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Chinese Astronomy for the Early Modern European Reader

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Around 1716, the French astronomer and academician Joseph-Nicolas Delisle (1688-1768) took up a new project: the twinned topics of Chinese chronology and astronomy. Unable to access Chinese sources and not knowing any fellow savants who shared this particular interest, Delisle methodically made extracts and compiled data from the existing European literature. Among Delisle's papers at the Observatoire de Paris still exist the results of this research, including a list of the books he found relevant. This paper develops a close reading of Delisle's notes from this period to stage his journey into a recondite arena of technical and textual analysis, and to examine the scholarly practices and generic conventions through which early modern European savants confronted the Chinese astronomical tradition.

Affiliations: 1: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of the History of Science, 7143 Social Science Building, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1393, U.S.A.;, Email:


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