Academic Mobility and Cultural Exchange at the Worth Library

Academic Mobility and Cultural Exchange at the Worth Library.

In October 2007, the International Commission for the History of Universities held a conference at the Royal Irish Academy and the Worth Library on the theme of ‘Academic Mobility and Cultural Exchange’. This exhibition marks this event and specifically examines two themes explored in the conference: peregrinatio academica and the seventeenth century challenge to the universities by the rising academies and the Royal Society.

Dr. Elizabethanne Boran would like to thank Miss Caroline Benson for her assistance with this exhibition.


Item 1: Johann Christoph Beckmann,
Notitia Universitatis Francofurtanae, una cum iconibus personarum aliquot illustrium, aliorumq; virorum egregiorum, qui eam praesentia sua ac meritis illustrarunt, professorum denique ordinariorum qui anno seculari universitatis secundo vixerunt.
Frankfurt, 1706? 2o.

Johann Cristoph Beckmann’s Notitia Universitatis Francofurtanae (Frankfurt an der Oder, 1706?) is a history of the university of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder which includes not only foundation texts of the university but also a range of engravings delineating well-known academic figures from the university’s past. The decision to dedicate the work to the new King of Prussia, Frederick I (previously Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg), was a testimony to the university’s heavy dependency on the Brandenburg Hohenzollern dynasty. The publication was also intended to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation in 1506 by Prince Joachim of Brandenburg, 1484-1535, who had founded the university as part of his state building aspirations. Initially successful in fulfilling its function of providing a training ground for the state’s bureaucratic élite, by the early eighteenth century it was under pressure in the face of challenges from other universities and new institutions. It was for this reason that the university felt it necessary to draw attention to former academic heroes such as Wolfgang Crell, whose arresting portrait is on display.

Crell, 1592-1664, had initally been employed as a professor of philosophy at Frankfurt an der Oder but later rose to the more prestigious chair of Professor of Theology. He stayed there from 1616 to 1627, prior to his appointment as cathedral preacher at Cölln, where he resided until his death in 1664. He is perhaps best known for polemical debates with his colleague at Frankfurt, John Bergius, 1587-1658. His short biography, like a number of others in this work, not only investigates his contribution to academic life but also examines his family and their marriages alliances. In this way it mirrors the material on display in Item 4.


Item 2

Lettres Patents avec les statuts pour L’Academie des Belles Lettres etablie en la ville de Caen,
Caen, 1705.

The Académie de Caen was founded in 1652 by Jacques Moisant de Brieux, a wealthy citizen of Caen. It was the first such provincial académie des belles lettres following the foundation by Cardinal Richelieu of the Parisian Académie Française in 1635. Ten years later, in 1662, Caen was again in the forefront of such development when another academy was founded there, the first academy of physics in France, some four years prior to the foundation by Colbert of the Académie des Sciences at Paris. The Letters Patent, given by Louis XIV to the Caen académie des belles lettres in 1705, enjoined that its main aim should be to protect ‘the purity of the language’ but royal patronage did not ensure the institution’s success and from 1714 to 1731 the académie was inactive. The fact that Worth collected a history in both French and English of the Parisian Académie Française as well as this work on Caen, and Item 3, Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society (1667), is an indication of both his own interest in these alternatives to conventional university education and the general appeal these new institutions had.


Item 3: Thomas Sprat
The History of the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge.
London, 1667. 4o.

The ‘Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning’, founded on the 28th November, 1660, had grown out of the various clubs and associations of natural philosophers based at Oxford in the 1640s. Royal support in the form of a Royal Charter from King Charles II was forthcoming in 1662 and the body began to be known as the Royal Society, a society of natural philosophers dedicated above all to the experimental examination of scientific topics. The core group consisted of scientists such as the Gresham Professor of Astronomy, Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, and John Wilkins but the Society grew rapidly. Many were attracted by the publications emanating from the Society and Edward Worth himself became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1699. Worth evidently took a keen interest in the publications of the Society, not only in the Society’s famous journal Philosophical Transactions, but also in Sprat’s contentious History of the Royal Society. The coat of arms displayed here was chosen by the Society in 1663. The motto, Nullius in Verba (literally ‘Nothing in words’), encapsulates the drive towards experimental knowledge and the rejection of an unquestioning acceptance of ancient doctrines. The very foundation of the Royal Society was in itself a comment on the state of scientific teaching at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and provided a new challenge to English universities in the later seventeenth century.


Item 4

Novis Nuptijs Clarissimi et Consultiss. viri, D.N. Bartholdi Kichleri, I.V.D. et iudicij Megapol. Advocati et Practici excellentissimi, secundùm Sponsi, et Primariae atque lectissimae virginis Agnetae Clarissimi et Consultisssimi viri, Dn. Bartholomaei Clingii, I.V.D. eximij, et Rectoris pro tempore magnifici, atque Illustrissimorum Ducum Magapolensium Consiliarij intimi et Legati dignissimi, filiae carissimae, Sponsae, Rostochij 3 Nonar. Maij celebratis, Gratulantur Amici.
Rostock, 1601. 4o.

