassendi to retrieve Peiresc's books. "I do

not know the reason for her jealousy," wrote Gassendi,

"[unless] she is afraid that I will discover the book on

martyrdom . that she denied having."115

112Peiresc to Valavez, 24 May 1625, PL 6: 182-183.

113Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 23 July 1633, PL 2:

114Peiresc to Brothers Dupuy, 24 Feb 1627, PL 1: 150.

115Gassendi to Peiresc, 3 Sept 1635, PL 4: 541.

Although the community was founded on the ideal of

cooperation, there were rivalries. Within Peiresc's own

circle, Gaultier refused to recognize Gassendi's

observations of the transit of Mercury and was angered when

Gassendi deferred to other astronomers.116 There were

disputes over authorship,117 which Peiresc compared to

lovers' quarrels.118 Some confrontations arose as

individuals competed for prestige and recognition. Galileo

sought to sustain his position in the court of a prince by

continued publications and favors. Naud6 wrote of one

individual who wanted "to prevent his friend from

publishing or using certain manuscripts that come into his

hands."119 Mersenne intentionally fostered conflict,120

forcing contenders to define their positions.121 Peiresc,

116Peiresc to Gassendi, 18 Jan 1634, PL 4: 422-425;
Peiresc to Gassendi, 17 June 1635, PL 4: 514-515.

117Peiresc to Naud6, 31 Jan 1636, PN 75.

118Peiresc to Menestrier, 20 Oct 1633, PL 5: 659.

119Naud6 to Peiresc, 29 March 1636, NP 350.

120Robert Mandrou, From Humanism to Science, 1480-
1700, trans. Brian Pearce (Middlesex, UK: Penguin, 1978),

121See Charles Bazerman, Shaping Written Knowledge:
The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in
Science (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988),
130; Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall, "Anglo-French
Scientific Communication in the mid-Seventeenth Century,"
Science et soci6t6s: Relations-influences-6coles, xii
congres international d'histoire des sciences (Paris:
Albert Blanchard, 1971), 66.

who subsidized many of Mersenne's works, demanded that he

"abstain from berating the ignorance of people [and] . .

faulting them heavily without a pressing reason."122 Still

other individuals were easily offended by what they

considered a disregard for protocol. The Italian

astronomer Camille Glorioso complained about the omission

of his titles from Gassendi's account of the observation of

an eclipse. Peiresc commented that Gassendi was "hardly

accustomed to these superlative titles." In the future,

Peiresc continued, Gassendi would include Glorioso's titles

of "Italian professor, monseigneur, his excellence, and

with all the praise."123

While many natural philosophers sought to enhance

personal prestige through publications and dedications,

Peiresc preferred sharing "thoughts and fantasies among

several friends."124 But Peiresc could not resist alluding

to his role in organizing celestial observations in the

Levant--observations that he stressed were made at his


122peiresc to Mersenne, 18 June 1634, MC 4: 181;
Peiresc to Mersenne, 3 July 1635, MC 5: 277-278.

123peiresc to Naud6, 31 July 1636, PN 94.

124Peiresc to P. Dupuy, 9 May 1634, MC 4: 115.

125Peiresc to Agathange de Vend6me, 5 Sept 1635, PV

Correspondence Networks

While private gatherings provided a forum for the

exchange of ideas, correspondence offered a means of

extending exchanges throughout Europe and the Levant. The

literary republic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries

developed into a scientific network through which

observations of natural phenomena were shared.126 Letters

and small booklets offered a means of sending scientific

news at a time when the press and book trade were

controlled by censors and when scientific publications were

limited to texts of Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen.127

With ties in influential circles and contacts with hundreds

of correspondents, Peiresc gained recognition as one of the

main gatekeepers of the Republic of Letters,128 an

international community of scholars who exchanged

information through correspondence networks.

Personal letters provided the most efficient method of

rapidly communicating ideas. The following section

examined the method of exchange and the role of the

gatekeeper in communication networks.

128Mandrou, Humanism, 195-196.

