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A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in Natural History from Antiquity Through the Scientific Revolution Author(s): Brian

P. Copenhaver Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1991), pp. 373-398 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2710043 Accessed: 19/07/2010 15:22
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A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in NaturalHistory the through fromAntiquity Revolution Scientific
Brian P. Copenhaver

Gassendi wasemiPierre Mersenne andReneDescartes, With Marin ofEuropean thinkers whodecisively discredthegeneration nent among called "theoccultphilosophy." When century itedwhattheprevious inthetitle usedthat ofhisfamous book Cornelius phrase Agrippa Henry a philosophical ofnatural for theory magic of1510, hecouldtake granted Morethana hundred ofnatural as partofa larger philosophy. system ofnatural shook thefoundations Gassendi andhiscolleagues later years thehyleitschief replacing supports, philosophical magic bydisplacing as taught ofmatter andform, substance andaccident morphic apparatus with newcorpuscular and mechanical in Peripatetic schoolphilosophy basisinactual or newtheories hadan empirical 1 Just as these paradigms. balls meditated on bouncing tennis Descartes putative experience-when a tube ofmercury up thePuy-deorwhen Pascal'sbrother-in-law carried toa ofnatural instantiated byreference magic Dome-so wasthetheory andbearing tocount as magical oddenough setofmaterial objects, objects in Europefrom thateludedthematter-theory thatprevailed properties
I For the author'sviews on the theoryof magic, see: "Scholastic Philosophyand 37 (1984), RenaissanceMagic in theDe vitaof MarsilioFicino," RenaissanceQuarterly, ofMagic in the Proclus,and theQuestionofa Philosophy 523-54;"HermesTrismegistus, History and theOccultin Intellectual and theRenaissance: Renaissance,"in Hermeticism D.C., 1988), EarlyModernEurope,ed. IngridMerkeland Allen G. Debus (Washington, Philosophy, ed. History ofRenaissance and Magic," in The Cambridge 79-110;"Astrology to et al. (Cambridge,1988), 264-300,esp. 264, n. 1, forreferences Charles B. Schmitt century will of magicin theseventeenth on Agrippa;thetheory Paola Zambelli'sarticles Century of Seventeenth be treatedin the author's chapterin The CambridgeHistory (Urand theCrisisofRenaissanceThought see also CharlesNauert,Agrippa Philosophy; bana, 1965), 32-33.




Brian P. Copenhaver

apparwasaction ata distance, Onesuch property Aristotle toDescartes.2 flies toward amber, or attracts iron,whenchaff entwhena lodestone inrhythm Thesameproperty thetiderises with themoon. seemed when and perhaps itsprey, gazestunned that thebasilisk's relevant to reports or with the talesaboutwitches thesimilar to do with it had something thepuny cock.Thesepeculiar objects, lionfeared thatthemighty story of magicalphenomena alike,werean inventory and mythical natural thequestions offact which thetheory hadsustained since which antiquity to answer. Thousands ofdiscussions ofmagic ofnatural magic proposed refer todozens andearly modem times repeatedly from medieval, ancient, about oftheoretical claims magic as theempirical referents ofsuchobjects Ficinoand Agrippa.3 as Plotinus and Proclus, madebysuchauthorities hadlong been a powerful ofmagical time the objects catalog ByGassendi's in thecommon ofEuropean ideas.4 stock embedded topos deeply thispotent exploited In thepreface to hisParhelia (1629) Gassendi to scorean ironicpointon his Peripatetic adversaries, commonplace to "see things from theinside, forpretending as if whomhe criticized causesof natural For me, effects. theyknewthe trueand proximate ora remora, so theleast little that is nota magnet is nothing there clearly, that human ... isa thunderclap." orplant knowledge animal Bydeclaring Gassendi wished to replace theinward stops"at thebarkof things," withan empirical natural natural of scholastic abstractions philosophy the and thusto endtheold metaphysical magicshowin which history 0 good were at center "O Aristotle! andtheremora stage. props magnet he roared, Peripatetic!"
2 et al., tr.,ThePhilosophical Cottingham Optics, Discourse2, in John Rene Descartes, of Descartes(Cambridge,1985), 156-60; Blaise Pascal, "Recit de la grande Writings in Oeuvres de Pascal, ed. JacquesChevacompletes des liqueurs," de l'equilibre experience lier (Paris, 1954), 396-99. 3Plin. Nat. 7.16-18; 8.52, 77-79; 10.46-49;29.78; Plu. Quaest. conv. 2.7 (641B-C); Ennead 4.3-5 in Ficino's "RenaissanceMagic and NeoplatonicPhilosophy: Copenhaver, di (ed.) MarsilioFicino e il ritorno De vitacoelituscomparanda,"in G. C. Garfagnini Platone (Florence, 1986), 351-69; "Iamblichus,Synesiusand the Chaldaean Oracles in MarsilioFicino's De vitalibritres:HermeticMagic or NeoplatonicMagic?" in Supple1987),441-55. (Binghamton, mentum Festivum: Studiesin HonorofPaul OskarKristeller 4 See, forexample, the articleon the cock by A. Orth,"Huhn," in Pauly-Wissowa, VIII, cols. 2528-29; also Laurence A. Breiner,"The Career of the Realencyclopaidie, is E. W. Gudger,"The Mythof but unreliable Cockatrice," Isis, 70 (1979), 34-38;useful Studiesin Echeneisor Remora," The Annalsand Magazine of Natural the Ship-holder: 9th ser.,2 (1918), 271-305;Chau H. Wu, "ElectricFish and the Discoveryof History, 72 (1984), 598-607, focuses on electrophysiology American Scientist, AnimalElectricity," "NaturalMagic,Hermecenturies. See also Copenhaver, in theeighteenth and nineteenth Revolution, in EarlyModem Science,"inReappraisals oftheScientific tismand Occultism the ed. D. Lindbergand R. Westman(Cambridge,1990), 261-301,whichsummarizes in seventeenth-century ofoccultism natural analysis hereas partofa larger issuesdiscussed philosophy.

History in Natural MagicalObjects


me ButI askyoutoshow as principles. andprivation form mematter, You give you challenge innature.... I don't thetiniest even of justoneobject, theessence infests that often beast as grand as theremora.... I takethelittle with anything
are in theflea...., [but]I wanted and form you,theflea.... You say thatmatter

so sharply.... thefleastings is,... bywhatpower to knowwhatthismatter philosophy!5 Whata fine

have Peripatetic to theverminous questions Some of Gassendi'smocking thatare clear enough.We all knowwhata fleais. But whatis a answers Whyis it "grand"?And whatdoes ithaveto do withmetaphysics remora? and magic? thatthe answers in Gassendiwould have appreciated The humanist B.C., witha in the second century and philology, begin withantiquity and Antipatitles like"PhysicalPowers"or "Sympathies including genre to havepuzzling listsofobjectsthought alphabetical thies"thatpresented N in these letter the Greek under A listed properties. groupof objects ray as well as an electric, called vav0Kparr-c, worksincludeda pilot-fish term used fora kindofpilotfishwas 'xev4i;another namedvaipKcq; nothsuggest ("ship")-a namethatmight from EXw ("hold") and vaOc, but came to hold to on ships fish sometimes such that ing more than The mean thattheyhave the powerto holdbacka vessel'smovement.6 the alphabeticalaccidentthat connectedthese words was to influence thebetter partof two millennia. of magicthrough history thisoldertradition on sympafrom heavily PlinytheElderborrowed a of book 32 he highlights thiesand magic,but at the verybeginning and "enorachievement" of virtus as "nature'sgreatest special instance mous evidenceof occultpower." His exampleis "a tinyfishhalf-a-foot enoughto checkthemotionof a great yetpowerful long" (semipedalis), it norbydoing against bypushing ofitsown,neither ship"withno effort or mora stoppedAntony's to it." This echeneis else butsticking anything attachedto therudder at Actium,and diversfoundan echeneis flagship The samefish against protected circumstances. ofCaligula'sshipinsimilar its but forPliny power and prolapseduterus, difficult birth, miscarriage, who "doubt thatthereis to stop shipswas the best counterto skeptics from in remedies things.... or effect growing poweror force anynatural thisexample,"says Pliny, Even without
enformede paradoxes Gassendi,OperaOmnia (Lyon, 1658),III, 653; Dissertations LivresI et II, Aristotelicos), paradoxicaeadversus les Aristoteiciens (Exercitationes contre ed. and tr.BernardRochot (Paris, 1959),489. 76) Philologie, 6Dimitris Kaimakis (ed.), Die Kyraniden(Beitragezur klassischen "Die (Vvocratdes Bolos 1976),73, 257,277 (1.13; 4.18,44); Max Wellman, (Meisenheim, derPreussischen undderMagierAnaxilaosaus Larissa,Teil I," Abhandlungen Demokritos Klasse, 7 (Berlin,1928), 1928,philosophisch-historische Akademieder Wissenschaften, Alexandria (Oxford,1972),I, 3-4, 11-12,20-21,28, 43-52;but cf.P.M. Fraser,Ptolemaic 439-44,II, 636-46.


