This research project focuses on the handwritten lecture notebooks produced in the universities of the early modern Southern Netherlands. It intends to open up new horizons at the intersection of the history of science and history of art by exploring a corpus that has never yet been the subject of thorough research. These documents, held in various Belgian institutions, are an eloquent testimony of the cultural, intellectual, and social role fulfilled by universities at that time.
In the students’ notebooks, the text is often accompanied by title pages, ink drawings or engraved plates. Two kinds of images coexist in a single space: a scientific imagery made of abstract forms and aiming at fostering understanding of the subject (geometrical patterns, diagrams, tree structures), and an iconography inspired by non-scientific figurative languages of allegorical, emblematic, religious, mythological, or moral nature.
The project intends to analyze the features and the functioning of such images in order to assess their role in the transmission of knowledge within the framework of higher education institutions in the Southern Netherlands. The other aim is to survey the socio-symbolic stakes attached to these representations. They could be used not only to convey scientific ideas, but also to celebrate the time students spent at university in a festive and didactic way. In other words, this iconological study would help to pave the way to a social history of science.