127Henri-Jean Martin, Livre. pouvoirs et soci6et6
Paris au xviie siecle (1598-1701), 2 vols. (Geneva:
Librairie Droz, 1969), 1: 220.

128Brown, Scientific Organizations, 5.

Methods of Exchange

Letters provided a means of transmitting information

across geographical and political boundaries. They were

carried by scholars or were sent through intermediaries,

patrons, or the diplomatic pouch. An exchange of

15 February 1637 between Mersenne (Paris) and Descartes

(Leiden) was carried by diplomats to avoid censors.

Mersenne wrote, "Never have we been more exacting than at

present for the inspection of books, as Monsieur the

Chancellor [Pierre S6guier] has qualified agents to

determine what is theological [or] political."129 This

caution was reflected during Galileo's questioning (1633),

when Peiresc warned Gassendi "not to divulge [Galileo's

sentence] . as it has been kept so secret in Rome."130

News and mail were the subject of much discussion in

personal correspondence. Peiresc regretted that the boat

of Captain Chaillon brought him no mail from Alexandria.

He wrote of the letters and books that were ruined by the

"negligence" of a child who dropped the parcel of mail in

the mud;131 he inquired about a basket of Renette apples

that never arrived.132 His contacts in Paris provided news

129Mersenne to Descartes, 15 Feb 1637, MC 6: 186-187.

i3sPeiresc to Gassendi, 12 Aug 1633, PL 4: 342.

i31Peiresc to Agathange de Vend6me, 18 July 1636, PV

132Peiresc to Guillemin, 17 Dec 1624, PL 5: 39.

of the royal court, of foreign events, and of scientific

innovation. "Your [arriving] letters carry us in a moment

to the midst of your academy," wrote Peiresc who, at the

time of writing this letter, had not returned to the

Cabinet Dupuy for seven years.133 From the south of

France, Gassendi told a friend in Paris:

I no longer tell you of my extreme joy in receiving and
reading your letters, or in thanking you for your care
in sending me all the Gazettes and other, more specific
news. I beg you to continue not only for my personal
pleasure but for more occasions to serve [or become
indispensable to] well-bred people of this city. We
are very far from trade and only receive some rumors
from Aix.134

Gassendi wrote in July 1630 that he had just received

five of Peiresc's letters along with several packages.

Although these letters contained news six months old,

Gassendi "rejoic[ed] infinitely given the hunger I had for

your news and for the wonderful and agreeable things they

contain."135 Letters were often read aloud in meetings and

recopied before being sent on to their destination. Each

correspondent had the obligation to maintain and extend the

communication networks, and to respond quickly to requests

133Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 17 Jan 1630, PL 2:

134Gassendi to Luillier, 29 Dec 1632, GL 44.

135Gassendi to Peiresc, 21 July 1630, PL 4: 241.

for information and for loans of manuscripts or


Peiresc was plagued with many infirmities which slowed

his scientific investigations and limited his ability to

travel in later life. Through correspondence, he requested

friends to visit cabinets and make observations in his

place. In fact, he entrusted his brother with contacting

approximately 200 individuals in four countries in 1608.137

He requested information and a plaster mold of an antique

lamp in the shape of a satyr in Lyons,138 detailed

descriptions of nature, and the location of "some worthy

painter who would undertake to draw [an elephant] . .

and a great naturalist who would observe."139

Illustrations, drawings, and accounts by eye-witnesses--all

representations of objects--provided acceptable

"substitutes."14o Objects were placed in cabinets and

information was recorded in journals. These acquisitions

were also used as a type of currency to procure services

from other correspondents.

13sPaul Dibon, "Communication in the Respublica
Literaria of the 17th Century," Res public litterarum:
Studies in the Classical Tradition 2 (1978): 46.

137PL 6: 668-669.

138Peiresc to Menestrier, 21 Nov 1632, PL 5: 610.

139Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 4 Jan 1627, PL 1:

14Olmi, 7.

