Wonders and the Order of Nature is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions — these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout.
Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature’s best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.
Wonders and the Order of Nature was awarded the 1999 Pfizer Prize by the History of Science Society and the 1999 Roland H. Bainton Prize for History and Theology by the Sixteenth Century Conference.
“Park and Daston’s splendid book opens up a whole new perspective, not only on the modern aspects of the collections … but on the larger history to which they belong. Their rich illustrations and detailed, learned captions, ingeniously laid out in dialogue with the erudite text, bring the reader into a series of spaces where natural objects were laid out for display and study, from the court banquet to the early laboratory.” — New York Review of Books
“A handsome and endlessly intriguing book.” —Washington Post