Libraries and lecture halls

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Classrooms and libraries called up radically different images in the minds of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century writers. The ideal classroom, as described by teachers such as Desiderius Erasmus (1465–1536) and embodied in public rooms in universities and colleges, professors’ teaching rooms in their own houses, and tutors’ rooms in palaces and noble villas, was a space of moderate size, designed and equipped as systematically as one of Henry Ford’s factories to produce one sort of product: An educated Christian gentleman. A high pulpit, surrounded by desks with benches, dramatized the central role of the teacher and the knowledge he provided. Axioms in Greek and Latin and pictures of plants, animals, and ancient heroes, the latter equipped with moralizing captions, helped students both to memorize and to internalize their teacher’s lessons. The only voice to be heard, in theory, was that of the teacher, explicating an assigned text. And the only knowledge transmitted was that presented in the texts – ancient knowledge authenticated by its patina of age and cultural authority, and presented in the true, moral light by an informed and upright teacher. The ideal library, by contrast, offered a radically different vision of knowledge. As Ioannes Meursius portrayed it in his 1625 celebration of Leiden University, a good library was housed in a spacious room, illuminated by tall windows (Figure 10.1). Its books, arranged in bookcases organized by subject matter, covered the intellectual waterfront: They dealt with modern history, mathematics, and astronomy, as well as classical literature and history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Science
Subtitle of host publicationEarly Modern Science
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781139054010
ISBN (Print)0521572444, 9780521572446
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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