President of the Association, 2011
This presidential address was delivered at the 126th annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in Chicago in 2012. You can also watch video of the address.
The Republic of Letters in the American Colonies: Francis Daniel Pastorius Makes a Notebook
Francis Daniel Pastorius loved to make jokes.1 (Once he had made them, he tried to preserve them—even at the cost of defacing the beloved books in his library. Among his favorite writers was the Leiden University historian Georg Horn (1620–1670), who attracted attention in the 1650s and 1660s for his polemical works on the origins of the American peoples and his surveys of European history and politics.2 In 1666 Horn brought out a typically short textbook on a typically big subject, the history of nature and God’s relation to it. He gave it the catchy title Arca Mosis, sive Historia mundi [The Ark of Moses, or the History of the World]. The engraved title page depicts Pharaoh’s daughter as she discovers the infant Moses. Turning toward a bare-bellied companion while her servingwomen watch, she holds the baby up in what the British still call a Moses basket. A small, grumpy-looking crocodile walks toward her, its intentions unclear. Pastorius’s copy of the 1669 edition, like a number of his other books, is in the Library Company of Philadelphia.3 Writing in a sinuous loop that follows the highlighted section of the Egyptian princess’s legs and then moves onto the surface of the Nile, Pastorius has entered a line of Latin:
“Est mihi namque domi pater, est crocodilus in illo / et ipse”
(either “For I have a father at home; there’s a crocodile in it” or “For I have a father at home, and he’s also a crocodile”).
The remark seems mysterious. But its obscurity was deliberate: it was an allusion, designed to challenge the reader. In the third of Virgil’s great pastoral poems, the Eclogues, the shepherd Menalcas refuses to bet one of his sheep against the rival piper Damoetas, who offers a heifer. As he explains:
est mihi namque domi pater, est iniusta noverca, bisque die numerant ambo pecus, alter et haedos.
(For I have a father at home, there’s a mean stepmother, and they both count the flock twice a day, and one of them counts the kids).4
Evidently something about the illustration reminded Pastorius about the ancient Roman epic poet. Perhaps, as a good Christian humanist, Pastorius meant to suggest that Virgil’s imaginary shepherd and Pharaoh’s daughter both struggled with problematic families. Each had a harsh father, the one counting sheep and kids and the other mistreating Jews. Perhaps his thought was simpler: while Menalcas had to deal with a wicked stepmother, Pharaoh’s daughter confronted a sharp-toothed reptile. It is hard to find a more convincing punch line. Possibly you had to be there.
Yet Pastorius’s bad joke is more than a tiny, learned puzzle. As cultural historians such as Robert Darnton and Carlo Ginzburg taught us long ago, it is precisely when historical actors say or do strange and paradoxical things that we need to work hardest at interpreting their actions and sayings.5 Our bafflement may mean that we have encountered a genuinely strange belief or practice—a clue that may help us to experience the true foreignness of the past. Pastorius was an eminently practical man. He founded Germantown, drew up its legal codes, compiled its register of properties, and served the settlement in several legal and political capacities. Why, then, did he amuse himself with erudite Latin games like this one? What did they mean to him and to others?
The decades around 1700, after all, witnessed a renewed globalization of European intellectual life. Citizens of the Republic of Letters carried out religious and scientific missions around the world. Both they and their informants also held positions in embassies, trading posts, and factories. Letters flew among them, and so did data and material objects. Astronomical observations and medical simples, botanical images and geological specimens moved around the world, from colony to metropole and colony to colony. Their massed power smashed traditional ways of understanding both the natural and the human world.6 Pastorius was ideally situated to take part in these exchanges, as his friend James Logan regularly did, and as we will see, he supplied European readers with strikingly vivid reports about his surroundings. For the most part, though, he stuck to traditional ways of gathering and assessing information.
Pastorius saw no fundamental conflict between the Latinate scholarship that he practiced as a reader and the life that he led in Pennsylvania. In fact, the learned practices he brought with him from Europe remained central to his day-to-day work, helped him deal with the personal and intellectual challenges with which the New World presented him—from deciding whether Christians could hold slaves to working out how to describe the Lenape Indians near whom he spent much of his adult life—and enabled him to build communities. And that is less surprising than it may seem. Erudition still mattered, after all, in the late seventeenth century. Reading and writing, in particular, highly skilled ways, were intimately connected with membership in the intangible but powerful community known as the Republic of Letters, which stretched across the Atlantic as it did across political and religious borders in Europe.
From the start of Pastorius’s time in America, knowledge of Latin literature cemented relationships that mattered deeply to him. He met William Penn and Thomas Lloyd on the ship that brought him to the New World. He and Lloyd began what became a lifelong friendship—Pastorius became a mentor to Lloyd’s children and grandchildren as well—while speaking Latin. (Pastorius and Penn spoke French.) What really won Penn’s affection for Pastorius, however, was the slightly grandiose Latin inscription that the German placed over the door of his first small house in Pennsylvania: “thirty shoes long, fifteen wide, with oiled paper windows for lack of glass.” “Parva domus sed amica bonis, procul este prophani,” wrote Pastorius: “It’s a little house but welcoming to good people: profane men, keep your distance.”7 The second part of this inscription was a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid. In book 6 of the epic, Aeneas comes to Cumae, where the Sibyl explains to him how he may descend to the Underworld. As priests perform sacrifices to the chthonic gods Pluto and Proserpine, the sibyl cries: “procul, o procul este, profani … totoque absistite luco” (“Keep your distance, profane men … and shun this whole grove”) (Aeneid 6.238–239). Apparently the incongruity of the high sentence over the low doorway of a naïve domestic house charmed Penn. According to tradition, he even laughed when he saw it—one of two occasions in his life when he laughed.8
When Pastorius showed off his Virgilian learning in what now seems a curious way, he was declaring his allegiance, as he did in many other ways, to a world of bookish traditions in which he had been formed, and which he continued to draw on and use throughout his life in Pennsylvania. Doing so, as Penn’s response shows, was a practical as well as a spiritual exercise: a way to reinforce a friendship. He and Pastorius used their walks and rides to explore their common interest in such questions as maintaining peace with the Indians and building a godly society. Yet as we will see, the practices of erudition that Pastorius knew were neither uniform nor unchanging. The German Enlightenment emerged, in large part, from the same learned world that produced Pastorius, and his ways of reading texts, for all their seeming quirkiness, in fact identify him as a characteristic figure of a particular cultural landscape, and even a characteristic member of one intellectual generation.
Born a Lutheran in the Franconian town of Sommerhausen, Pastorius came from a well-off family and studied law at Altdorf, Strasbourg, and Jena. Inspired by the Pietist Philipp Jakob Spener, he sailed to America in June 1683, in pursuit of a simpler, more pious life. But simplicity proved elusive. Like most of us these days and like many of his contemporaries, Pastorius spent his life working hard at his various professions and trying to keep his head above the surface of a flood of information. His legal and political work as agent of the Frankfurt Company and bailiff, committeeman, clerk, and burgomaster at Germantown required him to master the laws of Pennsylvania.9 His passionate religious convictions inspired him to find, read, and excerpt every Quaker text he could—especially in his early years in America, when Quaker works in English were more accessible than other books.10 Much of Pastorius’s note-taking and writing served immediate, practical ends. His Young Country Clerk’s Collection collected the details of the Pennsylvania legal practice that he knew at first hand, and his primer reflected his experience as a teacher in Germantown and Philadelphia.
Yet Pastorius read far more than his practical duties required. As the supply of books available in Philadelphia gradually expanded, his irrepressible curiosity pushed him to explore everything from Renaissance works on world history and natural philosophy to contemporary discussions of the diseases prevalent in his part of the world and the therapies that might be available for them. He made a special study of alchemy, which fascinated him as much as it did Governor Winthrop of Connecticut, one of the few earlier inhabitants of the colonies who had been Pastorius’s match for cosmopolitan erudition.11
Pastorius’s mind—or at least his books—buzzed with poetry and prose, proverbs and biblical verses, edible legumes and rules for surveying, bibliographies and stories about authors. He stored all of this material for use, by himself and his sons, in the margins of the books in his library and in magnificent information-retrieval machines, the grandest of which is his Bee-Hive, the immense commonplace book that is one of the glories of the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania.12 If Pastorius’s books reflect complex patterns of reading and sociability that seem unfamiliar in the age of the Kindle, his commonplace books are even more disorienting. Reading one of them is like entering a carnival funhouse, where texts of all kinds—excerpts and stories, jokes and reflections, history and alchemy, stories about horses and dogs—take the place of distorting mirrors. Subjects and languages blur into one another in a continual process of metamorphosis. Associations served Pastorius very much as hyperlinks serve us, both tempting and enabling him to leap from one text or subject to another. Every small tag from a great text had associations for him, which spurred him to call up and write down passages from other texts.
