Seminar – Visualizing the Unknown: Visual Studies and Re-Enactment

9 do
9 december 2021

Sietske Fransen (Bibliotheca Hertziana)

‘Visualizing the Unknown: Visual Studies and Re-Enactment’

Date: Thursday 9 December 2021
Time: 15:30-17:00 (CET/Amsterdam-time)
Place: Online (Microsoft Teams)

* No registration needed. Please click here to attend the meeting *


Most of us will recognize the images of a flea and a louse from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, published in 1665. And some of us might remember the images of sperm cells from our biology books, as they had been discovered by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. But did these authors decide what to depict and what to describe, as they had never seen so much detail in either insects or semen. Which decisions did they make for the visual representation they had engraved to be send into the world?

In the new NWO-funded project “Visualizing the Unknown,” a collaboration between the Huygens ING, Bibliotheca Hertziana, and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, we will be using re-enactment as one of the methods to understand better the visual world and visual decisions, restrictions, and commonplaces of seventeenth-century microscopists. And in this seminar I will discuss these methods alongside those of visual analysis, and the “deep reading” of historical source materials.


Sietske Fransen studied biology and medieval studies at Utrecht University, and was postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2014-2015) and at the University of Cambridge (2015-2019), in the project Making Visible: The Visual and Graphic Practices of the Early Royal Society. She is currently Research Group Leader at the Bibliotheca Hertziana. Her research concerns the role, function, and application of visualizations in the acquisition of early modern scientific and medical knowledge, focusing on the working methods of scientific practitioners in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially the ways in which they used manuscripts and prints, languages and visualizations to communicate their ideas. With her Research Group, she also studies the impact of digital media and digital tools on current historical research. Fransen has published widely on language and translations in seventeenth-century Europe and she is the editor of the collected volume Translating Early Modern Science (2017).

More Information
This seminar is organized by Lukas M. Verburgt and Elske de Waal with support from the Descartes Centre, NIAS, and the Huizinga Institute. Please visit our website for more information, the full 2021-22 program, and to subscribe to our newsletter.

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