Brian P. Copenhaver

would be enough. Evenat a great distance, or theelectric ray(torpedo) byitself a spearor a stick, it numbs thestrongest iftouched with arms.... Butifthis issome ustoadmit that there force which bysmell [odor] alone, example compels itsbody causesourlimbs to hurt, what mayone andbyan effusion [aura]from thepotency ofall remedies?7 notexpect from and strongly associated Thus Plinypairedthe torpedowiththe echeneis thetwo fishwithclaimsforoccultpower.He also had moreto say about and viviparous, cartilaginous, theseanimals.His torpedois carnivorous, and hidingin the sand to daze unwary underthe sea-floor hibernating to its own stunning effect, the ray has a numberof prey.Invulnerable it uses. considers relaxmedical depilatory, antaphrodisiac, helpful Pliny forthe spleenand uterus, and effective for ant forthe bowels,curative whenthe moon is in Libra.8 speedyparturition is a small,inediblerock-fish thatnot In one version Pliny'secheneis births and checksfluxesfromthe graviduterus onlyretards premature and acts as a love-charm. Againsttheclaimthat butalso delayslaw-suits in book 9, and some editors has feet,Plinycites Aristotle the echeneis a misunderthelacuna thatoccursat thispointso as to imply have filled the fish's fins Aristotle resembled on thought standing Pliny'spart-that writesthatthe fins or "wings."In factAristotle pinnae,i.e., "feathers" The chancesforconfusion are notfeet butlook likethem.9 oftheecheneis describes sea-urchins or whenPliny,again following Aristotle, multiply The pinnae of the echinias having"spines [spinae]insteadof feet."10 to echeneis and thespinae of the echinuswere a sourceof muddlement in book 32 is a slug-like Pliny'slaterreaders. Moreover, whiletheecheneis fish (limax, concha) that stops a ship by clingingto its or snail-like in book 9 it is a rock-fish (adsuetuspetris)equipped with steering-oar, to itskeel.Immediately thatslowsa shipbyadhering fins broad,wing-like the echeneispassage in book 9, Pliny introduces a kind of following purple-fish (murex)thathas a shell(concha);it "slows ships... and has the power... to pull out gold thathas falleninto the deepestwells."II murexto the echeneis was to The textualproximity of the ship-slowing and proveas distracting as thesimilarity ofspinaeandpinnaeor echinus echeneis. To travel Remorasbelongto thefamily Echeneidaeofthebonyfishes.
7Plin. Nat. 32.1-7;fora recent collection ofarticles on Pliny,see Sciencein theEarly Roman Empire:PlinytheElder,hisSourcesand Influence, ed. RogerFrenchand Frank Greenaway(Totowa, N.J., 1986); see also William H. Stahl, Roman Science: Origins, and Influence Development to theLater MiddleAges(Madison, 1962), 101-19, as well as theintroductions and notesin theBude editions ofbooks9 and 32 oftheNaturalHistory, ed. E. de Saint-Denis(Paris, 1955, 1966). Plin. Nat. 9.78, 143, 162, 165; 32.94, 102, 105, 133, 135, 139. 9 Plin. Nat. 9.79; Arist.HA 505bl9-24. '0Plin. Nat. 9.100; Arist.HA 531a5-6. " Plin. Nat. 9.79-80,32.4-5.

History in Natural MagicalObjects


warm-water ofthis theeight species hosts, thefoodoftheir andto share attach feet, and three seven inches in size between varying fish, marine fish or toboats. tolarger sucking-dish ofa cephalic bymeans themselves are not they to which animals other several resemble In thishabit they also usesits marinus, Petromyzon lamprey, The marine related. closely it boatsor rocks;but in general to fish, to fixitself mouth suctorial or to eat to transport itself notmerely does thisto feedparasitically, are niger) ofgobies ofspecies (e.g.,Gobius The hundreds commensally. pelvic alsousemodified they rocks; liveamong that fishes coastal mostly canfunction fins versatile andtheir attachment, disk for fins as a suctorial somewhat In this noted. theblennies respect correctly as feet, as Aristotle the Carangidae, and other Relatedto jacks,pompanos them. resemble liketheremoras, butithasno is commensal ductor) (Naucrates pilot-fish instead onitsability toswim depending toother fish, means ofattachment food. 2 Anyof these to sharetheir in order itscompanions alongwith or behavioral foranatomical withanother be confused animals might theechinus, limax, to thelist: add four others accidents Textual reasons. above. mentioned concha and murex, is a in Aristotle's History ofAnimals theecheneis clearthat It seems Unlike is simply him.'3 inbook9 Pliny copying andthat ora blenny goby Aristotle's befaulted for goby-echeneis making cannot Pliny later writers, thewingconsistent: buthe is notentirely or a murex, intoan echinus 32. of book Antony mora ofbook9 is nottheslug-like rock-fish finned and Caligulawas was born, before halfa century Pliny lostat Actium of stories toldtheship-holding so Pliny when he waseighteen, murdered thesecouldhave involved from theevents; book 32 at somedistance is thelikeliest which themarine lamprey, offish, including anynumber echeneis mentioned by Aelian eel-like fortheblack,biting, candidate earlier fish described slender cubit-long around 200 A.D. andthedusky, as a caseofalleged Plutarch cited theship-stopper ofCilicia.'4 byOppian catethis loaded magical those whosimply buthe criticized "antipathy," todetermine their without attempting phenomena unexplained with gory howships swollen noting He proposed explanation: a mechanical causes. than movemore slowly with andcovered algaeandseaweed with water mateaccumulated organic hesuggested vessels, drier andunencumbered presence.'5 and ofthefish's rialas thecausebothofretardation
and theMediterraAtlantic et al., eds.,FishesoftheNorth-eastern J. P. Whitehead S. Nelson,Fishes Joseph 1329-34; I, 64-67,II, 832, III, 1019-1112, nean (Paris, 1984-86), of the World(2nd. ed.; New York, 1984), 34-38,60-61,293-94,349-51,355-56. A Glossary of GreekFishes Thompson, 13 Arist.HA 505bl9-24;D'Arcy Wentworth (London, 1947), 67-68,arguesfortheblenny. 14 Ael. NA 2.17; Opp H. 1.212, 217; see the introductions in the Loeb editionsof and Oppian,ed. A. W. Mair (London, 1958-59),I, xi-xxiv, Aelian,ed. A. F. Scholfield (London, 1928),xiv-xxxix. 15 Plu. Quaest.conv.2.7 (6411B-E).
12 p.


Brian P. Copenhaver

Though itspowers also amazedtheancients, thetorpedo's identity and Latinauthors them less.Almost all Greek perplexed whodiscussed or oneoftheother hadin mindTorpedo thetorpedo torpedo twospecies in theMediterranean; these ofelectric rayfound animals, whosealmost inother occur oceans as well, tothefamily forty species belong Torpedinior rays."6 Like thefamous dae of the order electric "eel" Raiiformes (Electrophorus electricus) ofSouth American rivers, the torpedo usesmodifiedmuscletissueto generate electricity fordefense, predation, and, and communication. Its electric possibly, navigation potent organs are located structures on either twolarge side kidney-shaped symmetrically half. anterior 17 Since oftheheadintheanimal's wasunknown electricity it is not surprising of explanation, as a category to the ancients that the the on means centered itsstunning discussion whereby fish produced medical orantaphroeffect, though applications (wastherayaphrodisiac andbehavior food value(wasiteasytodigest?) disiac?), (wasitoviparous alsodebated. As with theecheneis, themain were naturalorviviparous?) on thesequestions wereAristotle, authorities historical Pliny, Oppian, Plutarch hadlessto sayaboutthetorpedo andPlutarch, Aelian, though writer ofmiscellanies, another whotreated thetopicof thanAthenaeus, OneofAthenaeus's ingreat detail around 200A.D.18 sources was sea-food Laodicaea on of the Theriaca of Nicander a lostcommentary byDiphilus in the written a didactic ofColophon, poemon animal poisons probably B.C. Byexperimenting with thefish, hadlearned second century Diphilus is confined to partof itsbody, thusraising thatthetorpedo's a power modern andanswering itin that wasto exercise question early biologists that ofSoli, manner. Athenaeus alsoreports Clearchus a serious wholived Had they theworks ofClearchus couldnotrecall itsarguments. survived, havetoldus something abouttheunderstanding of and Diphilus might in at a timewhentheempirical was stillstrong thetorpedo impulse natural Aristotle hademphasized that theray's ancient history. stratagem in thesand to stunits prey"has beenactually in of hiding observed butfive thecredulous Aelianclaimed centuries later operation," onlyto "from wisemen"howthefish a man'sbody. havelearned couldnumb
a fishof the possibleexception is AthenaeusSoph. Deipn. 7.312b,who mentions of thatriver; Thompson, (Malapterurus electricus) Nile, undoubtedly the electric catfish (ed.),Fishes, 60-61;Whitehead Glossary, 171-72; Wu, "ElectricFish," 598; Nelson,World, I, 159-60;G. A. Boulenger, Zoologyof Egypt:The Fishes of the Nile (London, 1907), 395-400. 17 Nelson, World,154-56; Harry Grundfest, of Electric "ComparativePhysiology W. Gilbert et al. Organsof Elasmobranch Fishes,"in Sharks,Skatesand Rays,ed. Perry (Baltimore, 1967), 399-432. 18 HA 505a3-4, Arist. 566a22, 620bl9-24; Plin.Nat. 9.78, 506b6-8,540b17-20, 565b24-26, 143, 165; 32.94, 139; Opp. H. 1.104; 2.56, 67, 85; 3.149; Ael. NA 9.14; Plut. Soll. an. 27 (978B-D); AthenaeusSoph. Deipn. 7.312a-b,314a-e,336c.
16 A

in thecentury 250 B.C., wrotea longtreatise buthe before HEptvapKT1q,

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


was no longera fieldof inquiryso And since Aelian's naturalhistory we may doubt the or edification, much as a means of entertainment behindsuch wisdom.19 experience That thetorpedocould numbor stunor paralyzethosewho touched occurrednot it was not in question;it was also agreedthattheseeffects various or through directcontactbut also at a distance only through told of havingbeen numbedby the ray media. Fishermen intervening trade-spear, rod,club,line,and net."Some all thetoolsoftheir through withit," wrotePlutarch, who have experimented you above, on itfrom water aliveandyoupour ashore ifitis washed that report which, water of the ... way hand by to the mounting thenumbness perceive may
It never infected a change and is first so it seems,suffers [irporrcrrovO6ro4]. its ... and discharges its around prey ... swims attack [but] makes a frontal