The marginal notes and manuscript compilations on which Pastorius lavished so much time and effort challenge modern disciplinary boundaries. How are we to map this extraordinary unknown territory? Scholars have taken two paths in recent years, and found gold at the end of each. Historians, legal scholars, Germanists, and others have read their way into Pastorius’s manuscript compilations and finished writings, tagged and identified many of their sources, and re-created the larger social and cultural worlds within which he lived, worked, and read. Thanks to Alfred Brophy, Patrick Erben, Margo Lambert, and others who have illuminated Pastorius’s thought in these ways, we know how he explored the magnificent labyrinths of Quaker thought and spirituality, how he developed his ideas about language and other central themes, and how he practiced as a lawyer, served his community, and taught.13
Historians of the book have also begun to look seriously at Pastorius’s books and at his magnificently weird devices for textual storage and retrieval. Edwin Wolf collected the evidence for Pastorius’s own library, showing that it was probably the largest in Philadelphia before James Logan built his collection.14 More recently, Brooke Palmieri has laid out, in gritty, granular detail, exactly how Pastorius made and expanded his notebooks and sorted and indexed his excerpts. She has revealed how Pastorius, as he worked, updated and personalized the methods for commonplacing that Renaissance humanists such as Erasmus had laid out in textbooks that reached a vast readership.15 The digital version of the Bee-Hive made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is now available on the website of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, will for the first time enable many more scholars to make direct excursions into this difficult intellectual country.16
Much remains to be done. One major task is simply to describe Pastorius’s ways of reading and to connect them with their sources in learned tradition. In recent years, historians and literary scholars have re-created the practices of the passionate, dedicated readers who taught, preached, and filled government offices in the late Renaissance and after. For generations, the learned humanists of Europe had covered the title pages of their books with everything from signatures that declared their ownership to mottos in learned languages—not to mention allusive comments on the texts that followed. The sublimely erudite Huguenot Hellenist Isaac Casaubon filled his printed working copy of the Greek historian of Rome, Polybius, with so many handwritten notes that the Bodleian Library classifies the book as a manuscript.17 He too made jokes on the title page—in his case, jokes that reflected serious thought about his author. Casaubon described the Greek historian’s frequent digressions on historical method as a bug, rather than a feature, of his style: “Note: one thing we do not like in this author is that he repeats, and sets out, his plans, his goals, and his ends, so many times. Why bother to do this? Did he think he was going to be read only by Greek soldiers and centurions who smelled like goats?”18
Gabriel Harvey, the Cambridge professor of Greek and counselor to Philip Sidney and other great men, was not simply eccentric when he used the title pages of his books to record his autobiography as a reader, or when he wreathed the texts of Livy, Guicciardini, and many others with notes reminiscent of Pastorius in their obsessive concern with detail, their pedantic playfulness, their multiple languages, and their wonderfully legible handwriting.19 He was carrying on a tradition of annotation deeply rooted in the world of manuscript books. Different versions of it had served Francesco Petrarca, Angelo Poliziano, and Niccolò Machiavelli in their turn when each of them set out to master texts and make them his own.20
Notebooks were also traditional. Some experts argued that marginal summaries took less time to make than massive excerpts, and were more useful. By careful visual coding—placing the most important points in the upper margins, for example—the annotator could make it easy to go back through his book and find its main points, readily outlined.21 Most expert humanists, however, held that even wide margins could not contain everything that annotators wanted to record, in an age when books were the prime sources of knowledge about life, the universe, and everything. Ann Blair and other historians of information management have shown that many of those who seriously wanted to survey a province of the world of books did so by keeping either adversaria—random notebooks in which they entered extracts as they read—or commonplace books—systematic notebooks in which they organized extracts under topical headings.22 Some, including Casaubon, kept both. When the young Sir Julius Caesar—like Pastorius, a humanist and a lawyer—set out late in the sixteenth century to master the humanities and the law, he bought a ready-made commonplace book—a set of blank pages with categories already printed on them and a preexisting index, published by the martyrologist John Foxe in 1572. Caesar showed a patience and a clear handwriting that matched those of Pastorius as he filled 1,200 large pages.23 Like Pastorius, Caesar both collected passages from many languages and traditions and assembled materials of practical use to a British lawyer and statesman. He thus created, in William Sherman’s words, “a powerful tool that anticipated the kind of indexed archive now being delivered to anyone with a computer by Google and its associates”—an information-recovery machine that, like the Bee-Hive, used verbal associations as its hot links.24
Each of these men turned reading into a formal craft and practiced it with articulate self-consciousness. Each of them stated the rules of the game of interpretation and note-taking, in advance, as he saw them. Each of them documented his own life with books with great precision, and in a highly legible form, embracing with muscular willingness a vast effort of personal and physical self-discipline. For each of them saw reading as a deeply serious enterprise: vital for the practical affairs of everyday life and for the forging of a religious identity, for the amassing of a kind of cultural capital and for the making of links to other passionate readers. Each of them knew, and stated, that he was doing more than memorialize an apparently fleeting experience: he was carving a niche of his own in a humanistic tradition. These men dramatized reading as an act to be carried out in conditions of strenuous attentiveness, preceded by rituals and attended by elaborate equipment. Casaubon made a point of combing his hair every morning before he went upstairs to his study to speak with the ancients; Jacques Cujas worked with a book wheel and a rotating barber’s chair so that he could whirl from project to project.25 And they valued their readings and the notebooks in which they recorded them. One of the standard handbooks for early modern readers, the Aurifodina (Gold Mine) of the Jesuit Jeremias Drexel, shows two sorts of mining on its title page. On one side, three literal miners dig for material gold in a cavern. On the other, a lone scholar mines gold from his book by taking careful notes. Drexel left his reader in no doubt as to which sort of mining yielded the greater and more lasting riches.26
Pastorius’s prized copies of several books by Georg Horn, now in the Library Company of Philadelphia, reveal how closely he adhered to these traditions. True, these books are usually not festooned with notes, as Harvey’s were. But they show every sign of engaged reading in the fullest traditional style—one that combined marginal annotation with commonplacing in a single, complicated system of information storage and retrieval. Pastorius regularly entered Latin mottos—appropriate to a student reader proud of his knowledge—on their title pages. By the image of a ship in full sail at the start of the Orbis imperans, he wrote “Quo me Fata trahunt: retrahuntque” (“Wherever the Fates drag me, and then drag me back”), very likely a saying he had found in an earlier collection.27 He also provided guidance to their contents—as in the note that summed up in advance the providential natural history that underpinned Horn’s Arca Mosis.28
Above all, Pastorius maintained an active dialogue with his books. Sometimes his comments took the modest form of dry Latin jokes and puns. When Horn mentioned Charles V’s reform of the Imperial Chamber Court, which he moved to the city of Speyer, Spira in Latin, Pastorius noted: “in qua plurimae lites spirant, sed non exspirant” (“here many lawsuits breathe, but never breathe their last”).29Sometimes he responded directly to the text—as when he came across a passage in the Orbis politicus in which Horn described Quakers, Shakers, and Fifth Monarchy Men as sectaries of essentially the same kind. Pastorius crossed out this passage and commented, at the end, “haec ultima falsa” (“this last bit is false”).30 Here he put himself in a tradition that stretched all the way back to Petrarch, who regularly discussed matters with the ancient authors he read, and even sent formal letters to Cicero and Virgil, in which he rebuked the former for his involvement with politics and expressed his regret that the latter had lived too early to be saved by Jesus.31 Yet Pastorius was not finished with these books once he had marked his progress through them. He listed some of them among his special favorites and planned to make excerpts from them in the Bee-Hive.32 Horn noted, for example, that “the skin of the Ethiopians is soft and porous, because the sun has consumed its stiff grains.”33 Pastorius put a line beside the passage, and later copied it into the entry titled “Negro” in the Bee-Hive.34 Pastorius’s ways of using his books suggest that he saw himself as an inhabitant of a world we have lost: a world of relative textual scarcity, in which each book was a precious possession that must serve multiple functions—and in which someone who lived in a slave society and could have examined black men and women directly still found information that he saw as useful in a Latin compendium written decades before his time.
