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Impartiality and the Early Modern ars critica: The Case of John Selden’s Historie of Tithes (1618)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter is concerned with a set of scholarly practices which were fundamental to late Renaissance and early Enlightenment education and thought. They went by the names of criticism, or the ars critica, philology, literae humaniores, and grammar. The author offers notes towards a prehistory of the appeal to impartiality as an ideal within the philological arts, starting with the most important debate about the status of criticism in seventeenth-century England. This was the debate over the scholar and lawyer John Selden Historie of Tithes, whose title page proclaimed its impartiality; 'We are not moved by party prejudice, but have taken up arms against your counsels, deceitful Sloth'. Selden's Historie of Tithes was published in 1618, having circulated beforehand in manuscript. For Selden, the task of philology was to provide greater precision, bringing glosses and parallels to bear in order to make the singularity of each example apparent.

Keywords: ars critica; Historie of Tithes; impartiality; John Selden; literae humaniores; Renaissance



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