thewater, thuspoisoning [capj.uirrovca] first weredarts, as ifthey shocks thecreature.... thewater then through poison, The poet Claudian also believedthatthe torpedoacted through poison,. . . a dread witha numbing that"naturearmedits flank writing the ray's poison arcanum). He thus identified force"(frigus paralyzing usually qualityto whichancientmedicaltheory withcold, the manifest thatthetorpedo whospecified ofnumbness. Pliny, thesymptom attributed to it,also speculatedthatit acted is consciousof its powerand immune to that most adaptable thus resorting or vapor, of a smell means by matetenuous calledpneumataor spiritus, entities oftheoretical category to unite thought substances embodiedspiritual or lightly rial substances imperceptible.21 wereotherwise whoselinkages causes and effects textsas Claudian's lyricon the torpedo,it is From such literary clear that this fish'soccult powerswere an exampleof magical action Eightcentuofnatural history. thespecialist sphere outside commonplace magicwas alreadyknownto Plato,who alluded thetorpedo's riesearlier like treatises scholarly to it in the Meno, and its famespread through The echenofparadoxographers.22 works Varro'sas wellas thesensational alone, also became a sometimes pairedwiththe torpedo, eis, sometimes populartokenof magicalpower,as in thewitch'sbrewthatLucan conbook,wherethefishis mixedwithlynx'sguts,hyena's coctedin his sixth
19Athen.Deipn. 7.314b-d;Arist.HA 620b19-24;Ael. NA 9.14; Mair, ed., Oppian, ed., Aelian,xiii-xvi. Scholfield, xxix-xxxix; [London,1957]);cf.Plot.Enn., 20 Plu. Soll. an. 27 (978B-D; tr.H. Cherniss in arguing againstthenecessity as a case of"sympathy" effect thetorpedo's who classifies a medium;see also: Arist.HA 620blO-24; Thphr.Fr. 178; Plin. through of transmission Nat. 32.7; Opp. H. 3.151-52;Ael. NA 9.14; [Alex. Aphr.]Prob. l.pr. 21 Claud. Carm. min.49.5, 22; Plin. Nat. 9.143, 32.7. 22 Ovid Am. 3.7.35; P1. Meno 80A, 84B; Hipp. De Diaeta 2.41; Var. L. 5.12.77; Cic. Hist. mir.48; Diosc. Mat. med. 2.15; PGM, ND 2.127; Non. 229M; Antig.Carystius oftheNile (above,n. 16). catfish to theelectric XXXVI.284-85 (Betz, 276) seemsto refer


Brian P. Copenhaver

in poets necromancer's brew.Whether eyesin a grisly hump,and dragon's like Lucan or in medical authorslike ScriboniusLargus, such recipes Had providelittleexplanationfor theirproceduresand ingredients.23 itis doubtful thatthefame ofourtwomagical never emerged, explanations fishcould have grownas it did. Above all, it was the torpedo'srole in thatsealed thereputation of thepair-directlyforthe medicalliterature A treatise attributed to fortheecheneis. ray,indirectly and byassociation withother magiusedthetorpedo for example, Alexander ofAphrodisias, the term"unnameableproperties" (18&6orn7rE cal objectsto introduce occultaeofmedieval as a category of physicians) app7jrot, thequalitates explanation: attract called onlyiron? Whydoesthesubstance Whydoesthemagnet-stone them stick chaff anddry drawup to it only together? straws, making "amber" ... No oneisignorant the ofthe marine lion fear cock? Andwhy doesthe torpedo ... I might a string? through [vapK71v]. How doesit numb [vapKof] thebody which are known suchthings onlyby experience prepare youa listof many For the peculiar and are called"unnameable by the physicians. properties" of each of them suffices foran explanation of the asserted unnameable thing

associatedthe torpedowith whythe physicians In orderto understand we mustbriefly occultproperties, review properties beyonddescription, in thematter-theory expressed thecanonicalmedicalworksoftheday,in thoseof Galen. particular had developedan elaboratetherapeutic By Galen's time,physicians not only based on elementary qualitiesassignedto substances taxonomy Y is Y is hot) but also quantitatively (substance qualitatively (substance such cures,thosehe could hot in the first degree).Galen distinguished other rtva XoyL1Kv), from understand (Karar ,tE6Oo8ov systematically data, curesknownonlyempirically (e iz7rEmpiaq). Certaintherapeutic and occult e.g., thata live torpedocould cure headache,wereempirical and theirmanifest because thefourelements qualitiescould not entirely and amulets account forthem.Many drugs,foods,poisons,antidotes, elements and sensible wereheldto workin partbecauseoftheir qualities in "unnameable and "according properties" butalso partbecauseoftheir riv o{icatv). If a mysterious to thewholesubstance" prop(KaO' oXArv partof the ertylike the torpedo'scould not be located in some specific object,one attachedit to the object as a whole, i.e., to its substance.
23Luc. 6.666-87; Ovid Hal. 94-100; Sen. Med. 346-63; Larg. 11, 99, 162; Aetius Amidenus2.185; Alex. Trall. Ther.2.581; Paul. Aeg. 7.3.13; MarcellusDe med. 1.11, 36.46. 24 [Alex.Aphr.]Prob. 1.pr;Julius PhiloloKraftbegriff imAltertum, Rohr,Der okkulte 17.1 (Leipzig, 1923), 96-97; above, nn. 22-23,forothermedical gus, Supplementband, texts.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory



to thewhole "according This is whatGalen meant by theexpression occult whodealtwith often Latermedical writers recalled properties with thetorpedo and his allusions to itsproperties. Galen'sexperience hereasoned that Although histests found ituseless against hemorrhoids, iflikeother theliving relieve headache medications it could raymight The effect oftouching deaden a livetorpedo (VapK'r) (vapKoW) feeling. ofdiminished wascalled"numbness" sensa(also VapK1), thecondition tion andmobility that Galentraced tothequality coldandtocompression Buttheray's which Galenknew tobe capable ofthenerves. great power, histrident, hand ofreaching a fisherman's more explanathrough required and powers" it in "certain which tion.He sought were"not qualities In thepassages he callsuponthese where obscure directly explained." thefish fortheray'seffects, is associated with to account the qualities thathe and other and poisonous writers saw magnet animals, things thatactedthrough "unnameable "thewhole as possessing properties" an occult that therayneeded Galen'sverdict as well substance." quality and cold to stun to deaden of itsprey painassured as themanifest quality in medrenown as longas hisauthority thetorpedo's magical prevailed

no version ofthePhysiologus mentions thetorpedo or the Although both in end of the twelfth Latin bestiaries, echeneis, bythe century appear andother not onPliny authorities but whose authors depended only pagan as thePatristic as well hexaemeral alsoonIsidore's Christian encyclopedia ofAmbrose ofMilan TheExameron treats echinus andechenliterature.27 fish. On theformer he followed ofthe eisas different description Pliny's in rough stones forstability sea-urchin as a kindof crabthatclutched storms. The prescient echinus and warned sailorsof coming weather in creation, manifest andthetiny fish's showed Ambrose God's wisdom and munificence. That demonstrated divine scribes virtus amazing power theorthographic diswhocopiedhisExameron didnotalways preserve echinus and echeneis musthave confused some of between tinction animals as religious exemAmbrose's sawthese whoinanyevent readers,
25 Gal. Loc. aftf5.6; Meth. med. 13.6; Simpl. med. 4.9; 5.1,7, 18; 6.1; 10.2.1, 21; 11.12.23, 13.48; 12.1.34; Comp. med. s. Ioc. 8.8; Comp. med. p. gen. 1.16; [Aff:ren.]; (Kuhn, VIII, 339-40;X, 895; XI, 650, 704-6,761-63,803; XII, 192, 209, 300-301,356, 99, 107-12. 365; XIII, 803; 212, 435; XIX, 677-78);Rohr,Kraftbegriff, 26 Gal. Util.resp. 4; Alim.fac. 3.36; Symp.caus. 1.5,8; Loc. aff 2.2, 6.5; Simpl. med. 11.48;(Kuhn, IV, 497-98;VI, 737; VII, 108-9,143-44;VIII, 70-73,421-22;XII, 365); for africani... opera othermedical texts,see in additionto nn. 22-23,above: Constantini a magistro Petrode Abanoeditus(Mantua, 1473), (Basel, 1539),320; Tractatus de venenis fol. 3v-4r. 27 The Bestiary: of the A Book of Beasts,beinga Translation froma Latin Bestiary Twelfth Century, ed. and tr.T. H. White(New York, 1960),208-10;Basil Hom. in Hex. In hex. Bas. 7.5.6-9,6.8. 67E-68A, 69A; Eustathius


Brian P. Copenhaver

ofnature. ThatAmbrose calledbothfish "small"(exiguus) pla, notobjects and depictedboth as battered blurredtheir by wind and wave further identities.28 The resultsof such textualdegradation can be seen in the ofJacquesde Vitry, an important sermons homilist who liveduntil1240:
a sea fish, and small,often Echinus is a good fish, worthless a harbinger of foul to come. Whenit sensesa storm or fairweather it takeshold of a stone coming, and uses it as an anchor so as not to be knockedabout by the waves, thus itself notwithitsown powersbutwithanother's steadying weight. Throughthis storm. In likemanner, thesaints, thecoming whoareworthless signsailorsdetect to thisage, abjectand smallin their in their own powers put no trust lowliness, but steadythemselves and temptations against the stormof persecutions by Christ and Christ with the works of who is the the stone of himself, fortifying But letno one despisethecounselsofthesimpleand lowlybrethren corner. since thesignofa little fish from and prepare sailorstakeprovision themselves against a huge ship motionless also renders so that the storm.In thisway the echinus it rootedin thesea, though thefishitself is smallin size. you wouldalmostthink And the saints,little and lowlypeople,are so greatin virtue thatby preaching how to behavewell theyoften restrain thegreatprinces and showing ofthisage from the impulseof iniquity.29

ofoccultpowerbecamein the thatwas Pliny'sleadingproof The echeneis a churchman's guise of the echinus exampleof God's powerin nature. ThomasofCantimpre The thirteenth-century that encyclopedist admitted the ship-holding to many,buttheauthorstrust "seemedincredible story it so muchand agreeso closelythatno doubtat all remains on thetopic." forhis accountof Pliny'smagical When he invokedChnrstian authority ofpower.If it was Thomasgavethispagan talean enduring baptism fish, on Pliny'sauthority thatThomas furnished his equinus with"spinesin he shouldalso have knownthatPliny place offeet"(spinae propedibus), or wings.30Albertus equippedtheecheneis with pinnae Magnus grouped it withsimilar"barb-like his escynus withthe crabs and fitted organs he of and on [aculeos quosdam] instead feet," to describe though goes that his ship-holder was halfa footlong,but Albertus, confounded by

he callsthisfish Pliny's theadjective rock-holding echinus, semipedalis, hadusedinbook32 tospecify thesizeoftheecheneis. meant Pliny Pliny

spinae, pinnae, andecheneis, echinus, seems to have takensemipedalis to mean "61 or ""having semi-footed" foot-like organs.""This escynus," wrote
Albert,"is the fishof whichwe have said in an earlierpassage thatit