Peiresc's quest for information led him to seek out

correspondents specializing in subjects ranging from

natural history and witchcraft to anatomy and astronomy.

He specified observations to be made and testimony to be

acquired. Names of witnesses or observers of high social

status lent credibility to scientific reports.141 In cases

of demonic possession, he stressed the importance of

testimonies by physicians or persons of honor.142 By

including the names of witnesses who participated or

observed, Peiresc gained authority for his claims among his


Letters conveyed a diversity of information. Not only

did correspondence reveal the nature and extent of

scientific investigations, but it provided a mapping of

correspondents by interest and geographical location.

Peiresc wrote the notary Boniface Borrilly in Aix about

antiquities and melon seeds;143 Arcos about the habits of

chameleons and rituals of African tribes;144 or Naud6

regarding the unreliability of Italians.145 The exchanges

141Peiresc to Mersenne, 20 Aug 1635, MC 5: 359; and
Yvette Conry, "Peiresc et l'ordre des 'portraits' dans les
investigations du xviie siecle," Peiresc ou la passion de
connaitre, ed. Anne Reinbold (Paris: J. Vrin, 1990), 127.

142Conry, 127.

143Peiresc to Borrilly, 20 April 1632, PL 4: 45.

144Peiresc to Arcos, 25 Jan 1634, PL 7: 123.

145Peiresc to Naud6, 5 Nov 1635, PN 63.

with Gassendi included a range of information: news of

family, health problems, interpretations of ancient

inscriptions, and data on celestial observations. The

Dupuys provided contacts with European circles and the

crown. Despite an interest in the activities of the king,

Peiresc asked the Dupuys to "remind Diodati of his promise

to give you an ample account of the general ideas that

Galileo has in his head, which should be conveyed sooner

than the ceremonies and other public occurrences."146

Correspondence also provided the medium through which

gifts were sent and curiosities acquired. Peiresc

responded to Malherbe's request for a special cloth and the

essence of orange flower for the ladies of the court in

Paris in exchange for small gifts, poetry, and news. Arcos

shipped chameleons, manuscripts, and bones from Tunisia.

The clerics Pierre and Nicolas Antelme sent Roman artifacts

from the ruins at nearby Frejus. But not all attempts to

acquire unique objects were successful. Four rare books

were lost when a ship sank on the Nile.147 Peiresc was

swindled when he attempted to acquire the marbles of

Paros.148 On other occasions Peiresc complained that of

146Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 8 April 1627, PL 1:

147Peiresc to Cassien de Nantes, 22 July 1636, PV 242.

148Humbert, Amateur, 133.

his "two crates of Greek manuscripts from the Levant, one

arrived wet and several volumes partially rotted."149

Peiresc's status as a gatekeeper in the correspondence

networks did not guarantee unlimited access to exchanges.

Gassendi's letters to Peiresc were brimming with

admiration, yet a few of his exchanges with Luillier

portrayed Peiresc as domineering and jealous.15o Some

information was retained.151 Naud6 shared his impressions

of Roman affairs with Peiresc, which he asked not to be

conveyed to Barberini.152 When the astronomer Ismael

Boulliau portrayed the members of the Cardinal Richelieu's

Acad6mie Francaise, as "Mustachios . [who] will stifle

the knowledge of languages and letters," he asked the

Dupuys not to show the letter to his friends who were among

its members.153

Maintaining epistolary contact with large circles of

correspondents was time-consuming. Letters ranged in

length from the brief note accompanying a package of books

to the lengthy essay. Postscripts, hurriedly added to meet

the departure of the mail, were often several pages long.

149peiresc to Holstenius, 16 June 1633, PL 5: 408.

15IGassendi to Luillier, 4 Dec 1632, GL 19.

151Peiresc to Naud6, 31 Jan 1636, PN 75.

152Naud6 to Peiresc, 30 June 1636, PC 2: 92.

153Boulliau to the Brothers Dupuy, 1645, quoted in
Brown, Scientific Organizations, 64-65.

