Sooo, I've taken the assignment and run with it, treating it as a preliminary bibliography for the theoretical framework I hope to work in. All in all, it's very exciting. My professor suggested that we have between 40 and 50 works involved and while I sat down to come up with some initial ideas, I made a list of 40 works. Now, they won't all be interesting or useful, but it is encouraging that I was able to compile such a list, however preliminary.
In other news, I've been clicking around on ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online), at first looking for particular essays by Francis Bacon, then just to see what I could see. I came across a number of fun things.
- A Francis Bacon essay on travel (not what I was looking for, but fun nonetheless), in which he wrote, "Travel in the younger sort is a part of education; in the elder a part of experience. He that travelleth into a country, before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel."
- The Artist's Repository and Drawing Magazine exhibiting the Principles of the Polite Arts in their various Branches, which has essays on perspective and the use of various elements in painting (or drawing) and includes a bunch of example drawings. Most charmingly, at the end of the book is a sheet of instructions "To the Binder" describing where the illustrations are to be inserted into the text.
- The Philosophical History and Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, which has a number of fascinating articles, including: "Of a bottle of water kept for a great many years," "Of a storm of hail of an extraordinary size," "Of the effect of vinegar on some stones," "Of a puppy, which had only one eye in the middle of his face," "A description of the heart of a sea-tortoise."
In reading these accounts, it's easy to feel superior and condescending to their interest in seemingly insignificant things, but then I realize this was in 1742, relatively early in the age of science and these (in many cases) amateur scientists were laying the groundwork for everything we know now, starting more or less from scratch. Then I feel a bit humble. For all their quaintness, these essays were right at the beginning.