The evidence of Pastorius’s surviving books makes it clear that he reveled in the multiple uses of print. The title of a Jesuit encyclopedia stimulated him to set off a fireworks display of Latin jokes and quotations, as well as a fancy version of his signature.35 A satire on scholars and their ways by the Utopian Johann Valentin Andreae provoked sardonic remarks about the spread of both belief and deceit in an age when new inventions such as the telescope, which called perception and knowledge itself into question, were multiplying.36 And a wry remark about the way that medical men’s rivalry spurred them to offer competing remedies, regardless of their utility to the sick, inspired a paradoxical reflection: “So many are helping me that I am quite overwhelmed.”37 As Pastorius read one book after another, he turned them into something like tiny chapters of his autobiography as a reader, each of them distinctive, and each of them—at least for those who knew and appreciated him and his learning—potentially valuable.38
These considerations were not purely theoretical. Pastorius’s circle of friends included James Logan, the ruthless trader and fantastically erudite scholar who, in the face of considerable practical obstacles, built up the largest library in the English colonies, twice the size of that of Harvard College.39 Logan loved obtaining rare books, such as the early printed edition of Ptolemy that a German friend gave him, and in return for which he sent his benefactor a buffalo skin.40 He took pleasure in the fact that some of his books came, directly or indirectly, from Pastorius, and recorded it with precision. On the flyleaf of one of them, Logan wrote: “I bought this book from Phillip Monckton, to whom it was sold by the son of my great friend Francis Daniel Pastorius of Germantown, 15 November 1720.”41 In his turn, Pastorius seems to have liked borrowing books from Logan—at least to judge from the epigram in Latin and English that he addressed to Logan when he returned his friend’s copy of the political emblem book of Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, with its impressive vision of a Christian prince.42 It seems quite likely that Pastorius thought with pleasure about a time after his death when friends and later scholars would collect and examine his books, and remember him and these transactions.
Not all such exchanges were commercial. By giving or lending a book, or indeed by borrowing one, one acknowledged the other party’s citizenship in the Republic of Letters. Pastorius arranged his friendships deliberately so that only those who deserved to become his intimates could do so.43 This did not mean that he bonded only with other males. Like a number of his contemporaries, he saw women as eminently capable of citizenship in the Republic.44 He made this view clear when writing to a younger friend, Lloyd Zachary, in Latin, to excuse himself for having held on for far too long to a female friend’s copy of volume 4 of the Spectator: “I humbly beg for the forgiveness of the owner, who is quite right to be annoyed, and I hope your intercession will keep her from denying me volume 5.”45Evidently Pastorius, his correspondent, and the book’s owner all belonged to a world of learned, skeptical readers, who helped one another keep abreast with the newest arrivals from London.
If Pastorius cared about the printed books that he customized, he cherished his commonplace books. A graphomane, he copied everything he could, including the journals of friends, whom he reprimanded when he felt that their diaries included so much boring, repetitive detail that it taxed even his patience: “now a days most Readers loath Superfluities in all sorts of Writings, and much more those to whose Task it falls to copy or transcribe them.”46 When a friend fell ill, his first thought was to copy out the perhaps valuable remedies that he had stored up over the years: “I heartily sympathize with thy lameness, and forasmuch as I collected out of several experienced authors many good Remedies agt bodily distempers let me know, if thou please, what you properly call it, and I shall very willingly transcribe what I find in my book.”47 Pastorius literally believed that the results of all his toil were priceless. He urged his sons not to part with the greatest of his notebook-making feats, the Bee-Hive, for anything in the world.48
It is not easy to know what to call the results of Pastorius’s active and multiple ways of reading: certainly not a textual interpretation in any simple sense—far less the sort of simple, straightforward reading of texts that early Quakers had preferred to the subtleties of the learned.49 An analysis of one phrase will give a sense of how reading and writing, tradition and the individual talent interacted as Pastorius sat over his books and his excerpts from them, crafting not only a body of notes, but a classical identity. When he began to copy out The Young Country Clerk’s Collection, he reflected, in a nicely characteristic mixture of Latin and English, that “Ingenuum est fateri per quos profeceris, according to Plinius”—“It is honorable to acknowledge the sources through which you have derived assistance, according to Pliny.”50 Here he quoted the preface to one of the largest and most diverse compilations in classical literature, the Natural History of the elder Pliny. This Roman lawyer, official, and military commander, who died while inspecting the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 c.e., completed his vast rag and bone shop of ancient learning, a compendium in thirty-seven long books, shortly before his death. Early modern printers often called the book History of the World, a title that gives some idea of its scope.51
The author’s nephew, also named Pliny, described his uncle’s masterpiece as “a massive and learned work, as crammed with incident as nature itself.”52 In fact, it was something like a classical Bee-Hive: a massive work of compilation. The elder Pliny, as his nephew explained, laid the foundations of his own scholarship by an ascetic regime of reading. He rose at midnight or a little later, visited the emperor Vespasian before dawn, did his official job in the imperial administration and the law—and then lay in the sun and ate his meals while books were read to him. “He made extracts of everything he read, and always said that there was no book so bad that some good could not be got out of it.”53 At his death in the eruption of Vesuvius, he left his nephew “160 notebooks of selected passages, written in a minute hand on both sides of the page, so that their number is really larger than it seems. He used to explain that when he was serving as procurator in Spain he could have sold these notebooks to Larcius Licinus for 400,000 sesterces [an ancient Rome coin], and there were far fewer of them then.”54 To mention either Pliny, in the context of reading and note-taking, was to call this story to mind. No wonder that Pastorius wrote early in the Bee-Hive that he wanted “my Two Sons, … not to part with them for anything in this World, but rather to add thereunto some of their Own, &c. Because the price of Wisdom is above Rubies.”55 When he called attention to the value of the notebooks, he made his reference clear. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans, as master historians have taught us, liked to imagine themselves as ancient Greeks and Romans not only when they wrote their political treatises, but also when they designed their houses, wrote their novels, and even when they chose their furniture (to the discerning eye, the sofa revealed the presence of a classical taste).56 In a similar vein, Pastorius portrayed himself as an American Pliny, and his commonplace book as the American counterpart to those marvelous notebooks that the original had compiled.
For decades, modern scholars criticized Pliny for relying on books rather than the informants with practical experience whom Aristotle and Theophrastus had regularly consulted.57 In fact, Pliny made no bones about the fact that his work consisted chiefly of facts extracted from texts. He insisted on the value of information of this kind, and remarked that his predecessors had not read and commonplaced with his meticulous integrity.58 As he remarked in his preface:
You will be able to judge my taste from the fact that I inserted at the beginning, the names of my authors. For I consider it to be pleasant and to indicate an honorable modesty, to acknowledge the sources whence we have derived assistance, and not to emulate the majority of those whom I have examined. For please be aware that when I compared authors with each other, I discovered that some of the most grave of our recent writers have transcribed the ancients word for word, without mentioning their names.59
Contemporary scholarship on Pliny is duly appreciative of the richness of the material he had collected, and its appropriateness to the tastes of his contemporaries. Pastorius would certainly have agreed.
