Objects & Evidence
In history, mathematics, natural history, and language, new claims to power framed new ideas of evidence in Britain in the early modern period. Works on the origins of the English language cloaked uncomfortable claims on the legitimacy of kings. Mathematical demonstrations taught English sons and daughters how to conceive of a newly imperial economy. Histories, genealogies, chronicle rolls and records established claims of legitimacy and tenure. British identities were dissected and accumulated, in dictionaries of plants, of language, of ruins and antiquities.
Objects & Evidence examines the anxieties of certain knowledge in early modern Britain, an age of new information technologies, of “truthiness” and “refudiability,” of radical visions of society’s possibilities pinned to the origins myths of peoples, nations, and scholarly canons. The exhibition highlights some of the treasures of the Beinecke Library’s early modern British collections, including the annotated proof copy of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), fifteenth-century English manuscripts and chronicle rolls, the first folio printing of Shakespeare’s plays, and works owned and annotated by authors such as William Lambarde, John Stow, and William Camden.