AmbroseExameron 5.9.24, 10.30-3 1. Greven (ed.),Die Exempla ausdenSermonesferiales etcommunes desJakob Joseph vonVitry (Heidelberg, 1914), vii,22-23. 30 Thomas ofCantimpre, De natura rerum (lit.IV-XI) (Granada, 1974),134(7.31); above, n. 10;Lynn A History ofMagic andExperimental Science Thorndike, (NewYork, II, 361,373,377,381,383;Thordike, an invaluable source ofinformation on 1923-58), for magical thethirteenth through theseventeenth centuries, indexes theremora objects andthetorpedo throughout hiseight volumes.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


holds back a ship," and in that place he had explainedthat magicians and navim)forlove-potions (detinens soughtthe inedible"ship-holder" butallowed has feet escynus He deniedthattheship-holding hate-charms. feet."'31 resemble wingssomewhat that"its feathered of specieswas not an issue in the ancientsourceson Since confusion was less puzzlingto medievalauthorities identity that fish's the torpedo, even thoughscribalerrorsand than the natureof the proteanecheneis, who sometimes Albertus, of languagecaused some misnaming. barriers itsusual Latinnameas well reported to call theraystupefactor, preferred of r1vapK1. Vincentof transliterations and berachi, corrupt as barkys agreed narco.32 ThomasofCantimpre themarkwith Beauvaiscamenearer poweris verygreat,"and Albertrecorded withAlbertthat"its numbing man who to tryit out touchedit from"a truthful personaltestimony awayhishandand armup to theshoulder hisfingertips; right with quickly ointments became so numbthatwithmuch use of hot baths,poultices, in hisarmin and movement recover feeling and massagehe couldscarcely extended his informant's Albertelsewhere less thana month."Although grewout halfa year,we mayacceptthatsuch testimony through misery evidence to the and that,as in antiquity, appeal empirical of experience the magicalfameof the torpedoformedievalpeople.33 helpedreinforce also propagatedbeliefin magic in early The appeal to experience a groupoflearned century modemEurope.In themiddleofthesixteenth as consulted antiquity well as theirown and pharmacologists physicians thefame ofthe and thereby natural to reform promoted history experience of covered a broadspectrum Theirnatural history and thetorpedo. remora botanyand zoology,oftenwith medical ends in mind. Their powers in human and comparative were sharpened by progress of observation by a new nourished by traveland fieldwork,and amplified anatomy, oftexts and widedissemination fortheaccuratereproduction technology accessto Greekand Roman and illustrations. Printing gavethesescholars aboutantiquity Theircuriosity earlier. a century erudition unimaginable thattheirnatural themso powerfully forit stirred and theirreverence as biological.Whenthenewscience becameas muchphilological history their or threatened past authority, theywere developingcontradicted to overcome enough strong evidence was seldom respectforreasonand on ancient testimony did moreto broadcast they tradition. Consequently,
31 Albertus ed. Herman Magnus,De animalibuslibrixxvinach der ColnerUrschrift, XV-XVI), (Munster, Stadler(Beitragezur Geschichteder Philosophiedes Mittelalters, XV, 259, XVI, 1532-33(; 24.1.48); see also: AlberttheGreat,Man and 1916-20), 1987), 351-52;above, 22-6,tr.JamesJ. Scanlan (Binghamton, theBeasts:De animalibus n. 7. 1481), 18.75(no pp. or sigs.); 32 Vincent of Beauvais,Speculumnaturale(Strasbourg, ed. Stadler,XV, 468, 619, XVI, 1548 (; 8.3.114; 24.1.127); cf.Scanlan Albertus, tr.,376. 33 Albertus, XV, 619, XVI, 1548 (8.3.114; 24.1.127); cf.Scanlan tr.,376. ed. Stadler,


Brian P. Copenhaver

establishit. Theywerebetter at discovering, occultpowerthanto refute Greek and Latin textsthat containedsuch beliefs ing, and explicating as magical forphenomena treated on new explanations thanat agreeing ancients. by the venerated ofthenewphilological thefirst expression For ourpurposes, important physician bytheEnglish animalium published is theDe differentiis biology of Edward Wottonin 1552; his book is a primeexampleof the poverty are more and thetorpedo oftheecheneis descriptions Wotton's erudition. of Albertus, but theysay to Plinythanthe garbledrecollections faithful the a thousandyearsbefore.34 By contrast, thatwas not familiar nothing De aquatilibus(1553) of Pierre Belon accounts for the powers of the to its coldnessbut medical fashionby referring torpedoin traditional observation. on based independent in a manner the clearly ray depicts "Depicts" is thekeyword.The fulltitleofBelon's workis TwoBookson as far as Possibletheir Living with Illustrations Creatures Depicting Water accurateviewsof the torpresent Likeness,and threeof his illustrations GuillaumeRondelet modemichthyology, IfBelonpioneered early pedo.35 in expression phase of thatscienceits fullest philological gave the first, ofthetorpedo improve pictures marinis (1554). Rondelet's hisDe piscibus in theabsenceofcleartaxonomical and detail, though on Belon'sin clarity several"kinds"(genera)oftherayon thebasis he distinguished guidelines on thetorpedo, authorities Greek He citedancient ofsuperficial markings. on the fish's as well as Latin, but he also made his own observations facultas: stupefying I putmyhandon it,I actually summer's heatwas at itspeakwhen Although a torpedo judgethat ofcoldfrom felt a sensation longdead.. ., andso I would thecauses a living to count contact with among torpedo Galenwasquiteright is alsotrue which ofopium, numbness is cold, Thecauseofthis ofnumbness.... butalsosome unseen (caeca itisnotcoldalone power mandrake andhenbane, yet in thetorpedo. For Galenalso seems to ascribe innate quaedamvis)naturally ofthe notonly tocoldbutalsotoitsobscure faculty (obscurae this torpedo power and sincethe to confirm his experience, Rondelethad Galenic precedent were also Galen's, it is no he used to evaluatehis experience categories thathe added an empiricaland occult qualityto the rational, surprise Rondelet manifest qualityofcold. Whenhe soughtthetorpedo'ssecrets,
decem.... (Paris, 1552), animaliumlibri 34Edoardi Wottoni de differentiis Oxoniensis in Tudor of Natural History 145, 149; F. D. and J. F. M. Hoeniger,The Development D.C., 1969), 30-32. England (Washington, ad vivamipsorum 35 PetriBellonii Cenomanide aquatilibuslibriduo cum iconibus (Paris, 1553),90-93;M. Wong,"Belon, Pierre," effigiem quoad eiusfieripotuitexpressis accountsof the I, 595-96;forothersixteenth-century of Scientific Biography, Dictionary Magic, V, 101,473, 477, 646, VI, 131-32,186, see Thorndike, torpedoand theecheneis, 205-6,564-65.


MagicalObjects in Natural History


of Galen,buthis searched thedocksof Veniceas wellas thetreatises to breakthespelloftraditional was notenough open-minded curiosity in magic.36 belief explanations thatfostered in theAquatilium of the torpedo animalium historiae The picture than Ippolito Salviani, is moreaccurate (1554) of thepapal physician, are visually all of which striking and so someof his other engravings, LikeRondelet, Salviani follows Galen'sline ensured thebook'sinfluence. andqualitas is more intrion theray's caeca,buthisargument frigiditas in a increases dead animal, thedecrease in the cate:sincecold always that itsfaculty must be derived from someargues deadtorpedo's power thatSalviani other thancold-the occultquality locatedin the thing oneofitsparts. rather than Anatomical studies inthenext animal whole in but his refute Salviani's owndaythechoice would conclusion, century animal madesenseto anyphysician whoknew howGalen ofthewhole ofthewhole substance.37 to effects linked occult qualities dense illustrations Konrad Gesner tothe pagesandseven gavetwelve et animantium natura his De One in (1558). aquatilium torpedo piscium Gesnerexhausted menof a learned the of the mostlearned century, on therayandsurveyed findclassical literature available contemporary for effects from thetorpedo milder than those ingsas well.As a witness hecited Pierre like inancient andmedieval claimed Gilles, who, sources, on thefishof Marseilles. Aelianand had written him,had translated he acquired an illustration of theraythat From"a Venetian painter" in Rondelet, buthe doubted itsreliability. Actually, resembled nothing ofall Gesner's that source wasthechief Admitting ichthyology. Rondelet of thetorpedo what "no oneunderstands power has,"he addednothing The samecan be of theray'seffects.38 to Rondelet's interest analysis De piscibus learned andequally saidoftheposthumous (1613)ofUlisse "Whatever theray's numbness Aldrovandi, Aldrovandi. may be,"wrote from a manifest andnot "itarises from a certain obscure andoccult quality ofthemost reason and from theauthority from one,as can be proved
sunt(Lyon, 1554), pisciumeffigies expressae in quibusverae regiilibride piscibusmarinis XI, Biography, of Scientific 360-61; A. G. Keller, "Rondelet,Guillaume,"Dictionary Anazarbeide medicinalimaterialibrisex 527-28; above, n. 25; cf. Pedanii Dioscoridis medici interprete (Lyon, 1550), 153;Pauli IoviiNovocomensis Ioanne RuellioSuessionensi de Rbmanis piscibuslibellus(Basel, 1561), 148-49. et episcopi Nucerini 37 IppolitoSalviani, historiae (Rome, 1554),fols.142-43;Carlo animalium Aquatilium XII, 89-90. ofScientific Biography, Dictionary Castellani,"Salviani,.Ippolito," 38 ConradiGesneri animaliumliberIIII qui estde pisciumet mediciTigurini historiae ad vivum expressisfere omnibus singulorum natura, cum iconibus aquatiliumanimantium edition of 1604,pp. 988-98;also Claudii cf.theFrankfurt DCCVI(Zurich, 1558),1182-94; ... cura et opera ConradiGesneri Aeliani ... operaquae extantomniagraece latineque Latinifacti per PetrumGyllium (Zurich, 1556), 15-16,107, 190,286; Ex Aelianihistoria piscium(Lyon, 1533),369; ... Eiusdem Gylliiliberunusde Galliciset Latinisnominibus V, 378-79. ofScientific Biography, P. E. Pilet,"Gesner,Konrad," Dictionary
36 Gulielmi in scholaMonspeliensi professoris mediciet medicinae Rondeletii doctoris