In practice, Pastorius emulated Pliny in two ways: he not only identified the primary sources that he used, but also cited Pliny as his warrant for doing so. At the same time, he changed Pliny’s words even as he quoted them, shortening “est enim benignum, ut arbitror, et plenum ingenui pudoris fateri per quos profeceris” (“For I consider it to be pleasant and to indicate an honorable modesty, to acknowledge the sources whence we have derived assistance”) to “Ingenuum est fateri per quos profeceris, according to Plinius” (“It is honorable to acknowledge the sources through which you have derived assistance, according to Pliny”). In the section on letter-writing that appears later in the Collection, Pastorius cited Pliny’s thought again, repeating his condensed version of the original Latin while adding a further suggestion for elegant variation later on: “it indicates an ingenuous modesty, to acknowledge the sources whence you have derived assistance. Pliny. From which you have copied.”60 In this practice of deliberate variation, Pastorius followed a standard precept of classical rhetoric. The well-educated man should take care to misquote, slightly, when he brandished a quotation from an older text: to practice elegant but apparently inadvertent variation. By doing so, he showed that he quoted from memory—the proper way for a gentleman to access his texts—even as he admitted that in practice he took extensive written notes.61
Even when Pastorius compiled an eminently practical book, in other words—a collection of model legal documents and passages from letters—he played the elaborate, self-conscious games of humanism, and assumed a classical persona. He borrowed his description of the proper way to borrow from the ancient whose note-taking prowess inspired him, and then made it his own by altering its form. In the Bee-Hive, he used the same tactics even more elaborately, creating a colorful patchwork of sayings about indebtedness and note-taking:
I acknowledge, with Macrobius, that in this Book all is mine, & Nothing is mine. Omne meum, nihil meum. And though Synesius says, It’s a more unpardonable theft, to steal the labours of dead men, than their garments, Magis impium mortuorum lucubrationes, quam Vestes, furari, Yet the wisest of men concludes, there is no new thing under the Sun, Nihil novi sub Sole, and an other, that nothing can be said but what has been said already, Nihil dicitur, quod non dictum prius. Seneca writes to his Lucilius that there was not a day in which he did not either write some things or read & epitomize some good author.62
This whole passage on acknowledging what one has borrowed is, appropriately enough, a series of borrowings. In this case, Pastorius drew the sayings he ascribed to Macrobius and Synesius not from their own writings but from the address to the reader, signed Democritus Junior, in Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, itself one of the seventeenth century’s masterpieces of compilation.63
The source of the last saying, which Pastorius attributes to Seneca, is especially revealing. At the end of this passage, most of which is in English, appears a phrase in Latin: “Vide omnino Spectator num. 316” (“See generally Number 316 of the Spectator”). Here Pastorius cited an article by John Hughes, a poet, musician, and librettist, in Joseph Addison’s periodical. Hughes denounced his contemporaries for their idleness and offered the commonplace book as a remedy:
Seneca in his Letters to Lucilius assures him, there was not a Day in which he did not either write something, or read and epitomize some good Author; and I remember Pliny in one of his Letters, where he gives an Account of the various Methods he used to fill up every Vacancy of Time, after several Imployments which he enumerates; sometimes, says he, I hunt; but even then I carry with me a Pocket-Book, that whilst my Servants are busied in disposing of the Nets and other Matters I may be employed in something that may be useful to me in my Studies; and that if I miss of my Game, I may at the least bring home some of my own Thoughts with me, and not have the Mortification of having caught nothing all Day.64
This passage is suggestive in more than one way. It shows that Pastorius—like most commonplacers—took his quotations from intermediary sources as well as from originals. It indicates that one could conceive of commonplacing not only as an artificial memory—the way in which Pastorius himself described it—but also as an ascetic discipline, a way of forming a moral, hardworking self. And it reminds us that in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the methods and meanings of commonplacing continued to evolve, and that cutting-edge intellectuals played a role in that process. No less a modern than John Locke devised a new method for making commonplace books.65 They were so trendy, in fact, that self-proclaimed traditionalists who proclaimed their own independence of such aids to learning denounced them. In the preface to his 1711 Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift joked that he had planned to expand his satire with a panegyric to the present and a defense of the rabble, “but finding my Common-Place-book fill much slower than I had reason to expect, I have chosen to defer them to another Occasion.”66 When Pastorius used Seneca to support his view that reading and writing, excerpting and composition were closely connected, he was not harking back to the Latin works of Erasmus, much less his classical sources, but citing a current periodical.
The Young Country Clerk’s Companion and the Bee-Hive were both meant to serve practical purposes: the former was a guide to legal practice in Pennsylvania, the latter an aid to full mastery of the vast vocabulary of English. Yet both of them also offered Pastorius opportunities, of which he took exuberant advantage, for the same sort of humanistic play in which he engaged on the title pages of his Latin books. To some extent, as we have seen, his ways of playing would have been familiar to others well read in the English literature of his day.
Still, in the English-speaking world around 1700, Pastorius stands out as a compiler for his riotous polyglot learning and his manically associative habit of mind. To enter the Deliciae hortenses (Garden Delights) or Voluptates Apianae (Beekeeper’s Pleasures), a collection of sayings and poems that he assembled late in life, is to be swept away by his virtuosity. A skillful gatherer-hunter-collector of others’ phrases, he was equally deft at ringing multiple changes on them. He could turn one tag into rhyming or rhythmic phrases in multiple languages, and find in all of them food for contemplation of God’s ways in nature. A single thought—“Only the bee stores up honey”—could pass through seven languages as Pastorius worked his way to the maxim that God’s word is even sweeter than honey:
Móνη έ μέ λισσα τιθαιβώσσει
Sola Apis mellificat . Die Bien allein trägt Honig ein.
Het honigh komt alleen Van Biekens by een, Solamente le Pecchie fanno Mele. Seulement les Abeilles font du miel.
The Bees alone bring home Honey and honey-Comb.
The Bee is little among such as flie, but her Fruit is the Chief of sweet things.
Qu. What is sweeter than Honey? Judg. 14:18.
Answ: God’s Word. Psal. 119:103. etc.67
Marc Shell and Werner Sollors did not exaggerate when they canonized Pastorius as the first of America’s multilingual writers.68 His collections, with their complicated games of variation and their pursuit of symbols and messages, were astonishingly cosmopolitan.
Pastorius’s practices came with him from Europe to Pennsylvania. The best way to understand more precisely what he hoped to accomplish through this vast accumulation of texts and sentiments is to follow him back into the intellectual territories in which his mind was formed—the deeply bookish world of German schools and universities in which he formed his culture, and developed his particular passions. Pastorius grew up in Windsheim, where he attended the local gymnasium. From 1668 he studied at a whole series of German universities, before he took his degree in law at Altdorf in 1676. Like so many German males from the urban patriciate, in other words, he joined the Gelehrtenstand—the social order of the learned. Doing this meant mastering a foreign language and culture, since the learned used Latin as their primary language in academic exercises and publications.69 “In Winsheim,” Pastorius recalled in the autobiographical narrative in the Bee-Hive, “I had good Schooling, and mostly twenty or more young Earls, Baronets, & Noble mens Children for School fellows, there being then an excellent Rector of the Gymnasium by name Tobias Schumberg, a Hungarian by birth, who could speak almost no Dutch, so that it was not allow’d, to use any other Language but the Latin.”70 Though he studied French, and perhaps other modern languages, at Strasbourg, he had to defend his dissertation—and the set of theses appended to it—in public in Latin.
Fluent Latin was not easy to attain. In theory, as Erasmus advised in his ever-popular textbook On Copiousness, the young student should simply read all Latin and Greek authors, entering excerpts in a commonplace book until he had made a rich vocabulary and a wide range of allusions his own and could deploy them deftly.71 In practice, though, as Erasmus knew perfectly well, most students would never even attempt this. The very work in which he explained how to make notebooks, On Copiousness, offered sprawling lists of examples that readers could plunder as they wished: hundreds of ways to say “Thank you for the letter” in good Latin, for example, and dozens more for saying “So long as I live, I shall remember you.” Erasmus’s Adages, which appeared in 1508, offered potted essays on thousands of subjects, each inspired by a pithy and quotable ancient saying.72
These books became bestsellers, on a pan-European scale. Learned men and women across Europe used Erasmus’s words as they assured one another that the friendships they had made and hoped to sustain across the vast distances and uncertain postal services of a warring world would last forever. Ambitious writers emulated Erasmus’s magnificent effort to command a vast vocabulary, to weave a tissue of words, myths, and allusions that allowed—as Erasmus himself had shown—for play of many kinds.73 And even the less ambitious majority, who harbored more modest literary goals, put on the Erasmian language of allusion, much as modern individualists wear black, as a straightforward way of asserting their membership in a literary world.74 Pastorius’s creatively configured quotation from Pliny may well have come from Erasmus or another popular compiler, for it appears, in a similarly simplified form, in Cotton Mather’s The Christian Philosopher and in a letter of July 25, 1744, from the Dutch scholar J. F. Gronovius to John Bartram.75
To set Pastorius’s work of compilation before this background is to see it in a clearer light. He actually set out to do what Erasmus had recommended and later Central European scholars had practiced: to read his way into a vast body of literature in many languages and make it his own, as Erasmus had eloquently advised, by excerpting and organizing it under his own categories. As always, though, Pastorius updated and reconfigured what he borrowed from others. The Baroque poets of the Germany that Pastorius knew as a young man had cultivated many languages at once, producing verse in set forms, such as the emblem book, in Latin, Italian, French, and other languages, especially in their youth, because their poetry could serve as their ticket of admission to academies or courts.76 Pastorius focused especially on English, the language of his new community, in which his sons would live, and decanted his other languages into it. He made this clear when he described his immense—and multilingual—Bee-Hive as “the largest of my Manuscripts, which I in my riper years did gather out of excellent English Authors,” and left it to his sons as a precious possession.77 Like the clear-minded late-humanist pedagogues who were inspired and informed by Erasmus but set their own sights lower, Pastorius offered young lawyers in the New World not a straight replication of the rich humanistic and legal education he had enjoyed in Germany, but something more practical, designed for his new world: model letters and contracts for replication and adaptation, and a mass of tags and anecdotes, recipes and remedies in English that could serve both their practical needs and any literary ones that might arise. His compilations mirrored his own exuberant success at transposing his own legal and notarial work from the German and Dutch languages into English—a task that some others found cripplingly difficult.78 Yet he never abandoned his love for polyglot wordplay in the Erasmian spirit or for the sorts of riddles that had filled the emblem books.
