The Lesson of the 17th Century

The 1600s gave us two powerful technologies. The first was a refinement of book technology, which replaced the human body with a manufactured and portable form. We’re all, I think, rather familiar with that. The other was this:
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Ceiling, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague

In terms of book culture, this ceiling is decorative and symbolic. In terms of its time, however, it represents the highest achievement of the same power that led to book production but which became manifest within a completely different language. It too is the book of the world and the book of God’s Creation, and reveals, as did the new technologies of science, the hidden world and its forces, expressed through a language of poetry, not as a textual artifact but as a means of being in the world and reading it. What we are left with are textual interpretations of such readings, but not exclusively. This knowledge can still be regained.

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