Brian P. Copenhaver

The reasonand authority Salviani's, wereactually respected authors." on the addition of an occult to quality theray's had insisted only who alone.39 It is doubtful, in anyevent, quality noton theoccult frigiditas, from Salviani's compromise couldhavegained anything that Aldrovandi alone. To discredit occult qualities onmanifest qualities oreven bysettling ofitsmetaphysical physics, repudiation oftraditional required a complete inmedicine, andofitsinfluential butthese were transcontext expression Gassendi's generation. thatawaited formations thenatural historians who Between Belon'stimeand Aldrovandi's, itsproperties theecheneis and explain also helped reinto identify tried andsupporting in occult talesofshipforce belief qualities byrepeating fish inthe lastsection ofhisbookamong this elusive Belon placed holding. andthesea-hare, andhe followed book32 as thesea-horse suchoddities inform itslug-like andbehavior. that inmaking fishermen Noting ofPliny in seines, he addedPliny's stories ofstalled in Corcyra tooktheecheneis Rondelet attributed therarity to this data.40 Romanships contemporary which he called"exotic andunon theecheneis, information ofcurrent ofseveral varieties described He to confusion bytheancients. known," that "no natural explanation applies" opinion repeated AdamLonitzer's totheecheneis, ascribed buthe alsohelped totheproperties traditionally andtoexplain toclarify thefish's this tradition identity erode byseeking It was thepseudo-Aristotelian Mechanics that itspowers mechanically. therudder ofa shipas a lever, Thatwork treats hisexplanation. inspired itssmall themuch astern enables whose size,to move it,despite position to theecheneis Rondelet extended thismistaken vessel. principle larger itself notto thekeelofa shipbutto its that thefish attached byarguing thevessel from which itsleverage couldmake lose stemorrudder, point had beentoldthatshipsnewly coatedwithpitch Rondelet headway.41 on a voyage to Romeconand his ownexperience attracted lampreys, himthat a lamprey. "We were vinced thefabled was in fact ship-holder he wrote, "whenwe saw our alongin a finetrireme," sailing rapidly course and when askedwhatthecausewas,at checked, thepassengers that itwasdonebythepower ofa lamprey attached lastitwasdiscovered itwascaptured to therudder andserved for when [clavus]; byitsmouth I ithadcaused. havethe thefish thedelay paida price for dinner, [mora] in thenobleandimportant menwho most reliable witnesses to this fact
39 Ulisse Aldrovandi, DepiscibuslibriVet de cetisliberunus(Bologna, 1613),415-23; Scienza e naturanel secondocinquecento above,n. 36; GiuseppeOlmi, UlisseAldrovandi: ofScientific Biog"Aldrovandi, Ulisse,"Dictionary (Trent,1976), 11-42;Carlo Castellani, raphy, I, 108-10. 40 Belon,De aquatilibus, 436, 440. 41 Rondelet, De piscibus historiae opusnovum in quo tracta436-41;Naturalis marinis, terrestrium, volatifruticum, herbarum, animantiumque turde naturaet viribus arborum, ... perAdamumLonicerum [Arist.] liumetaquatilium (Frankfurt, 1551),fols.307v-309r; Mech. 850b28-5 1a38.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


thetale oftheship-holder, debunking sailed in thissame ship." Far from to thisancientstory, but,like PluRondeletlenthis personaltestimony fortheusual occultcause. a mechanical explanation tarch,he substituted ofthetorpedo, SinceRondelet usedoccultpowerto accountfortheeffects of magic of such causes,but his mistrust opponent he was no consistent another'sopinion, was reporting whenhe insiststhatAristotle emerges could be used in delaying how the echeneis not his own, in mentioning "Those who believethis,"he realove-potions. and preparing law-suits of delayingships thatobscurefaculty soned, "seem to have transferred ofwomenin firm tiesoflove." whichtheysuppose[ithas] to thebinding intothe role of analogyin magicis impressive.42 Rondelet'sinsight a picture oftheecheneis, BelonnorRondelet though Neither published ofthelamprey. Salvianididnotmention an illustration Rondelet provided Gesner gave it fivepages, whichforthe most partrepeat the echeneis. GesneroutdidRondeletonlyin his Rondelet,but theybear no picture. obserhe addeda second-hand oftheclassicalliterature, though command fish.43 Ferrante diskofa small,goby-like Imperato's vationofthesuctorial a precisof Rondelet'sleveranalogy,but NaturalHistory (1599) offered as "the remoraof the ancients"was not Rondelet's thefishhe identified as well as his brief correillustration description His life-sized lamprey. thathe had seentwo mentioned Aldrovandi spondto themodemremora. theother takenfrom one resembling Belon'sfish, oftheecheneis, pictures apparatus he preferred. Although the suctorial whoseversion Imperato, of its Aldrovandi thought fish was "on theupperpart head," ofImperato's was under itschin, whosesucker Gesner'sgoby-echeneis, thatitresembled to of ship-stopping Plutarch'smechanicalexplanation and he preferred a of the last to write Natural whowas one Rondelet's.4FromJanJonston, and his predecessors, we learn History (1649) in the styleof Aldrovandi had madeoftheecheneis: naturalists whata muddlethesixteenth-century are so much ... I can write certain, anything Oftheremora or echeneis hardly is described variously by intoopposing theauthors divided camps.... The fish the modems.... Likewise isnoagreement onitamong the ancients ... andthere of holding anyof thisis fortheexplanations of its faculty ships.... Hardly probable. notso muchto Belon,Rondelet, In thislastremark, Jonston was referring Imperato,and Aldrovandias to anothergroup of writers-physicians, of ingetheologians-whoconcocteda variety humanists, philosophers,

361, 401, 440. De piscibusmarinis, Rondelet, 43Ibid., 398; Gesner,De piscium... natura,410-15,702. ImperatoNapolitano... (Venice, 1672), 679, 684; 4"Historianaturaledi Ferrante 335-40. De piscibus, Aldrovandi,


Brian P. Copenhaver

and also ofthetorpedo, forthepowersoftheecheneis niousexplanations the two fishas a pair,as Plinyhad.45 since manyof themtreated the debateon the echeneis thought, As withmuch sixteenth-century by phiand constrained was bothclarified predecessors amongJonston's a settled when humanist textual critic began lology.Lexical clarification baggageencumbered in Pliny, butphilological of "echeneis" themeaning who reviewedthe and otherwriters the inquiriesof naturalhistorians frequency. aspectsof the questionwithstupefying textualand linguistic Plinianae one was of the whose (1493) Castigationes Barbaro, Ermolao century, of the late fifteenth major vehiclesof the Pliny controversy of the fishdescribed the textualidentity by Plinyin book 9. established he explained, "One mustwriteecheneis," fish is another in Latin.... For echinus or remiligo calledremora forthefish error of a This was the certain modem in Latin. erinaceus disgraceful called ofthetwo fish andproperties as ifthey were the whodescribes shape philosopher were this Would that a natures into different monstrosity. single fusing very one, be somebasisfor hishaving so that there would history, sininnatural hisonly wonthetitle "great." of species on the Later criticswere blunterin blamingthe conflation when Qirolamo FraBy mid-century, saintedAlbertor on Ambrose.46 the exchangeof polemicson the echeneis, castoroset offan influential of Pliny'sship-holder was textualas opposed to the biologicalidentity recognized. generally et antipathia De sympathia (1546) ofFracastoro's chapter The eighth in whichit can make and themanner to "the echeneis is devotedentirely one ships stand still." Fracastoroproposedthat like objects attracted ofspecies ofatomsor byemission spirituales. another bymutualexchange cause or (recall be a sympathetic might thatthe echeneis He suggested suchcause. In thelatter Plutarch's algae and seaweed)thesignofanother to the ship a habitsmade its attachment event,the fish'srock-dwelling in sympathy with formations emitting species magnetic signofsubmerged itself theecheneis the ship'snails or some otherpartof it. Alternatively, an exchange of specieswithmagcaused sympathetic attraction through neticrocksor by an emissionof "corpusclesin the mannerof the torthe ship cannotbe drawndown pedo.... Because of its own resistance, from theshipbecause of be removed to thebottom, norcan theecheneis its own strong affixion owingto thevacuum,whenceit is thattheshipis
IohannesIonstonius etcetislibrosVcum aeneisfiguris naturalis depiscibus 45Historiae Jan," (Frankfurt, 1649), 16-17; J. K. Crellin,"Jonston, medicinaedoctorconcinnavit VII, 164-65. Biography, Dictionary ofScientific 46 Castigationes ad Plin. Nat. PliniiHermolaiBarbari(Venice,c. 1493-94),sig. hviiiv, see Plin. Nat. 8.133; Plaut. Cas. 80; on Albertand 9.75; forremeligo and irenaceus, urbanorum Raphaelis VoDe piscibus, 335; Commentariorum Ambrose, see: Aldrovandi, libri... (Basel, 1530),fol. 308r. laterrani octoet triginta