The dominant figures in the intellectual world of the Holy Roman Empire that Pastorius saw in his youth were known, in their own time, as polyhistors. They look nowadays like scholarly dinosaurs, especially when they appear next to nimbler contemporaries such as René Descartes, whose ideas, we know in hindsight, had the future on their side. They took all knowledge as their province: past and future, nature and culture, history and astronomy. The Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, for example, traced the history of the world’s peoples from before the Flood to his own day, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, clambered into the crater of Vesuvius to study the mechanism of volcanic eruption, adhered to the Copernican system at a time when Catholics were forbidden to advocate it, and played football against the Dominicans. And he presented his discoveries not only in a stately series of Latin folios, but also in the magnificent material form of the museum housed in his rooms in the Jesuit Collegio Romano.79 This made a splendid stage on which Kircher and visitors could play out the rituals of greeting, and he could show off the giant’s shinbones and other antiquities that made his collection so memorable.
The polyhistors’ reach often exceeded their grasp. The Hamburg scholar Peter Lambeck, for example, never managed to complete the “history of literature” that he outlined and planned to compile, in some thirty-eight volumes, and no wonder. This enormous work would have collected information about the lives and works of all significant authors from the Creation down to his own time, as well as about the institutions of intellectual life—from the contests at which ancient Greek poets competed, through the universities of the Middle Ages, to the academies of his own day.80 But Lambeck’s failure did nothing to dissuade others from attempting the same enterprise—down to Nicolaus Gundling, who in the 1730s published a history of erudition that was almost 7,700 quarto pages long. The index alone stretched over 900 pages.81
As one might expect, methods of compilation interested these men greatly. Vincentius Placcius (1642–1699), professor of rhetoric at Hamburg, published an extensive manual on making notes in 1689. This included the first publication of a design for a scrinium litteratumor note closet—a piece of study furniture equipped with hooks on which the reader could fix and arrange excerpts on thousands of slips of paper. Though the plan was actually drawn up by Thomas Harrison, an English member of the circle of Samuel Hartlib, it is characteristic of the German world Pastorius knew that it was published there—and that Leibniz actually owned and used one of thesescrinia, “though it apparently had little impact on the messiness of his papers.”82
Other German savants specialized in bibliography rather than straightforward compilation. But the ways in which they gathered, processed, and displayed their materials have a clear kinship with Pastorius’s methods. In Germany, impoverished after the Thirty Years’ War, few students could afford many books. (This was the world in which the writer Jean Paul Richter imagined an impoverished little schoolmaster, Maria Wutz, who would compose the books he imagined when he read their titles in the Frankfurt Book Fair catalogue, but that he could not afford to buy.)83 Professors offered formal courses on “literary history.” They would reprint the inventory of a major library, or print a list of writers, distribute it to their students, and then dictate comments on it. These courses—a Baroque counterpart to Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read—offered a rich mix of basic bibliographical information, critical judgments, and literary gossip, much of it unreliable.84 The influential Wittenberg professor Conrad Samuel Schurzfleisch, for instance, told his pupils of a rumor that the great philologist Joseph Scaliger had been castrated by his father, in order to ensure that he not marry and discredit his illustrious family. There is no further evidence in any source to support this story.85
Students copied out what teachers told them. Sometimes the teachers then recycled their students’ notes as printed textbooks, which other teachers in turn made the objects of their own lectures. Compilation and excerpting, recompilation and commentary followed one another in a seemingly endless cycle.86 Christoph August Heumann of Göttingen surveyed all of the knowledge that counted in aConspectus, 500 pages of Latin thrilling enough, or useful enough, that the book went through seven or eight editions.87 Gottlieb Stolle of Jena offered courses in which he used Heumann’s book as the textbook and dictated comments on it. Then he published his own lectures. Some student readers had their copies of Stolle on Heumann interleaved so that they could add still more information of their own.88 The texts of these compilations grew as slowly and inevitably as glaciers, with a thin crust of slick textual ice covering a deep, dark, rocky mass of footnotes.
Biographical evidence identifies two of the ways in which Pastorius may have encountered these methods, and one of the teachers who may have helped him master them. Pastorius’s own father, the jurist Melchior Adam Pastorius, was a compiler on a grand scale and a versifier almost as obsessive as his son. In 1657 he issued a study of the election and coronation of the Holy Roman Emperors. Here he amassed not only a great amount of information about the preparations and ceremonies that had attended the most recent election in 1653, but also an emperor-by-emperor account of imperial history from ancient Rome to his own time, with supplementary material on the electors.89 Very late in life, in 1702, Melchior Adam served as the publisher as well as the author of Franconia rediviva, a comprehensive anthology of lists and documents regarding the noble families and monasteries, cities and institutions of the Franconian Kreis of the Holy Roman Empire.90 Each of these books must have rested on systematic compilation—as did the extensive manuscript collections of Melchior Adam’s verse, interspersed with curious illustrations, that survive in Philadelphia.91
In the Bee-Hive, Francis Daniel Pastorius recalled that he had learned some of the principles of public law from “the renowned Dr Böckler at Strassburg.”92 It is likely that he learned some law from the elderly jurist Johann Heinrich Boecler (1611–1672). But it is even more likely that he learned a great deal about compiling and managing information. Boecler was not only a lawyer of reputation but also a master practitioner of literary history, an expert at manipulating the rococo information machines that took in names and titles, anecdotes and maxims, and spat out textbooks and courses. At the request of Leibniz’s patron, Johann Christian von Boineburg, Boecler drew up a crisp little manual of the history of letters, from the Creation to the present, for young students. It bore the modest title A Curious Historical-Political-Philological Bibliography That Reveals the Merits and Defects of Each Writer.93 Far longer—though still less than 1,000 pages—was the Critical Bibliography of All the Arts and Sciences that Boecler also composed.94 Johann Gottlieb Krause, who edited this compilation after Boecler’s death in 1715, ransacked Boecler’s other works for relevant passages and added them to give the book more depth and heft, intervened where he thought editorial care could improve the exposition, and turned the original, skeletal work into a relatively content-rich guide to the world of learning.95 In his original sketch of literary history, Boecler had said of the Greek historian Herodotus that he was not a liar, and of Thucydides that he was very noble.96 In Krause’s elaborated version, the reader encountered Boecler explaining that modern travel accounts confirmed Herodotus’s stories about gold-digging ants the size of wolves, and noting that Thucydides’ account of the Greek states at perpetual war with one another shed a powerful light on the fragmented, militaristic Holy Roman Empire of his own day.97 When Pastorius listed topics, entered excerpts, and drew up indexes, treating compilation as a central and valuable part of scholarly work, he practiced skills that he had encountered in youth and mastered through the long years of his university training.
Pastorius also seems to have developed his interest in preserving and collecting documents—an interest that would be central to his career as a notary and jurist in the New World—as a student. In 1676, he defended a dissertation on a revealing topic: rasura documentorum (the scraping, or erasure, of passages in legal documents).98 In his preface, he explained that since the credibility of documents was often called into question in court, he had planned to cover all the reasons why this happened. But he discovered that the subject was too large and confined himself, for the moment, to various forms of rasura (beginning with all the meanings of the word, which also applied to the tonsure of Catholic clerics).99 This proved to be a large and suggestive field in itself—as when Pastorius raised the question whether a guilty notary’s hand should be amputated “when he has become so skillful in painting, or another art, that his whole intellect seems to have moved into his fingers.”100 It seems likely that Pastorius already prided himself—as so many notaries did—on writing a hand so neat that it mirrored the neat divisions of property that formal documents described.101
Material evidence confirms that Pastorius began to master all the techniques of compilation as a student. He owned a linked set of textbooks, now in the Library Company of Philadelphia. They include chronological tables for world history from the Creation to the present drawn up by a Braunschweig theologian, Christoph Schrader; introductions to the tradition of historiography from antiquity to modernity, and to the genealogy of rulers from ancient Rome to the present; and a short textbook on geography by a Gymnasium professor, Heinrich Schaevius. Pastorius signed and dated the last of these in 1674.102 The books themselves, annotated sparsely but systematically, show how he read his way into mastery of a world of scholarly methods and materials. Schrader’s chronological tables, which presented world history in the skeletal form normal at the time, were dated, in the traditional way, from the Creation forward: Pastorius followed the custom that had become widespread in the seventeenth century and added a b.c. date, reckoned backward from the Incarnation, for the start of world history. Where Schaevius, whose brief handbook of geography Pastorius read, mentioned Pliny’sNatural History as a model compilation on cosmography, Pastorius added a marginal reference to the Renaissance classic in the field, the Cosmography of Sebastian Münster.103 And where Schaevius discussed systems for describing the world’s land masses, Pastorius noted, in very up-to-date terms indeed, that “the whole land mass of the world can also be divided into three parts, or great islands, around which the ocean flows: the first contains Europe, Asia, and Africa, the second America, and the third the Magellanic lands that are also called Austral [southern] and unknown.”104 Most revealing of all, though, is the list of writers on the early church, starting with the apostles and including pagans as well as Christians, that Pastorius copied into one of these books from the dissident church historian Gottfried Arnold’s work on the life of the early church.105 Every book invited the reader to engage in bibliographical compilation; every ancient authority invited the reader to make comparisons with modern counterparts.