This pamphlet celebrates the marriage of Barthold Kichler and Agnes Cling, daughter of Bartholomew Cling, 1535-1610, Professor of Law at the University of Rostock in the duchy of Mecklenberg. The links between the academic lawyers and the Mecklenberg court were close and self-perpetuating as the subsequent marriage of Barthold Kichler’s daughter Margaret to another lawyer demonstrates. Marriages such as this allowed the members of the university to construct their identity as an academic community and emphasise their links with the professional élites. The fact that Rostock was a Lutheran university which allowed clerical marriage ensured that it, like the University of Helmstedt, could utilise this form of propaganda. What we see here is the tip of a publication iceberg for in the second half of the sixteenth century the publication of epithalamia (wedding songs) received an added impetus by its appropriation by social groups other than the nobility. Newly founded (or re-founded) German universities were particularly interested in the possibilities of the genre and this pamphlet should be viewed as an emanation of the Familienuniversität which, as Dr. Richard Kirwan suggests, was an institutional model which became prominent in protestant universities in the Holy Roman Empire from the latter half of the sixteenth century.


Item 5: Thomas Caius
Thomae Caii… Vindiciae antiquitatis Academiae Oxoniensis contra Joannem Caium, Cantabrigiensem…
Oxford, 1730. 8o.

This work, by the sixteenth-century antiquarian Thomas Caius, c.1505-1572, is an example of the sometimes bitter rivalry between the two oldest English universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Caius, Master of University College, Oxford, was a controversial figure. In 1564 he was drawn into a debate about the relative antiquity of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Incensed by claims that Cambridge had been founded by King Cantaber, a noted Trojan, he published in manuscript his Assertio antiquitatis Oxoniensis academiae (1566), where he assigned the foundation of Oxford to King Alfred – a much admired foundation myth which would be frequently repeated in Oxford sources such as those by Anthony Wood. John Caius, 1510-1573, founder of the Cambridge college of the same name, entered the fray in 1568 and published the Assertio as part of his own rejoinder to the work: De antiquitate Cantabrigiensis academiae libri duo. This, in turn, elicited from Thomas Caius his Examen judicii Cantabrigiensis – later published in this edition by Thomas Hearne in 1730.


Item 6: Felix Platter
Praxeos medicae opus, quinque libris adornatum et in tres tomos distinctum …
Basle, 1656. 4o.

Felix Platter, 1536-1614, was one of the most renowned doctors of medicine in the sixteenth century. Both he and his father, Thomas Platter, 1499-1582, are equally famous for their diaries which outline their experience of the peregrinatio academica. While Thomas’ journal provides vital information on the fluidity of movement in the late medieval and early sixteeenth-century European university system, the diary of his son Felix delineates a more settled university existence. Felix had been a student at the Latin School in Basel and matriculated in 1552 at the University of Basel where his father had been appointed Lecturer in Hebrew in 1531. Felix, however, was not interested in following his father’s path into linguistic studies and instead opted to study medicine. The choice of the University of Montpellier was an obvious one, not only because of its pre-eminent reputation as a centre of medical teaching but also because of its open approach to different religious groupings. In 1557 Felix returned to Basel where he took his medical degree. He based himself there and became widely known following his interventions during the 1563-4 plague when he prevented many deaths by introducing hygiene techniques which he had learned at Montpellier. By 1571 he had become Professor of Medicine at the University of Basel and played an active role as rector of the university on the six occasions when he was elected to the position. His fame spread abroad and many nobles, not only in Switzerland, but also in South Germany and central Europe, employed him as a physician.

This work is his exceedingly influential textbook on clinical medicine and was typical of his output, which concentrated on practical rather than theorectical approaches to medicine. The fact that it is edited by his nephew of the same name again draws attention to the academic family networks which played such a vital role in university structures in the early modern period. The illustrations on the title page of the two best known ancient physicians, Hippocrates and Galen, are a testament to the continued dominance of both medical authors throughout the sixteenth century. Indeed, as Item 7 demonstrates, the teachings of Hippocrates remained a staple of medical education well into the eighteenth century.


Item 7

Commentarius in magni Hippocratis Lib. I Aphor. XXII.
Utrecht, 1701. 4o.

This is the dissertation on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates which Edward Worth submitted for his doctorate at Utrecht. Worth’s own educational experience is an example of peregrinatio academica, albeit at a much later date than that of Felix Platter. We know that Worth had attended Merton College, Oxford in 1693 at the age of fifteen, although there is no record of him ever completing a degree there. Like many other Oxford graduates he sought further education abroad, entering the University of Leiden in 1699. He took his degree as a doctor of medicine at the University of Utrecht, where his thesis was published in 1701 (seen here by kind permission of the Gilbert Library, Dublin).

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