Gassendi told of "having written all morning (in fact I

sent 10 letters to Paris, one of which is in Latin)"154

and complained that correspondents often "expected to

acquire rapidly more information about what was going on in

the world by our communication than by another route."155

Renaudot acknowledged Peiresc's extensive correspondence

networks, asking him to share the news with the Gazette.156

As a gatekeeper, Peiresc processed and distributed news

quickly. Later in his life, Peiresc wrote that he was

"overwhelmed" with letters and "too insignificant to have

secretaries required to satisfy everyone, and too infirm to

do it alone."157 Often delays in response arose from

problems in the mail service caused by the plague or bad

weather. On other occasions, letters might be delayed by

more immediate concerns, such as the impending death of a

correspondent. Naud6 in Rome wrote "the sieur Pietro la

Seina was in bed with a fever . I did not consider it

appropriate to send your letter and that of Mr. Gassendi to

the Sieur Camillo out of fear that they would be misplaced

154Gassendi to Peiresc, 30 Jan 1634, PL 4: 440.

155Gassendi to Luillier, 4 Dec 1632, GL 19.

156Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 18 April 1633, PL 2:

157Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 15 Oct 1635, PL 3:


during this illness or that they would be lost if the end

was worse."1ss


As a seventeenth-century gatekeeper, Peiresc initiated

exchanges among correspondents or transmitted and read

letters addressed to friends "according to the freedom"

which he was granted.159 Peiresc disseminated Galileo's

observations throughout Europe and introduced the telescope

in Provence.160 He used correspondence to organize

telescopic observation stations. His authority as a

gatekeeper was derived from his social status and official


Peiresc's Public and Private Roles

Peiresc's position in Parlement and in the church

offered him a means of legitimizing scholarly endeavors in

the scientific community. Family wealth, intellectual

ability, and connections with European elite circles

enabled Peiresc to cross geographical and social boundaries

and to seek exchanges with scholars in numerous disciplines

(antiquities, philology, archaeology, astronomy, anatomy).

158Naud6 to Peiresc, 20 Sept 1636, PC 2: 94.

159Peiresc to Luiller, 22 June 1634, PC 2: 277.

sleoierre Humbert, "Les astronomers francais de 1610 A
1667," M6moires de la Soci6t6 d'6tudes scientifigues de
Draguignan 63 (1942): 7.

He was a Catholic and a Copernican. He upheld church dogma

and received libertines. He corresponded with priests,

natural philosophers, cardinals, Protestants, and a Moslem

convert. He had contacts throughout Europe and the Levant:

Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and what is now Turkey. As a

magistrate, he presided at witchcraft trials and had the

power to hand down the death sentence. In the privacy of

his study, he investigated the mysteries of nature: rains

of blood, demonic possession, magnets and lodestones.

Peiresc attended the trial of the priest Louis Gaufridy,

who was burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1611.

Writing from the royal court, Malherbe said that Peiresc's

accounts of the trial pleased the queen and ladies of the

court--particularly the part about the priest's breath

enamoring women. "I beg you, Monsieur," wrote Malherbe,

"that whoever sets to writing this does it precisely and

diligently and omits nothing which can satisfy the

curious."161 Hence, while publicly recognizing the

authority of the Parlement, Peiresc privately questioned

traditional beliefs.

161Malherbe to Peiresc, 13 May 1611, Oeuvres de
Malherbe, ed. Antoine Adam (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), 511.


Private academies and correspondence networks

provided forums for the exchange of ideas as well as a

means of legitimizing scientific activity when radical

views threatened the traditional world-view. Members of

these academies and correspondents were obligated to

cooperate in the advance of knowledge by responding quickly

to requests for information and by sharing books and

artifacts. What originated in the sixteenth century as

literary republic for the exchange of philological

information, developed into scientific exchanges.