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


attachedto firmly stoppedor at least retarded."Something powerfully an attracforms parts, or theship'smagnetic theecheneis theship,either and fixedin place. Trapped rockssubmerged withmagnetic tivesystem the ship stops or slows.47 Frasourcesof attraction, by two immovable GirolamoCardano,suppliedthenextchapter castoro'sfellowphysician, his lapses, Rondeletquoted the and to illustrate of misunderstanding, De subtilitate (1550), whichcomhisencyclopedic following passagefrom on the echeneis: poundsmedievalmistakes the which suchas thetorpedo, powers, famous for their arealso fishes "There oftheechinus, which andofthegenus common It is very calltremoriza. Genoans it whocapture offishermen numb thehands andstupefy that spines has many is another echinus, Butthere in it onlywhen innate living. power bya certain butto thebivalves [conchae], ofthespiny torpedo notto thegenus belonging errors he has howmany Rondelet] call remora...." See [says theLatins which hisconclusion to Aristotle ascribes he falsely in a fewwords. First, embraced and torpedo that theremora [cf.tremoriza] ofnameand effect similarity from oftheechinus.... in thegenus to putthetorpedo he seems areone.... Next, to call it echeneis.... he ought echinus ... when he callstheremora Then, than Later Cardano undid some of these tangles,which are knottier the of how the careers show and in the medieval encyclopedias anything In De rerumvarietate echeneisand the torpedohad been intertwined. thelatter bothBelonand Rondeletand followed (1557), he acknowledged to account and usingthelever explanation a lamprey incalling theecheneis forits powers.48 but another to theecheneis controversy nothing Cardano contributed hismistakes were Caesar Scaliger, Thanksto Julius dose ofbewilderment. the elder and physician, Soldier,scholar,botanist, to be immortalized. blunand Cardano's long,rambling, Scaligerwas above all a polemicist; The verytitleof Scalito controversy. books werean enticement dering onSubtlety ... jeersat Cardano, Exercises BookofExoteric ger'sFifteenth it. Scaligerknewhow have preceded others might thatfourteen implying in its range, was diverting and cruel; his erudition to be both funny longafter century, in itsexpression. Even intotheeighteenth convincing
opera FracastoriiVeronensis et antipathia1.1, 5, 8 in Hieronymi 47De sympathia Girolamo," 86; BrunoZanobio, "Fracastoro, omnia . .. (Venice, 1555),fols.79, 81v-83v, e la polemV, 104-7;Paolo Rossi,"II Metodoinduttivo Biography, ofScientific Dictionary 9 (1954), in G. Fracastoro,"Rivistacriticadi storiadella filosofla, ica antioccultistica 485-99. philoCardaniMediolanensis 440-41;cf.Hieronymi De piscibusmarinis, 48 Rondelet, 539; Hieronymi ... (Lyon, 1563), 116-18, tertius tomus operum celeberrimi sophiac medici Cardani libri XVII (Basel, 1557),400-401,405; Hieronymi varietate Cardani... de rerum De piscibus,335; Markus libriXXI ... (Basel, 1560), 751; Aldrovandi, ... de subtilitate Mathematician, Natural Philosopher, Fierz, GirolamoCardano, 1501-1576:Physician, and Interpreter of Dreams,tr. H. Niman (Boston, 1983), 1-8,22, 25, 31-34, Astrologer, 88-116.


Brian P. Copenhaver

kept Scaliger'sExercitationes wereforgotten, his otherbooks and victims thisworkhelped its audience.Thoughit lacked any real depthor unity, in the Scientific beliefs simply Revolution the fateof occultist determine because the malignedCardano had discussedmagic in De subtilitate. on the echeneis, comments were directed however, Scaliger'sinfluential thanat Cardano,whomhe mockedfortheconfusions moreat Fracastoro philosophical thatRondelethad alreadyspotted.Scaligerscentedbigger hiscauses(atoms, vacuum)incoherent species, finding gamein Fracastoro, to thepowersclaimed disproportionate and thesmallsize oftheecheneis and he accounted for Fracastoro'sreductionism, for it. He distrusted to beliefin magic: muchfriendlier in a manner ship-stopping a lineevenifit is numbness intothehandsthrough forces Just as thetorpedo animal is nofable-inthesame affects themotion this nottouched-for waythis immobile becauseof suchas thepoles,are always ofa ship.... Somethings, of their someby reason partof the their place,suchas thecentral function; arealways somethings mobile such byfunction, earth.... On theother hand, oftheir suchas rivers, in thenature andothers, place.Thus,in as theheavens; of moving; there is a power others havea suchas themagnet, somethings, that remove oneinstance andofthis is motion, i.e.,those faculty, sort, contrary are Just as rest andmotion Butthis is explained theecheneis. bybasicprinciples. efficient causes contraries.... Theprinciples ofheat so alsoaretheir contraries, oftheprinciples to no one,and thesameis true of in fire havebeendisclosed of impudence to reduce all things For it is theheight to restin theecheneis. have resolved Alexandrians andhavestruggled as many manifest rashly qualities, haveproperties other thanthequalities ofthe in vainto do.... [Many things] butthey deceive the remain for sober hidden, completely spirits they elements; canreduce allthings tofixed, manifest think those who qualities.... they curious, that ofoccult Andyetthey ridicule refuge properties....49 saving but not only by his Exercitationes Scaliger'scritiquewas disseminated on the echeneiswho used his book. Francesco also by the authorities citedScaligerand Fracastorovia theCoimbracomSuarez,forexample, in a chapteragainstactionat a distancewhichalso discusses mentators the torpedo."I judge a thingto be veryoccult,"wroteSuarez, "if it is his order."He confessed to reduceit to somepowerofa higher necessary about the source of the echeneis'spower while suggesting uncertainty a qualityon the ship that eitherthe fishimpresses threepossibilities: or theshipis unableto overcome thefish's innate counteracts itsimpetus, or the fishholds the ship in the same way thata qualityof immobility, man holds a stone in his hand. "However this happens,"Suarez con-

49 decimus de subtiliexercitationum liberquintus exotericarum JuliiCaesarisScaligeri Cardanum(Paris, 1557), fols.290-9Jr; VernonHall, Life of Julius tatead Hieronymum n.s. 40, Society, oftheAmerican Philosophical Caesar Scaliger(1484-1558),Transactions pt. 2 (Philadelphia,1950), 101, 122, 130, 140-46,153.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


cluded,"there is no doubtthatit arisesfrom a wondrous and occult virtue, perhaps with the special andconnatural influence oftheheavens."50 Celestial influence was onlyone oftheagencies invoked to account forship-stopping. In order to showthatman-made as wellas natural objects had a consensus or sympathetic vitality, Tommaso Campanella in De sensurerum et magia(1620) how the slower explained of two identical ships wasimpeded byhaving lessconsensus with thegoalofits voyage. "Thus,it seemsrather he added,"thatin theship's certain," is a sense is removed woodthere ofnavigation which bytheremora; this induces a dullness which when amplified benumbs thewhole ship justas fish benumbs thefisherman's hand."Campanella's another vitalism was fervent.51 Others mechanical InDe mirunusually proposed explanations. beenthinking ofPlutarch whenhe associated thefish with theorganic on theship'sbottom. burden Bartholemew growing who Keckermann, in Gdansk until offered an ideamore taught philosophy 1609, applicable than oftheBaltic Likehistorpedo, totheicywaters totheMediterranean. that somehow thewater theship's humor around sticky congeals rudder it hardto move."52 andmakes hadsuggested, atoms andcorpuscles were As Fracastoro goodsubstior spirits or humors, tutes forspecies and theagency of tiny particles as the became seventeenth wore on.Gassendi increasingly popular century Walter andhisEnglish disciple, revive Charleton, helped Epicurean atomismas a dogmaof theScientific Revolution. thatsince Theyreasoned nocausewithout there wasnonatural effect without a cause, motion and no motion or immediate like without mediate insensible contact, effects, from thetorpedo must be traced to invisible those and echeneis, arising organula suchas rays, miniscule little spirits, effluvia, corpuscles, hooks, ortiny at Gassendi's rods.Somecritics balked atomic strings inventions, liketheJesuit Pierre de Cazree, whosmirked that"youmust be putting us on when those andgrapples." ButCharleton youfabricate little hooks inattributing tothetorpedo sawnothing a "stupefactive emanation" silly halitus that thefisherman's (corpusculorum was Gassendi's enters term) in thecaseoftheecheneis thefish's andtheship's hand, tininess though
50 R. P. Francisci Jesuoperaomnia,editionova,a CaroloBerton... Suarez e societate (Paris, 1861),XXV, 651, 661, 665; Commentariorum CollegliConimbricenses ... in octo libros ... secundapars (Frankfurt, 1609), 316-17. physicorum 51 F. Thomae Campanellae de sensu rerumet magia libri quattuor, pars mirabilis occultae philosophiae ... (Frankfurt, 1620),258-59;cf.Del sensodelle cose e della magia, ed. A. Bruers(Bari, 1925), 218-19. 52De miraculis occultis naturaelibriIIII .. ., auctore LevinoLemniomedicoZirizaeo in (Jena,1588), 530; Breviscommentatio nauticaper aphorismos etproblemata proposita . . . (Hanau, 1621),606-7;Cambridge Gymnasio Dantiscanoa Bartholomae Keckermanno 822-23. History of RenaissancePhilosophy,

aculis occultisnaturae(1559), forexample,Levinus Lemniusmay have

echeneis emitsspirits and humors,". . . a verycold and Keckermann's


Brian P. Copenhaver

he andGassendi Instead, lifelessness ruled outemanations or corpuscles. be stopped a shipmight currents byadverse coincident with guessed that of an echeneis attached to thecraft.53 This ship-stopping thediscovery infact itbecame the ofa serious current wasa reasonable subject proposal; in It seems oddthat so compelling an scientific study ourowncentury.54 haveemerged after scholars had discussed theecheneis ideashould only butas faras I am aware, currents arefirst mentioned for twomillennia, intheseventeenth inthis totheingenuities century. Compared of context theideaofcurrents andtheabstractions ofSuarez, Keckermann seduces our common givesan ironicresonance to sense;and the comparison those fishes callremoras, causes which cient they writers] discoursing (like to the sides of have in fact hindered the stick are saidto ships), voyage
of the sciences ... and have broughtit to pass that the and progress in De augmentis ". . . these[anscientiarum: FrancisBacon's comments

