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"De Seekarte Ost Vnd West To Segelen ...": On Northern European Nautical "Fachliteratur" in the Late Middle Ages

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image of Early Science and Medicine

The requirements of navigation in Western and Northern Europe led to the production of handbooks that did not have any obvious precursors in the learned traditions. The paper describes the characteristic features of such navigational handbooks and discusses their production, distribution, and reception. The peculiarities of transmission of nautical knowledge are also reflected linguistically: from the beginning, practical navigational texts were written in vernacular languages, that is, in Dutch, French, English, or Low German, but not in Latin. They were not conceived as texts for learned men. Instead, as is shown by the example of the Low German Seebuch, one of the oldest such manuscripts, they were planned as practical manuals for navigators who needed information about matters such as depths, currents, distances, and routes.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Rostock


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