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“Being the World Eternal …”: The Age of the Earth in Renaissance Italy

Ivano Dal Prete
Isis
Vol. 105, No. 2 (June 2014), pp. 292-317
DOI: 10.1086/676568
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/676568
Page Count: 26
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“Being the World Eternal …”: The Age of the Earth in Renaissance Italy
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Abstract

ABSTRACTScholarship on the early modern period assumes that the Creation story of Genesis and its chronology were the only narratives openly available in Renaissance Europe. This essay revisits the topic by exploring a wide range of literature on the age and nature of the Earth in early modern Italy. It suggests that, contrary to received notions, in the early 1500s an Aristotelian ancient world characterized by slow geological change was a common assumption in discourse on the Earth. These notions were freely disseminated by popularizations and didactic literature in the vernacular, which made them available to a large readership. Counter-Reformation cultural policies eventually called for a tighter integration of theology and natural philosophy; however, the essay argues that even then the creation of the world was usually placed in a remote and undetermined past, not necessarily tied to the short timescales of contemporary chronology.

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