Pastorius not only applied the techniques of the polyhistors, he shared their tastes. Like Kircher, the Jesuit Michael Pexenfelder, whose odd little encyclopedia of the arts and sciences Pastorius owned, took an interest in ciphers and other forms of writing designed to conceal one’s meaning from curious readers.106 He described steganography as “a clandestine form of writing, which uses secret signs that a few have agreed on.” These could be letters, standing in for one another, or numbers, or “new characters.”107 Here Pastorius wrote “see the next page, near the bottom.”108 He covered the next opening, which deals with the use of metal characters in printing, with ingenious prints of many different kinds of leaf. In the bottom margin he wrote that characters could be “natural, the progeny of the gardens and the fields, some of which appear in the margin, or artificial. Of the first category, absinth stands for A, beta for B, the crocus for C, ferns for F, and so on. Botanists understand them very well.”109 Here we see that Pastorius’s fascination with language, in all its texture, richness, and variation, was rooted in the culture of the old Holy Roman Empire—a world in which cryptography offered the possibility of sending secret messages, something every chancery and resident ambassador regularly did, and inspired the production of a rich body of poetry by a kind of combinatorics—rather like modern language poetry. Pastorius’s mystical vision of language had its roots in a very particular milieu and moment.
This was not the only case in which Pastorius drew on the mysterious codes and emblems of the Baroque—the very element in which polyhistors such as Kircher had lived, moved, and had their being.110 At one point in the Bee-Hive, he reflected that human affairs always move in a circle: “The Revolution or Changeable Course and Recourse of this present World, videlicet, all Empires, Kingdoms, and Provinces thereof, Yea of all particular Inhabitants of the same, [can be] prefigured in a Wheele of Seven Spokes, called Omnium Rerum Vicissitudo.” Poverty, he explained, created Lowliness, and that, in turn, Peace. Thanks to Peace, Traffick (or trade) increased, and created Wealth. But Wealth instilled Pride, which led to War and then back to Poverty.111 Here Pastorius reconfigured an image coined more than a century before by the Catholic Kabbalist and historian Michael von Aitzinger. A writer with an eye for the visual presentation of evidence, Aitzinger invented the popular image of the Low Countries as a lion, which played so large a part in Dutch visual propaganda during the war with Spain. He also laid out the cycle by which societies passed from poverty through wealth to poverty again, on the title page of his history of the Dutch Revolt, to suggest a way of understanding the narrative that followed.112 True, Aitzinger’s cycle had only six phases rather than the seven Pastorius listed—perhaps another instance of his desire to modify the treasures he collected. Basically, though, Pastorius learned from Baroque tradition how to cope with rapid modern social change.
Even what seem Pastorius’s most characteristic and original writings drew nourishment from roots set deep in the layers of traditional scholarly practice. Consider, for example, the letters that he sent back to Germany, in which he described the new world that he found around him in Pennsylvania. These texts eventually became the groundwork for his most famous work, the Umständige geographische Beschreibung der zu allerletzt erfundenen provintz Pensylvaniæ; or, A Detailed Geographical Description of Pennsylvania, published in Leipzig in 1700. One of the preparatory letters, written in Latin and dated December 1, 1688, was directed to Georg Leonhard Modelius. A friend of Pastorius’s, then at the University of Altdorf, Modelius eventually became rector of the Gymnasium in Windsheim that Pastorius had attended. He had asked Pastorius, in a letter we no longer have, for a description of Pennsylvania, both for himself and for his colleague Johann Christoph Wagenseil, a professor of oriental languages at Altdorf still famed for his publications both on the Meistersinger of Nuremberg and on Jewish blasphemies against Jesus.113 The text pleased its recipient so much that he communicated it to one of the new journals of the period, aimed at a literate and alert lay public, Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel’sMonatliche Unterredungen einiger guten Freunde von allerhand Büchern und andern annehmlichen Geschichten (Monthly Conversations among Good Friends on All Sorts of Books and Other Pleasant Stories), where it appeared in April 1691.114
It is a charming text. Pastorius instructs his readers first to use their maps to zero in on the Delaware and on Philadelphia, and then to imagine themselves there in the body, recovering from seasickness and eagerly welcomed by Pastorius. He invites them to enter his house, pointing to the inscription that offers hospitality, and shows them Germantown, with its rapidly growing population: only 13 in 1683, but now over 50. Pastorius displays the prosperous houses and farms that the citizens of the new community have built, notes that they have no need as yet of a wall, and suggests that he and his guest walk out of town to see the Indians. Pastorius apparently shared William Penn’s sympathy for the Lenape Indians, which made possible the early “long peace” between them and white settlers.115 He describes the Indians admiringly and at length, offering detailed accounts of their intelligence, their use of canoes and tobacco, the personality traits and behavior of males and females, their ways of courting and marriage, their religious rituals, and their ways of caring for the sick and burying the dead. The letter winds up with a list of phrases in the Indian language and in translation. Pastorius comments: “If you can divine the origins of these Indians from these bits of evidence, or from the fact that they call their mother ana, their wife squáa, their old woman hexis, their devil menitto, their house wicco, their land hockihóckon, their cow muss, their pig Kuschkusch, I will admit you’re a really good philologist.”116
This letter adumbrates not only Pastorius’s future achievements as culture-broker and populist, but also more generally the ethnographic writings of men such as Lafitau and Lahontan and their successors.117 Indeed, with its almost obsessive emphasis on the observer’s intellectual resources and point of view, it seems to belong to the new travel writing of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And that impression is strengthened by a passage toward the beginning of the letter. Here Pastorius, as he takes Modelius on his imaginary walk, says, “So that we don’t walk in silence like sheep, let’s talk a little about the origin of the Nile—or, what is equally obscure, that of our Indians. Some think, not without plausible clues, that they are the descendants of the Hebrews. But their native language suggests that some of those who live farther from here come ultimately from Wales. Your Polyhistor in Altdorf [Wagenseil] will work out for you the dates and details of their navigations across the Atlantic. But I, since I have hardly a single book, will not myself take part in this dubious battle.”118 Here, so it seems, Pastorius ironically distanced himself from the culture of the learned in their universities. Implicitly, at least, he emphasized the superiority of direct experience of the present to book learning about the past.
t is always hard to decode the jokes and irony of past actors. Georg Horn spent much of his life devising ways to intercalate the history of China and the New World into the traditional narrative of world history, centered on the Mediterranean and Western Europe. He not only composed original textbooks, but also carried on long debates with colleagues about the origins of the Indians and the paths by which they had arrived in the New World after the Flood.119 In recent years, Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Daniel Smail have advanced powerful programs for decentering our histories, by abandoning our obsessions with narratives centered in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, and Western Europe and by combining scientific with historical evidence.120 Horn was their seventeenth-century revisionist counterpart, and Pastorius, as we have seen and will see again, willingly learned from him. Yet Pastorius, as much as he admired Horn’s books, seemingly made light of the complex historical genealogies and itineraries that filled their pages, treating them as an outworn, obsessively bookish form of knowledge.