Positions in the church and Parlement afforded Peiresc

a salary and social status, which enabled him to promote

and legitimize scientific initiatives. Personal

correspondence provided the channel through which Peiresc

solicited information on natural phenomena, such as the

observations of a lunar eclipse for his work on a method of

determining terrestrial longitude. He also used letters to

secure recognition of his scientific claims by members of

the scientific community. Peiresc included detailed

descriptions of observations as well as the identification

of witnesses by social position, a means of ensuring



For centuries, the church served as a liaison with

God, offering a means of attaining salvation.

The Protestant Reformation and ensuing religious wars

(1562-1598) undermined the authority of the Roman Catholic

church in Europe. The Concordat of Bologna, signed in 1516

by Francois I and Pope Leo X, recognized the right of the

French kings to appoint their own bishops and members of

the high clergy.1 Furthermore papal decrees became

official in France only when ratified by the Sorbonne and

when promulgated locally.2 When Galileo's Dialogue

Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was condemned in

Italy and Paris of Belgium in 1633,3 the papal nuncio in

Paris, Alexandre Bichi, should have transmitted the

sentence to the Sorbonne, the institution responsible for

its promulgation. Bichi withheld it from the Sorbonne.4

1Robert Mandrou, Introduction to Modern France, 1500-
1640, trans. R.E. Hallmark (New York: Holmes and Meier,
1976), 192.

2David T. Pottinger, The French Book Trade in the
Ancien Regime: 1500-1791 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1958), 60.

3MC 3: 465.

4Armand Beaulieu, "Les reactions des savants franCais
au d6but du xviie siecle devant I'h6liocentrisme de
Galil6e," Convengo internazionale di studi galileiani, ed.
P. Galluzzi (Florence: Giunti Barbara, 1984), 375.

The decree had no official status in France and could not

be enforced. Due to the confusion over the status of the

decree, natural philosophers, many of whom were clerics,

remained cautious in expressing their views.

The Waning Authority of the Catholic Church

New methods of communication brought esoteric

knowledge--the "secrets tradition" and the Bible--into the

hands of a general reading public. Intellectual gatherings

outside the traditional university context provided a place

in which discussions could take place beyond church

control. The availability of information and the

questioning of traditional views threatened the authority

of the church in society. The following sections provide

an examination of the church's attempts to restore its

authority through laws, social control, and the

Inquisition. But rivalries among censoring agents

prevented the effective control of communication channels.

Role of the Press

Movable type provided a means of increasing the sale

of indulgences, promulgating papal bulls, and standardizing

liturgy while simultaneously complicating the task of

censors.5 Scholars such as Gassendi compared works of

SElizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an
Agent of Change: Communication and Cultural Transformations
in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1979), 303-304.

ancient philosophers and located discrepancies in

commentaries and translations. Peiresc used astronomical

tables to date ancient manuscripts6 and the battle at

Arbela, which took place during a solar eclipse. Mersenne

and musical humanists studied mathematics to understand the

structure of the world.7 Their published dialogues

revealed their concern with proof and certainty of

knowledge as well as their exposure to the Copernican

propositions.8 Furthermore, the public now had access to

the Bible in the vernacular; many individuals questioned

Biblical literalism. Astronomers, freed from the onerous

task of copying the ephemerides, devoted time to collation

and correction of tables of planetary movements. In his

Admonito, Kepler informed astronomers of the anticipated

date of the transit of Mercury across the sun. Gassendi

published his observations of this transit and circulated

them throughout Europe.9 Galileo used the press to secure

recognition for his observations of the moons of Jupiter

6Anthony Grafton, Defenders of the Text, The Tradition
of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800 (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 186.

7Frances A. Yates, The French Academies of the
Sixteenth Century (1947, repr., London: Routledge, 1988),
25, 286-287.

sYates, 95-97.