Baconwanted the causeshas beenlongneglected." inquiry ofphysical doctors oftheschools causes"by Suarezand other to of "final pursuit into"physical as longas scientific to empirical causes," yet yield inquiry as Keckermann's, as contorted Bacon's discourse permitted explanations ironic in thattheinvestigation Thisis doubly of waywas no solution." onthetorpedo, would be completed unlike research theecheneis, through moreor less as Baconhad promoted natural historical it. Yet inquiry settled on thesimple and convincing Gassendi and Charleton notion of theeffects in relaafter oftheecheneis currents considering adverse only causes(corpuscles, with tion toother effluvia, etc.)as heavy metaphysical as the finalcausesof the schoolmen whomBacon discommitments paraged. In deciding somecausefor to find effects attributed to theecheneis, andCharleton conceded theship-stopping Gassendi that stories accumurespect. Theycouldnot simply latedsincePliny's day deserved their dismiss so many theoften authoritative tales.But Athanasius Kircher, Jesuit of tradition. credulous was less timid Puzzling over polymath, inthedepths Fracastoro's a vacuum tofind ofthesea andover his ability failure to realize that than ships should havebeen more oneofAntony's he set to "investigating affected the matter more by magnetic rocks, unless others thislittle correct that fish me,I conclude deeply, whence,
53Gassendi, Opera Omnia, I, 449-57, VI, 450; PhysiologiaEpicuro-GassendoCharltoniana: Or a FabrickofScienceNatural,upontheHypothesis ofAtoms, Foundedby Epicurus,Repairedby PetrusGassendus, Augmented by WalterCharleton ... (London, 1654), 375-77. 54V. Walfrid Ekman,"On Dead Water:beinga description oftheso-calledphenomenon oftenhindering the headingand navigation of shipsin NorwegianFjords and elsewhere,and an experimental of the causes, etc.," in The Norwegian investigation North Polar Expedition, 1893-1896, Nansen(Christiana, Scientific Results, V, ed. Fridtjof 1906), vi-vii. "1 JamesSpedding(ed.), The Works ofFrancisBacon (New York, 1869), VIII, 509.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


is simply a fable... and thatprobably no such animalexists.... I do not butI believethis motionless in mid-course, denythatshipsare sometimes ... not to should be ascribedto adversetidesof the sea or to currents, an occult quality." No thoroughgoing opponentof occultism, Kircher from withdrew hissupport thisparticular occultist belief despite itsvenerability and, in part,on thebasis of contemporary evidence.In a friend's he had seen a specimen cabinetofcuriosities labelled"remora"whichhe to identify withPliny'sship-holder, hesitated and he believed thatthefish "I have so littleconfidence often foundattachedto shipswerelampreys. in the story(or ratherthe fable) of the echeneis," he asserted,"that I whenthe whole globe shouldsay littlemoreof it. For in moderntimes, in so muchvoyaging, who has seen anything like it in has been travelled In a similar Santorio Santorio foundthe theocean?"56 vein,thephysician to the echeneisincompatible with the postoccult qualitiesattributed thathe helpedconstruct, buton thebasis Galenic,quantitative physiology his famouscontemporary of authority and experience, and critic, Daniel more conclusion faithful Galen a to and Arisreached contrary Sennert, totle: ofoccult writes thatthemaintainers havebeentoo creduqualities [Santoriol fabulous and superstitious talesgo up and thatmany lous..., [and]I confess which are spoken are notfabulous of [as] ... occult down;but ... al things .. , Poysons .. , Opium. andAntidotes.. ., Peony Root qualities...: Loadstones. ... areknown ... , theNephritick tobe really Stone true.... So byexperience ... Pliny Lib. 32.1confirms.57 also ... oftheEcheneis The diversity of opinionamongthesediversespirits-Sennert, Santorio, there Gassendi-shows thatintheearlyseventeenth was Kircher, century on criteria ofjudgment fordeciding suchcontroversies as little agreement thatthe but theirremarks also suggest as on theidentity oftheecheneis, At theend fish'susefulness as a proof of occultpowerswas beingtested. whichtreats"false or of the thirdbook of the Pseudodoxiaepidemica, dubious" beliefsabout animals,Sir Thomas Brownesparesonly a few but theyare enoughto show how its reputation wordsforthe echeneis,
56Athanasii Kircheri Fuldensis e Societate Iesu, Magnesseu de artemagnetica Buchonii ... (Rome, 1654), opus tripartitum (Rome, 1641),759-61;Magnessivede artemagnetica 519-25;Joscelyn Godwin,Athanasius Kircher: A Renaissance Man and theQuest forLost Knowledge(London, 1979), 9-15, 72-83; forotherseventeenth-century authorson the see Thorndike, torpedoand the remora, Magic, VII, 227-28,241-42,247, 282, 284, 287, 290, 318-19, 326, 357, 359, 361, 383-85,511, 602, 672, VIII, 4-5, 42, 270-71,292-93, 299-300,492, 509, 517, 537, 607-8,655. ... methodi et symp57 Sanctorii Sanctorii vitandorum errorum omnium in morborum tomatum ideisperquirendis (Venice, 1630), 643-44;NaturalPhilosophical Discourses [in] Thirteen Books ofNaturalPhilosophy in Latin and EnglishbyDaniel Sennert ... written ... NicholasCulpeper... and AbdiahCole ... (London, 1661),435, 439; M. D. Grmek, "Santorio, Santorio," and Hans Kangro,"Sennert, Daniel,"Dictionary ofScientifc Biography,XII, 101-4,310-13.


Brian P. Copenhaver

there are whoseserious enquiries we "Manymore[beliefs] was waning.

the Storyof "[as] . . . whether mustrequestof others,"Brownewrites, amplified."958 be notunreasonably theRemora

of ifnotunreasonable, was theconcurrent amplification Ineffective, thatbegged effects mechanisms thetorpedo's through efforts to explain than the"narcotic more faculty" proposed discursively thequestion only Pare wrotethatthe ray "emitsa distillation"; Ambroise by Kircher. forspirits Sennert forspiritual and humors; species. Keckermann opted Gassendi where had mentioned corpusCharleton spokeofemanations
... venomousexhalacles. When RobertBoyle described"stupefactive tionsthat expire... fromthe animal ... and are breathedin together .. . [or] .. . poisonoussteams[that]getin at the withthe air theyinfect

views ofhiscencommon he wasonly oftheskin," reformulating pores a there of Giovanni Borelli emerged But in theiatromechanics tury.59 sortofmechanism, fora different one recontext anatomical coherent bothbodies oftheray'sbodyon itsvictim's, to effects ofparts stricted aura or occult machines. No couldacfaculty as understood poisonous were because these effects Borelli absent for the argued, count effects, ray's thatits showed in certain Experiment partsof it and whileit rested. andhe resembled that bya blowon theelbow, effect produced numbing motions fish's muscular when the struck repeated that itarose concluded itsvictim's blowsagainst fingers.60 referred to firstorsecondmodern investigators early Clearly, many more andmore than anything frequently lucidly hand reported experience Like for Kircher Middle example, Borelli, or the Ages. from antiquity he found itseffects brief theray.And though to havehandled claimed theusual"insensible as wellas he stillrequired quality" and localized, them. Evenhalf a century ofcoldto explain earlier, themanifest quality tradition with common had experiThomas Erastus challenged however, fish. But ofthis consensus theamazing power ence:"Common supports I have intothese matters, andmost diligently zealously inquired having In Venice, fishermen deny certain. many beenable to discover nothing also ever a great numbing power... ." Erastus that possesses animal] [this on theray, thesoundness ofGalen'sviews doubted yetevenwillingness failed to endthe to fresh to challenge andopenness experience authority inoccult A remark ofPierre roleinconfirming belief powers.61 torpedo's

58 Geoffrey II: PseudodoxiaEpidemofSir ThomasBrowne, Keynes(ed.), The Works ica, Books I- VII (Chicago, 1964), 267. d'Ambroise Par'e... (Paris,1585),lxxii; 59 Kircher, Magnes(1641), 765-66;Les oeuvres (1661), 442-44;above,nn. 52-53;RobertBoyle,"EssaysoftheStrange Sennert, Discourses in The Works NatureofEffluviums," oftheHonourDeterminate Subtilty, GreatEfficacy, able RobertBoyle... (London, 1772), III, 669, 702. 60 Johannes Borellide motuanimalium pars secunda. . ., editioaltera,corAlphonsi et emendatior (Leiden, 1685), 322-23. rectior 61 ... authoreThomaErasto ... (Basel, 1574), potestatibus De occultis pharmacorum

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


Bayle'sin reviewing Francis Willughby's Historia piscium (1686) shows still commanded therespect ofintelligent thattheancients observers on "What theeveoftheEnlightenment: is saidhere ofthetorpedo ... makes oftheAncients us realize that thetradition onthenumbing power ofthis fish is notentirely false. It is a pleasure for theModems when they behave those for ofa misdirected havenogreater decently, spirit satisfaction than in giving thelie to Aristotle, Pliny, Aelian, Gesner, Rondelet, etc.The author ofthisbookis notone ofthem.... "Though theevasive Bayle theextent ofthebreach understated between perhaps Willughby andhis predecessors, he doesnotexaggerate thedurability ofancient beliefs so in Modem experience severely challenged his century.62 continued to the torpedo's whileno modemexplanation confirm strange property seemed moresatisfactory thananyother nor,forsome,morecredible resort to occult thanthetime-honored qualities. ofthetorpedo's Certain conceded aspects power widely byearly modrelevant tothe ofphilosophical were emauthorities especially propagation formagical belief. The transmission of theray's contexts and physical forexample, effect comment on through fishing implements, provoked anxious topreserve the ata distance. Aristotelian action exclusion Suarez, that thefish attacked itsprey a poison ofsuchaction, specified byemitting theintervening medium. oftheschoolmen, orbyaltering Bacon, scourge in "the more tothis ofmagical granted important category action, seeing ofa fit at a distance, medium...." [which bythecontinuance is]towork
Browne assertedbaldly that "the Torpedo ... alive hath a power to marina... touchedwitha long stick... one degreeof working torpedo

at a distance...." Likemany other Browne limited this stupefy writers, effect to theliving an echoof Galenthatsupported thecommon fish, substance thePeripatetic association ofthe Galenic whole with substantial which wasthemetaphysical ofoccult Sincethe form, ground qualities.63 soulwasa critical human caseofthisabstruse bitofmetaphysics, living a linkin thechain it wasnatural for early modern thinkers to makelife theconcepts ofwholesubstance form. This and substantial connecting
in theDe occultis ofErasvitalism was explicit pharmacorum potestatibus
23-24,42-43;Disputationum de medicina novaPhilippi Paracelsi parsprima... A Thoma Erasto ... (Basel, 1572), 189; cf.Ioannis Fernelii Ambianide abditisrerum causis libri duo (Venice, 1550), 282-83;above,nn. 56, 59. 62 PierreBayle,review of Willughby, De historia Nouvelles de la Republique piscium, des Lettres, August, 1684, in Oeuvresdiverses (The Hague, 1727), I, 584; cf. Francisci Willughbeii Armig. de historia pisciumlibriquatuor... Totumopus recognovit, coaptavit, Raius e societate librumetiamprimumet secundumintegros supplevit, adjecitJohannes regia(Oxford,1686), 81-85;cf.Joannis methodica piscium(London, 1713), Raii synopsis 28. 63 This partof Bacon's Sylvasylvarum in consort (10.960-99)contains"Experiments see Spedding,Works, touchingthe secretvirtueof antipathy and sympathy"; V, 159; and Magic," Keynes,Works of... Browne, II, 262; above,n. 50; Copenhaver, "Astrology 296-300.


