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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Seeing Things
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1108  Tuesday, 23 April 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Apr 2002 18:32:49 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1100 Imperfect Seers

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Apr 2002 20:25:55 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1074 Seeing Things

[3]     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Apr 2002 17:58:36 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1074 Seeing Things


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Apr 2002 18:32:49 +0100
Subject: 13.1100 Imperfect Seers
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1100 Imperfect Seers

"As someone who has worn glasses since I was eight years old, I do
wonder what kind of world I would think I inhabited without them", muses
Lisa Hopkins.

A blurry one...?

m

PS: The Guild of Spectacle Makers were awarded their charter by Charles
I in 1629. Did these guys make glasses, or was this just another name
for the King's Men?

The late and much-lamented Roy Porter wrote that "Descriptions of
trusses
and eye-glasses began to appear in the thirteenth century": *The
Greatest
Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the
Present* (London 1997), p.116

On p.385 he writes, "Like teeth and ears, eye troubles had long been
treated by itinerants, but ophthalmology rooted itself as a specialty,
with clinics and formal teaching [in the early 19th C.] In 1803,
Gottingen introduced it as a taught course, and Vienna established the
first clinic in 1812" etc. I cannot find that he writes much about
opthalmology of any stripe in his chapter on "The New Science", which
covers our period.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Apr 2002 20:25:55 +0100
Subject: 13.1074 Seeing Things
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1074 Seeing Things

The answers to Terence Hawkes' questions must be readily available -
there must be historians of opthalmology somewhere!  I would suggest
starting with the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine [I now
find that it has been dissolved and the Wellcome Library re-absorbed by
the Wellcome Trust: http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/ ] and/or the Science
Museum http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/wellcome-wing/  which has the
Wellcome's Museum Collection.

Spectacles have been available since the late twelfth century - but only
with simple convex lenses.  These would correct long sight, and are
ideal for reading glasses.  So much so that they greatly extended the
careers of elderly clerics and caused a blockage in promotion!  This was
only remedied by the great expansion of clerical posts in the thirteenth
century.  I don't know when good quality concave lenses became available
- but they certainly existed by 1609 for Galileo to use them in his
telescope.  Later in the century Spinoza earned his living grinding and
polishing lenses for spectacles.

I would hazard a guess that those of Shakespeare's audience who required
spectacles and could afford them would have been able to obtain them.

I can't help with the question of hearing aids: perhaps actors spoke
louder in those days?

John Briggs

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Apr 2002 17:58:36 -0400
Subject: 13.1074 Seeing Things
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1074 Seeing Things

Terry Hawkes asks for information or guesses about early modern seeing
and hearing.  I assume that Raymond Tallis could, if he would, venture a
learned guess.  He would have some thoughts on aging and on the problems
of aging, and might be able to put these topics into historical
perspective.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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