9Albert Van Helden, "The Importance of the Transit of
Mercury of 1631," Journal of the History of Astronomy 7
(1976): 1-10 passim.

described in The Sidereal Messenger. Printers popularized

guild secrets through practical handbooks on astrology and

alchemy.10 Publishing, once limited to breviaries or

translations of classical philosophies, now included

almanacs, layman's guides to metallurgy, and books

expounding the secrets tradition of formulas, and recipes

used by alchemists and craftsmen.11

The advent of the press, the rediscovery of ancient

texts, and Biblical exegesis gave rise to questions

concerning the criterion of truth in traditional terms--

reason or revelation. Some scholars suspended judgment on

issues of religion; others maintained that certainty could

only be achieved through faith; still others believed that

a knowledge of appearances rather than a knowledge of

reality was possible and sufficient.12

iOWilliam Eamon, "Arcana Disclosed: The Advent of
Printing, The Books of Secrets Tradition and the
Development of Experimental Science in the Sixteenth
Century," History of Science 22 (1984): 113, 119-121.

11Eamon, "Arcana," 111-114.

12Richard Popkin, The History of Scepticism: From
Erasmus to Spinoza (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1979), 53-54, 129-131.

Social Control

Insidious forms of social control provided one means

of protecting the traditional world-view and authority of

the Holy Scriptures. Church superiors warned that

curiosity diverted theologians from their studies and that

examinations of hidden causes and higher things (e.g., God)

could lead to heresy.13 The discovery of reportedly new

forms of life, such as marine fossils, contradicted the

order of creation in Genesis and was subject to


Following the reforms of the Council of Trent in the

mid-sixteenth century, the church attempted to standardize

dogma and practice by eliminating local miracles and

certain feast days. Yet it seemed "superstition" remained.

Many clerics pursued heretics and witches.15 Witchcraft

trials and staged rituals of exorcism united the church and

the common people in their fight to eliminate evil from

society.16 Some clerics portrayed nature as capable of

13Carlo Ginzburg, "High and Low: The Theme of
Forbidden Knowledge in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth
Centuries," Past and Present 73 (1976): 32.

14Keith Hutchison, "What Happened to Occult Qualities
in the Scientific Revolution," Isis 73 (1982): 236-237.

15Steven Shapin and Barry Barnes, "Science, Nature and
Control: Interpreting Mechanics' Institutes," Social
Studies of Science 7 (1977): 31-74.

6sStephen Greenblatt, "Loudun and London," Critical
Inquiry 12 (1986): 330-334.

reward and punishment. Poor crops, earthquakes, and rains

of blood were signs of God's vindication.17 Peiresc wrote

that many workers left the fields during the rains of blood

out of "great fear that they would be bloodied." Some

believed that these rains were caused by "exhalations" of

the earth while others insisted it was the work of "demonic

spirits."is Astrologers warned that the comet of 1618

would bring destruction to the French army in Persia and

the death of great men.19

As the study of nature gradually gained acceptance as

a means of learning about God, natural phenomena were no

longer viewed as presages, but as valid subjects of

scientific inquiry.20 After observing numerous butterflies

in the region during the so-called rains of blood, Peiresc

determined that what was commonly recognized as a presage

was actually caused by a secretion from insects. An

excerpt from one of Gassendi's letters on presages

represented this new approach to investigations of nature,

17Katharine Park and Lorraine J. Daston, "Unnatural
Conceptions: The Study of Monsters in Sixteenth- and
Seventeenth-Century France and England," Past and Present
92 (1981): 25-26.

18Peiresc to Malherbe, 15 July 1608, PM 26-27.

19Mercure francais (1618) 5: 279.

20The authors considered this change in approach as
accompanied by a separation between the educated and
general public. Park and Daston, 36-41.

