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8 - Certainty. Skepticism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2021

Christopher S. Celenza
Affiliation:
The Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
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Summary

This chapter addresses the work of Jean Mabillon and Jean Hardouin. Mabillon, a Benedictine scholar, created a new field, paleography (the field that teaches how to date and authenticate handwritten texts) with the publication in 1681 of his On Diplomatics. Defending the authenticity of the documents he and his order were charged with curating, Mabillon set out criteria for determining authenticity. The handwriting in question, the location where the manuscript was produced, and dating formulas: these aspects and more came into play. The book succeeded, not least because Mabillon published exact replicas of the documents in question. Printing had evolved into a tool that could build trust in books as truth-bearing instruments. By contrast, Jean Hardouin came to create a wild conspiracy theory: that all of ancient literature save for a few authors was forged, as were the records of the Church Councils and even the work of Church Fathers like Saint Augustine. All of it was invented – in Hardouin’s view – by medieval theologians seeking to give themselves a backstory for their logic-chopping, sometimes heretical work. How could one know? Hardouin claimed that printing was the cause: now that so many books were printed and easily available, it was easier to compare them and thus easier to “prove” forgery.

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The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities
An Intellectual History, 1400–1800
, pp. 201 - 245
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Certainty. Skepticism
  • Christopher S. Celenza, The Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
  • Book: The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities
  • Online publication: 09 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108980623.009
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  • Certainty. Skepticism
  • Christopher S. Celenza, The Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
  • Book: The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities
  • Online publication: 09 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108980623.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Certainty. Skepticism
  • Christopher S. Celenza, The Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
  • Book: The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities
  • Online publication: 09 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108980623.009
Available formats
×