My research project focuses on the handwritten lecture notebooks produced in the universities of
the early modern Southern Netherlands. It intends to open up new horizons at the intersection of
the history of science and history of art by exploring a corpus that has never yet been the subject
of thorough research. These documents, held in various Belgian institutions, are an eloquent
testimony of the cultural, intellectual, and social role fulfilled by universities at that time.
In the students’ notebooks, the text is often accompanied by title pages, ink drawings or engraved
plates. Two kinds of images coexist in a single space: a scientific imagery made of abstract forms
and aiming at fostering understanding of the subject (geometrical patterns, diagrams, tree
structures), and an iconography inspired by non-scientific figurative languages of allegorical,
emblematic, religious, mythological, or moral nature.
This research project intends to analyze the features and the functioning of such images in order
to assess their role in the transmission of knowledge within the framework of higher education
institutions in the Southern Netherlands. The other aim is to survey the socio-symbolic stakes
attached to these representations. They could be used not only to convey scientific ideas, but also
to celebrate the time students spent at university in a festive and didactic way. In other words, this
iconological study would help to pave the way to a social history of science.