I put this phenomenon [presage] in the rank of
things purely natural and believe that if it is a sign
of something, it is only of some natural effect. I do
not mean to say that God cannot use it to indicate
something extraordinary to us, but we have no proof
whatever, and believe that God does not play in this
way with men as when you propose things to dream and
guess to small children. When He wants a rainbow to be
a sign of something supernatural, He will warn men
. it is pitiful to see that most scholarly men are
carried away by popular opinion and that these
phenomena, which occur rarely, blind them to the true
causes in nature.21

Censorship Procedures

Faced with the Protestant Reformation, the rapid

dissemination of information, and a new experimental

science, the church implemented the following reforms

developed by the Council of Trent (1547-1563):

standardization of dogma, guidelines for translations of

the Bible, and revival of the Inquisition. The church

regulated the book trade. A council of inquisitors

composed of members of Parlement and theologians of the

Sorbonne examined and censored all religious works prior to

publication. If the content was acceptable, the Sorbonne

granted a permit to print.22 By the mid-sixteenth century,

21Gassendi to Peiresc, 15 June 1629, PL 4: 195 text in

22Pottinger, 211. By 1543, the Sorbonne published a
list of 65 prohibited books, all religious in content;
Pottinger, 57.

the French government inspected presses23 and importations

from Protestant countries.24 By 1563, authors, editors,

and publishers of newspapers needed a privilege or

copyright as well as a permit from the censors. While the

permit provided an approval for content, the privilege

granted a limited copyright to a publisher. The privilege

or letters patent carried the Great Seal of State and was

awarded by the chancellor, head of the Council of

Ministers.25 As an example, the privilege in a book by

Mersenne granted the right to print "several treatises on

philosophy, theology, and mathematics" with the approbation

of the theologians of the Sorbonne and that of the Order of

the Minims.26

23See Henri-Jean Martin, Livre, pouvoirs et society a
Paris au xvii siecle (1598-1701), 2 vols. (Geneva:
Librairie Droz, 1969), 1: 56; Isambert, Jourdan, Decrusy,
eds., Recueil g6n6ral des anciennes lois franchises, 29
vols. repr. in 4 vols. (Paris, n.p., 1821-1833; repr.,
Ridgewood, NJ: Gregg, 1964-1966), 2 (13): 196.

24Edict of Chateaubriand, 1551. The Edict of
Romorantin (May, 1560) defined sedition in terms of those
slanderous writings that disturb the public peace.
Isambert, 2 (13): 203-204.

25The Ordinance of Moulins (1566) held that all
printed works must carry the privilege and seal and the
name and address of the printer. Isambert, 2 (14): 210.

26The approbations were dated 20 June 1634 and the
privilege of the king in August 1634. MC 4: 203.

Newspapers also carried the letters patent, a royal

copyright or monopoly, for a specified number of years.27

Th6ophraste Renaudot's letters patent for his Gazette

enabled him to quash competition during the lifetime of his

patron, Cardinal Richelieu. With editorial policy guided

by the cardinal, Renaudot's paper served as an organ of

royal propaganda. Articles enhanced the image of the king

and state. Military victories were emphasized while news

of territorial losses was suppressed.28 Peiresc often

questioned the veracity of Renaudot's news, which he

unfavorably compared to the more "faithful" reporting of

Dutch papers.29

Practices in Europe

The extent of censorship varied throughout Europe.

The exchange of information was often greater in the

politically-fragmented countries, such as in the German

states, where there was no central control of

27Books carried the names of theologians granting the
permit. One example of a permit for Mersenne read with
"the approval of the Sorbonne, signed by the doctors H.
Bachelier et I. Badel," dated in Paris, 14 February 1622;
the privilege of the King, signed by Renouard, is dated in
Paris, 17 February 1622, and the printed edition was
completed 1 February 1623. MC 1: 124.

28Howard Solomon, Public Welfare, Science, and
Propaganda in Seventeenth-Century France: The Innovations
of Th6ophraste Renaudot (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1972), 127-128, 134, 149.