In fact, when Pastorius offered an account of local Indian society based on direct experience, he did not rebel against the world of learning as he had known it in Germany. Rather, he carried on one of its central traditions. In the Bee-Hive, after all, Pastorius told his sons that they should record “all remarkable words, Phrases, Sentences or Matters of moment, which we do hear and read”—a clear instruction to combine experience and witnesses’ accounts with reading.121 From the sixteenth century onward, humanists had argued that travel, and the direct experience of other countries and mores that it afforded, was essential to anyone who hoped to attain distinction in scholarship or politics. But travel, like reading, had to follow strict protocols if it was to profit those who undertook it. Theodor Zwinger, Thomas Turler, and many others drew up manuals for what they dubbed the “methodus apodemica” or formal art of travel.122 Dozens of writers, and hundreds of young men, bore these instructions in mind (and the books that transmitted them in their pouches) as they compiled guides to the states of Europe, memoirs of their travels, or imaginative works of literature, such as John Barclay’sEuphormionis Satyricon, that turned on knowledge of the national characters of the different European peoples.123
Pastorius’s connections to this tradition were deep and organic—so much so as to make his own career as a travel writer seem almost overdetermined. Travel writing was an early pursuit. Pastorius recalled that he kept “a peculiar Manuscript Journal … in 8°” of his travels down to 1682, when he arrived in Frankfurt.124 It was also inherited. His own father, Melchior Adam Pastorius, compiled a detailed journal of his early education in the German college in Rome, his later travels, and his self-discovery in Paris, as a Protestant.125It is a charming medley of prose and verse, full of vivid recollections. The opening poem makes a boldly self-conscious allusion to Odysseus. Melchior Adam vividly describes how melancholy he felt when he was left on his own in the great city of Ferrara and had nothing to do but visit churches, and how strange he found it that Italian nuns were surprised that he did not speak their language. Well grounded in the “methodus apodemica,” Melchior Adam took a special interest, when he traveled, in the learned men who had adorned particular cities—for example, the Flemish Tacitist and ancient historian Justus Lipsius, whose house he visited in Louvain.
As a grown man, Francis Daniel continued to share his father’s interests—even as he made gentle fun of them: “Here we should be wanting to ourselves,” he writes in the Bee-Hive, “to the Memory of Justus Lipsius (oh quantum nomen! to which we dare not presume so much as to aspire) if we should not insert into these our Remarks the Inscriptions and Descriptions of his three most beloved dogs, whose Counterfeits or Resemblances still are to be seen at Lovain, a City in Brabant, in the very house, wch this transcendingly learned man did inhabit.” He even gives their names: Sapphirus, Mopsulus, and Mopsus.126
He also continued to respect books from the learned tradition of travel literature, such as Barclay’s Satyricon, which he warmly recommended to Lloyd Zachary as late as 1717.127 Once again, material evidence proves especially revealing. Pastorius’s books in the Library Company of Philadelphia include Itinerarium Italiae, a detailed guide to the sights and antiquities of Italy, region by region, illustrated with crisp views of the major cities. Written by the Antwerp lawyer Franciscus Schottus, the book was edited after his death by his brother Andreas, a Jesuit scholar, and had a long career as a learned person’s guide to Italy.128 It begins with a set of instructions for travelers on what to observe, neatly set out in diagrammatic form. Set topics include the geographical region, the name of the place and its founder, geographical features such as rivers and mountains, public and private buildings, political institutions, schools, and then “the customs of the ordinary people: including their ways of earning their living, their clothing and their crafts.”129 Pastorius’s Latin report on Pennsylvania followed this outline with striking precision.
Yet Pastorius was far from satisfied with the scholarly world he had known as a student. He insisted on the central importance of English when he educated his own sons, and even if they inherited the Bee-Hive, they practiced crafts rather than pursuing erudition. And in the preface to his published description of Philadelphia, he stated formally that he rejected the learned institutions of Europe. Though he deplored the wickedness he saw around him in Pennsylvania, he wrote, “Nevertheless I hope things here will never be conducted in a way so unbecoming men, as in those universities in Europe, in which a man must learn for the most part things which are to be utterly forgotten. Many professors waste their time on useless questions and clever trifling tricks, and while they detain the minds of the learners on empty questions they prevent them from aspiring to more solid matters.” He rebuked the learned for preferring Greek mythology to Christ, using Aristotle to explicate Scripture, and wasting their time on “utterly useless questions and trickeries,” such as looking “among the Greek declensions for the ablative case” (Latin, not Greek, has an ablative case).130
As a critic of the German learned world, Pastorius was not alone. In fact, many of his contemporaries and even more younger scholars completely agreed. Johann Burkhard Mencke, the editor of the Leipzig periodical Acta eruditorum, described the etiquette of the erudite with biting wit in two satirical orations on The Charlatanry of the Learned in 1713 and 1715. He made brilliant fun of scholars’ lust for honorific forms of address: “you see many demanding to be called Clarissimus who are absolutely unknown outside the walls of their city; Magnificus, who are oppressed by poverty; Consultissimus, who have little or no advice to give.” He mercilessly ridiculed the elaborate Latin titles by which scholars tried to make humdrum books impressive: for example, “Public Law, or Medical Theses on Headache.” And he sketched unforgettable acid-pen portraits of self-absorbed scholars such as Johann Seger of Wittenberg:
He had an engraving made on copper, showing the crucified Christ and himself. From his lips came the words, “Lord Jesus, do you love me?,” and from the lips of Jesus came the answer, couched in the most laudatory terms: “Yes, most eminent, excellent and learned imperial poet laureate and rector of Wittenberg University, I do love you.”131
Similarly, Pastorius looked back without affection to the “impertinent Ceremonies” he had undergone as a beginning student at Altdorf.132 His books in the Library Company show that complaints about the tediousness of traditional forms of learning and satires of the erudite piqued his interest.133
Mencke denounced the universities because he hoped to improve them—as he tried to do, as professor and, eventually, rector of the University of Leipzig and editor of the major periodical his father had founded, the Acta eruditorum. Much evidence suggests that Pastorius, too, when he was not proclaiming the merits of life in fertile Pennsylvania, criticized the learned world not in order to destroy it but in order to save it. In the Bee-Hive, compiled in the last decades of his life, he continued to show an interest in Gottfried Arnold, the church historian who resigned his professorship at Giessen even before he published his history of the church and its heretics, which used the records of the past to challenge what he saw as a sterile orthodoxy in his own day. Pastorius also regularly noted books that contained information about the new university at Halle, and the Pietist orphanage and mission to the Jews there—new intellectual foundations that deliberately departed from the traditions of the past and created new forms of learning and teaching.134 And his continued interest in the particular province of the Republic of Letters in which Pietism was giving new life to erudite traditions affords another vital hint about his goals.
Pastorius’s impatience with Latin and ceremony did not lead him to turn his back on the ceremonious, Latin-speaking world of learning. Like Mencke and Arnold, he wanted not to abandon erudition but to reconfigure it. And in that respect he resembled no one more than his close contemporary the jurist Christian Thomasius (1655–1728). In many respects, to be sure, the elegantly coiffed Thomasius, who summoned his fellow German professors to learn to behave as if they were proper courtiers, seems sharply different from Pastorius, with his Quaker-inspired belief in equality and his love of fishing and gardening. Yet the two men shared experiences and qualities. Both were trained as jurists, and belonged to a larger wave of learned lawyers committed to reforming the law and the institutions that sustained it.135 Both came under the influence of Philipp Jakob Spener and rejected the Lutheran orthodoxy in which they had been raised. Both were steeped in the traditions of erudition. And though Thomasius sharply criticized these, more often he turned them to new ends. He attacked the universities’ monopoly on learning and promoted modern studies. He broke with tradition and lectured publicly in German at Leipzig; he recommended the cultivated French way of life as superior to the German, pedantic one; and he founded a monthly periodical for the cultivated urban reader. But in doing so, he hoped to make the sterile culture of erudition fertile again.136
Lutheran theologians claimed the right to determine what could be taught and learned at universities. They tested every proposition against what they described as the immutable truths of orthodoxy.137 Thomasius, by contrast, argued that the intelligent, cultivated person should receive all philosophical systems with the mild, reasonable skepticism they deserved. By doing so, one could find a middle path, between the absolutist follies of the Aristotelian scholastics and the overly strong prejudices of the Cartesian innovators. The only royal road to wisdom lay in informing oneself about all the schools of philosophy, from the very beginning of human history—and then making an informed, eclectic choice among their principles.138 For the human mind was simply incapable of creating a single, universally valid system. As Thomasius reflected, it was better to have a refitted and rebuilt ship that could sail than one that had never been repaired and was full of cracks and falling apart.139
Thomasius’s call for a reasonable eclecticism gave a new meaning to the polyhistors’ pursuit of learning in general and “literary history” in particular.140 Francis Bacon had suggested that a vital way to reform learning in the present was to compose a “just story” of its vicissitudes in the past. An analytical history of philosophy and the sciences, he believed, would show both which principles and which institutions had proved most productive over time. The passages in which Bacon made this argument had long inspired compilers such as Lambeck.141 Thomasius—and his disciples, including Gundling and Stolle, who became the most renowned compilers of their day—seized upon them as the key to creating a literary world in which every new thesis would be seen against the proper, full background, traced to its roots and fairly judged. As Martin Gierl has shown, what looks from the outside like formless erudition spilling down the thousands of pages of the literary histories actually represented a sustained effort to lead readers out of the maze of opinions that bewildered them. Erudition and eclecticism were the keys, in Thomasius’s view, to creating a critical public sphere—one in which the true spiritual understanding of Christianity would come naturally to fruition.142
This comparison can help us to dig down below the buzzing polyglot surface of the Bee-Hive and detect some of the deeper motives that underlay its creation. Pastorius himself described his commonplace books as memory theaters, and that they certainly were: cultural capital ready to be invested. But Isaac Casaubon also described his commonplace books as mnemonic devices.143 And yet, as Joanna Weinberg and I have tried to show, they were also analytical tools, in which he showed how to analyze texts historically and philologically. It was there that he recorded the impressive Talmud lesson he received from a Jewish friend, Jacob Barnet, who had shown him how to surf the oceanic contents of that most complex and rebarbative of texts, moving from the text to the margins, identifying commentators and noting discrepancies between editions.144 When Pastorius addressed his readers, he instructed them not just to memorize but to revise his collections:
Sis mihi Corrector, resecando superflua Lector; Veraque digneris, quae desunt jungere Veris (Be my corrector, reader, cutting what is superfluous, and deign to add the truths that are lacking to the truths that are here).