Brian P. Copenhaver

on thedead ray'sinefficacy.64 thegeneralinsistence tus,and it confirmed between wholesubstance and occult Implicit acceptance oftheconnection of attempts to localize the source actionmay also accountforthe rarity theanatomical advancesofFrancescoRedi ofthetorpedo's powerbefore and StefanoLorenziniin the 1670s.65 and naturalists of the late Lorenziniand Redi joined otherscientists in bringing centuries and eighteenth the saga of the two seventeenth wouldtaketoo long magicalfishneareritsclose,but theend ofthestory it to say thatwhenvoyagesofexploration Suffice clarified to tellin full.66 of the remoraand connecteda specific fishwith the biologicalidentity to boats,there was no wonder left to explain; theprosaichabitofsticking mechanical behavior be a simple, cause ofordinary at mostthefish's might Precise identification based on credible observationwas retardation. thisparticular whichlostmostofits magicalobject, enoughto disenchant in naturalphilosophy interest as a problem by theend oftheseventeenth of thatcentury, At the beginning physihowever, naturalists, century.67
42-43. ... potestatibus, occultis diverse cosenaturali, a quelle eparticolarmente in una lettera al reverendissimo che ci son portatedall'Indie ... scritte padre Atanasio intorno alle Chircher della compagniadi Giesu (Florence, 1671), 47-54; Osservazioni ... (Florence, 1678); reviewof Redi, torpedini fatte da StefanoLorenziniFiorentino 8 (1673), 6001-6; Miscellanea curiosa sive ephemeridum PhilosophicalTransactions, curiosorum annusnonus Germanicorum Academiaenaturae etdecimus medico-physicarum
65 FrancescoRedi,Esperienze a intorno

64 Erastus, De

66 Petri siveoperaomniade piscibus ... ediditCarolus Artedi Sueci mediciichthyologia Linnaeus ... (Leiden, 1738): "Bibliotheca," 2-65; "Philosophia,"2, 69, 81, 96; "Genera piscium,"14-15,270-73; "Synonymia," 28, 102-3;"Descriptiones," 53-55, 103-6;Renele poissonappelleen FrangoisTorpille, ou Antoinede Reaumur,"Des Effets que produit de lAcademie royaledes sciences, Tremble, sur ceux qui le touche... " Histoire Annee ou dictionnaire des sciences, des raisonne MDCCXIV (Paris, 1741),344-60;Encyclopedie . . . (Neufchatel, artsetdes metiers 1765),XIV, 98, XVI, 428-31;"Of theelectric Property of the Torpedo.In a Letterfrom JohnWalsh,Esq., F.R.S., to BenjaminFranklin, Esq., 63 (1773), 461-80; LL.D., F.R.S., Ac. R. Par. Soc. Ext.,&c.," Philosophical Transactions, "Of Torpedoesfound on theCoast ofEngland.In a Letter from John Walsh,Esq., F.R.S., 64 (1774), Part II, 464-66; to ThomasPennant, Esq., F.R.S.," Philosophical Transactions, Histoire despoissons La Cepede, Membre naturelle par le citoyen de l'Institut National... (Paris, 1798),I, 82-100, III, 144-68; forlaterdevelopments see Wu, "Electric Fish," 601-7. 67 JohnHuighenVan Linschoten, His Discoursof Voyages intotheEaste and Weste Indies (London, 1598), 89-90;De Abassinorum rebusdequeAethiopiae patriarchis Ioanne etAndreaOviedolibritres: NonioBarreto P. Nicolao Godigno Societatis Iesu auctorenunc primumin lucememissi(Lyon, 1615),67-68; Guilielmi PisonisM.D. Lugduno-Batavi de medicina Brasiliensi libriquatuor... et Georgi Marcgravi de Liebstad... Historiae naturaliumBrasiliaelibri octo... (Leiden, 1648),44, 180-81; Histoire naturelle deslUes Antilles de l'Amerique par M. de Rochefort (Lyon, 1667),I, 390-91; Histoire des Antilles generale habitees par les Franqois,TomeII, contenant l'histoire ... par le R.P. Du Tertre naturelle (Paris, 1667-7 1), II, 222-23; Iobi Ludoli' . . . historia Aethiopica sive brevis et succincta regniHabessinorum quod vulgomale Presbyteri Iohannis vocatur (Frankfurt, descriptio 1681), fol. 66; WilliamDampier,A New Voyage Round the World... (London, 1697), 64-65;Mark Catesby,The NaturalHistory of Carolina,Florida and theBahama Islands

... (Wratislaw, 1680), 388-408.

Magical Objectsin NaturalHistory


question with cians and philosophers werestilltrying to solvetheecheneis the same ingenuity that theyapplied to the torpedo,which in certain cenrespectsremainedcontroversial untilthe middleof the nineteenth In the torpedo'scase, the raw facts were not in dispute,and tury.68 werethemeatof identity was nevertheproblem. But factsand identities naturalhistory and oftheBaconiannaturalphilosophy sixteenth-century acquired corpuscular, that followed, yet when this naturalphilosophy well-suited to its percepmechanical, and othertheoretical frameworks tionsof facts,therewas littlein themto make sense of the universally of seventeenthacceptedfactof the torpedo'spower.The veryinability scienceto explaintheray'stroubling property motivated Enlightcentury it level of examine at a detail not enmentscientists to requiredforthe was reaching itszenith remora, whichlostitsnotoriety just as thetorpedo The sameyears, thecentury 1670 as a scientific roughly between problem. of a post-Baconian and 1770, saw the emergence programfornatural in theproperties-least ofall occultproperties-of history less interested This new attitude helpedseal naturalobjectsthanin theirclassification. theirnotoriety the fateof some magicalobjectswhen,like the echeneis, but othermagicalobjects,like the torpedo, dependedon theiridentity, occult as long as science could and potentially remainedcontroversial accountof theirpowers. giveno convincing revolution was in fullcareer, the In themeantime, whilethescientific of remained tale of twofishes enoughto engagetheattention convincing another ofGallic skepticism, sucha mindas Gassendi's.Earlier, patriarch Michelde Montaigne, had founda place forthesetwomagicalobjectsin his "ApologyforRaymondSebond," wherehe catalogsthe abilitiesof Since the vanityof the humancondition. animalsin orderto highlight thanphysical, rather and epistemological Montaigne's pointis theological in the fact of these famousproperties and marvelous he is interested he cites and theevidence notin themechanisms them; powers, underlying ofship-stopping and in support thefamiliar stories ofhis factsis textual, In a the usual claimsforactionat a distancefrom Plinyand Plutarch.69 lateressay "On Cripples,"whereone of his chieftopicsis the weakness at looks morecritically of evidencebrought Montaigne againstwitches, the groundsforbeliefin such factsand also at the impulseto explain them: that How free is. I see ordinarily and vaguean instrument reason men, human
ofGuina ... (London, 1731-42), An Essayon theNaturalHistory II, 26; EdwardBancroft, in South America(London, 1769), 190-98; AlbertoFortis, TravelsintoDalmatia ... (London, 1778), 289; C. R. Eastman,"Columbus on the Remora," Copeia, 19 (1915), 11-12. 68 WU, "ElectricFish," 606-7. 69 Michelde Montaigne, completes, ed. R. Barraland P. Michel(Paris, 1967), Oeuvres 194-95.


Brian P. Copenhaver

aremore toamuse areputbefore when facts them, ready themselves byinquiring reasons than into their truth....They into their byinquiring passover thefacts, examine their butthey assiduously consequences. Theyordinarily begin thus: Whatthey "How doesthishappen?" should sayis: "Butdoesit happen?" Our reason iscapable offilling outa hundred other worlds andfinding their principles thefoundations ... We know and causesofa thousand and contexture. things never were.... that whichMontaigne Pliny'sastounding echeneis, acceptedon textual authorthatneverwere.As the humanist ity,was one of thosethousandthings theecheneis itstextual Barbarohad shownin establishing identity, was a of conflated literary monstrosity, a fiction species,but it was a magical figment powerful enoughto beguilethe centuries.70 The declineofmagicin theearly modern periodwas an important step and a significant feature of the scientific revolutiontowardmodernity ofthatmovement. The veryfinality though byno meanssolelytheresult of the declineof magic,its nearlycompleteloss of cognitive authority in comprehendamongeducatedpeople,helpsexplainour own difficulty roleand thereasons for itsdemise. The taleoftheecheneis ingitshistorical that the and thetorpedoshows,as one might expect, undoingofthisold of beliefwas itselfquite complex.In the most and complextradition the demystifying of both these magical objectsbetween generalterms, 1500 and 1800 is evidencethatmagicceased beingan authoritative and the Scientific Revolution-a significant legitimate beliefsystemduring novel one. Equally important if not a particularly but less well finding ofthestory, whichtellsin detailhow new are theparticulars understood to be bornas ancientmagicdied. sciencesand philosophies struggled of California, Riverside. University

70Montaigne, EssaysofMontaigne Oeuvres, 413; Donald M. Frame,tr.,The Complete (Stanford, 1965), 785; above,nn. 45, 68.