29Peiresc to the Brothers Dupuy, 10 Oct 1633, PL 2:

communication. In certain parts of Italy, church officials

inspected publications. In Florence, however, many editors

were protected by scholarly princes, while Padua, located

in the anti-papist state of Venice, became an intellectual

center of Europe.30 Holland and England provided a

relative haven for writers and publishers.31 Many

Huguenots settling in Holland arranged for the publication

of scientific works; but even here, academic freedom was

not complete. The Dutch condemned the works of Catholics

and rival Protestant sects;32 the Estates-General of

Holland prohibited the practice of Catholicism.33 In

Calvinist Geneva permits were needed to publish, and

Catholic books were burned and altars were demolished.34

In France, the book trade was regulated by printers,

booksellers, and laws. Two printers and two sworn

booksellers were elected to serve two-year terms, during

which time they registered books and reported heretical

30John Herman Randall, Jr., "The Development of
Scientific Method in the School of Padua," Journal of the
History of Ideas 1 (1940): 184.

31Mandrou, Humanism, 213-227.

32Paul F. Grendler, "Printing and Censorship," The
Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Charles B.
Schmitt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 48-

33MC 2: 488.

34George Haven Putnam, The Censorship of the Church of
Rome, 2 vols. (1906, repr., New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967),
2: 237.

works.35 The Syndical and Royal Chamber of Booksellers,

Printers, and Binders of Paris (i.e., Book Guild, ca. 1618)

regulated the quality of materials used, the number of

presses per shop, and membership in the guild.36

In addition to the required permits and privileges,

other laws governed the procedure for submission of works.

According to the Code Michaux (1629), two copies of each

book were to be given the chancellor, who appointed censors

according to their expertise.37 The censor signed each

page and initialed each correction, certifying, "I have

read, by the order of the Chancellor, a manuscript entitled

__ I have found nothing in it to prevent the printing

of it."38 The chancellor would issue or withhold a permit

on the basis of the censor's decision.39 If content was

unacceptable, the censors expurgated portions of text or

withheld the permit pending revisions. Some works were

condemned as heretical and placed on the Index of

Prohibited Books.

35Pottinger, 120-122.

3SPottinger, 122-123.

37Martin, 1: 442.

38Pottinger, 70.

39Pottinger, 70.

Rivalries for Control

Although publications were controlled by the church

and state, rivalries between the Parlement and Sorbonne led

to erratic enforcement of laws governing the book trade and

inconsistent procedure in granting permits and

privileges.40 At times, books carried the names of

fictitious authors and publishers or forged permits and

privileges. Censored texts were circulated by police and

colporteurs. Some texts and French language newspapers

were printed by Huguenots in Holland and shipped across

borders.41 Furthermore, censorship actually piqued the

readers' curiosity. Protestant publishers established

lucrative businesses by printing texts which were condemned

in Catholic countries.42

With a surge in publications in part brought on by the

advent of movable type, censors at the Sorbonne were forced

to limit their inspection to texts that could "most harm"

readers.43 Printers complained about the lengthy delays in

40In France, the main censoring agents included the
Sorbonne, (the theological faculty of the University of
Paris), Faculty of Medicine, Parlement, the chancellor, and
Provost of Paris (over the police). L6on Sabatie, La
censure (Paris: Pedone, 1908), 52-67.

41Pottinger, 71.

42Eisenstein, 645-646, 655-656, 676.

43Pottinger, 60.

receiving a permit. By law, they were forced to await the

decision of the Sorbonne before applying to the chancellor

for a privilege.

Censorship was used to protect religious dogma and to

preserve traditional methods of medical practice. Steeped

in the traditions of Hippocrates and Galen, the Faculty of

Medicine of the University of Paris condemned books on

chemical remedies in order to maintain the practice of

purges and bleeding.44 All books on chemical treatments

were examined by two members of the medical faculty, as

well as by the heads of the university faculties and the

rector.45 This faculty maintained a distinction between

physicians and barber surgeons who could perform surgery

and used censorship liberally to bar Protestants from

medical practice.46 Renaudot, who worked as a journalist

and physician, converted to Catholicism upon coming to

Paris. He promoted chemical treatments of disease only

during the lifetime of his patron, Richelieu.

Role of the Inquisition

The church and state sought to restore social order

through censorship laws and the Inquisition. Under the

Ordinance of Villers-Cotterets (1539), the procedure used

44Solomon, 167-168.

45Pottinger, 57.

46Solomon, 166.

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