Read not to Contradict, nor to Believe; But to Weigh & Consider. Fr. Bacon.145
Similarly, Thomasius urged his readers to read his Introduction to Courtly Philosophy critically, in the hope that their corrections would make later versions of his arguments more rigorous.146 Both treated erudition not as a stock of material to be drawn on, a cultural bank account, but as a challenge to the reader’s intelligence: a challenge to develop prudence and discrimination. And both proved eminently capable of examining and rejecting long-established beliefs and practices.
Thomasius rejected the prosecution of witches and the torture of witnesses, using comparative arguments to show that the custom of accepting evidence obtained by torture, though old, was neither universal nor founded in reason.147 On February 12, 1688, Pastorius and three friends examined the custom of slave-holding that many Quakers accepted and practiced. They rejected it, and drew up a document in which they explained why Christians could not hold African slaves. Their protest begins in a very suggestive way. It turns the tables on American slave owners by comparing them with the Ottomans: “How fearfull & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vassel, being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be tacken and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done as Turcks doe?” It goes on to note that by holding slaves, the white inhabitants of Pennsylvania hurt the reputation of their colony: “This mackes an ill report in all those Countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quackers doe here handel men licke they handel there ye Cattel. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither, and who shall maintaine this your cause or plaid for it?” Above all, it insists, with a scrupulous clarity not often found in European discussions of the table of nations, that black Africans were full humans with a full right to liberty: “Now, tho’ they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones.”148
Pastorius loved to read world histories—from the compilations he used as a student to the more innovative books of Horn, with their descriptions of Asian and American societies. It was from Horn that Pastorius learned to see his new home in the Americas as part of a world system. It was in Horn’s surveys of world politics and history that Pastorius read about Ottoman attacks on Europeans.149 More important, it was from Horn—as we saw at the beginning—that Pastorius learned that the skin of Ethiopians had been transformed by a simple, natural process.150 And, of course, it was Pastorius who was trying, as he followed the lessons he had learned from Horn and others, to represent Pennsylvania to the European world, at once attractively and accurately. The Germantown protest, with its crystalline moral clarity, emerged directly from Pastorius’s lifelong concerns as scholar and reader. When he collected information and quotations about justice and injustice, humanity and inhumanity, nature and culture, he was not merely stockpiling impressive morsels of Latin. He thought hard about what they implied for the social world that he experienced every day. The same concern to make learning useful—and the same belief that erudition offered help in ordering and understanding the problems of everyday life—inspired his later efforts to craft a system of law that operated accessibly to all, in English, and preserved the safety of Lenape Indians as well as white settlers.
In this context, it is not strange that even in the last years of his life, Pastorius never ceased writing Latin epigrams to celebrate homely occasions such as the staking of his grapevines. For, like Thomasius and other European reformers, he believed that tradition still had its value; indeed, that tradition, rightly updated, was modernity at its best. One scholar whom both Pastorius and Thomasius respected was the Franeker jurist Ulrich Huber, whose magnificent rectoral speech On Pedantry Thomasius reprinted twice. Thomasius denounced those “pretentious” scholars who “cite verses, proverbs, Latin, Greek and Hebrew words, scholastic technical terms, laws, medical rules, and other evidences of their learning when they serve no purpose.”151 Like Thomasius, Huber ridiculed the pedants who insisted on speaking Latin to people who lacked the competence in the language, or the confidence, to reply. But he insisted that Latin still had its uses as “a common chain that links the Christian peoples together,” and its unique position as “the language of the people that ruled all the rest,” and he urged the learned not to abandon it.152 The fluent Latinist could communicate both with the learned of other nations and with the learned of the past. For Huber, Latin still embodied an intellectual cosmopolitanism that deserved to be honored and preserved. It was in the same sense, as Patrick Erben has suggested, that Pastorius prefaced his highly practical collections of laws, legal documents, and deeds in German, Dutch, and English with grand title pages on which he used bold, sharp Latin axioms to give them a larger philosophical setting.153 It was in the same sense, I would argue, that Pastorius used Latin and other elements of erudition: to maintain contact with learned friends in Europe, to make friends with William Penn, Isaac Lloyd, and James Logan, and to include younger friends, such as Lloyd Zachary, in what Pastorius continued to see as the charmed world of a millennial conversation.
Pastorius’s methods derived from a broad culture, Catholic as well as Protestant. He learned them from the Jesuits he disliked as well as the Protestant sages he admired. And he undoubtedly derived elements of his practice as a reader and recorder—including his belief in taking down both good and bad arguments, and letting the reader decide between them—in part from the Quakers he so admired, and into whose world he plunged in America, as well as from the scholarly traditions he came from.154 But he seems to have had most in common with the particular brand of late humanism that flourished in Halle and elsewhere in North Germany in the years of his, and Thomasius’s, maturity. The similarity between the literary histories compiled by Thomasius and his disciples and Pastorius’s efforts to amass the treasures of Quaker spirituality, European learning, and modern medicine and alchemy for his sons seems clear. In Germany as in Philadelphia, the culture of erudition was both troubled and inspired by a pervasive dissatisfaction with existing customs and institutions. And in Germany as in Philadelphia, the combination of a strong religious motivation and a vast scholarly arsenal proved potent. In Philadelphia as in Halle, the foundations of the Enlightenment’s true Holy City were located in the realms of erudition and religion—both, of course, defined in historically particular ways.155
Pastorius’s case, finally, sheds a distinctive light on the history of learned practices. Historians of information and its regimes have tended to look for ruptures—points where one regime succeeds another.156 European historians have emphasized the tremendous changes that took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as colonies and trading centers transmitted objects and observations both to Europe and to one another; as vernaculars replaced Latin even in traditional book markets such as the German; and as an empirical model of knowledge production gradually replaced a bookish one. These histories accurately describe the larger climatic systems that showered information on European and colonial readers in the decades around 1700. But there were microclimates as well—or, to use the terminology created by Peter Burke, multiple impure information regimes, in which older techniques served new ends, and refluxes of traditional material entered the global circulation system.157 Pastorius and his friends created one such regime—and used its tools, creatively and effectively, to build a local version of Enlightenment rooted not only in local empiricism and discovery, but also in cosmopolitan erudition and tradition. Information cultures unfold, and coil, and interfere with one another. A good way to follow these mechanisms at work is to listen to the hum of Pastorius’s Bee-Hive.
Anthony Grafton served as president of the American Historical Association in 2011. He studied history, history of science, and classics at the University of Chicago and University College London, and has taught European history and history of science at Princeton University since 1975. Grafton’s books include Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship, 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1983–1993); Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450–1800 (Harvard University Press, 1981); The Footnote: A Curious History (Harvard University Press, 1997); Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West (Harvard University Press, 2009); and The Culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe (British Library, 2011).