Annals of Science 70 (3):1-24 (2013)

Dániel Margócsy
Cambridge University
This article argues that commerce and the language of finance had an important influence over the interpretation of curiosities in the early modern period. It traces how learned travellers in the years around 1700 were constantly reminded to watch their purses and to limit their expenses while on the road. As a result, monetary matters also influenced their appreciation of artificialia and naturalia. They judged and compared the aesthetic value of curiosities by mentioning their price. Money offered an easy, telegraphic manner of signalling intrinsic worth. Visitors of cabinets paid attention to the financial value of the collector's books, paintings, and natural specimens, and kept mentioning it in their diaries and correspondence. The keen attention of students, scholars and amateur gentlemen to money suggests that, even if the Republic of Letters operated in a gift economy, its members were much aware of their gifts’ prices. Commercial values deeply infiltrated the erudite discourse of the period
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DOI 10.1080/00033790.2013.792120
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