Yates, Frances (1899-1981)

In her magisterial summary of classical mnemonics, The Art of Memory (1965), Frances Yates describes a vast number of systems of artificial memory, none stranger (perhaps) than that exemplified by “the Hypnerotomachia Polyphilii, written by a Dominican before 1500, in which we meet, not only with curious archaeology, but also with Hell[*], divided into places to suit the sins and their punishments, with explanatory inscriptions on them.” She goes on to suggest that “the mysterious inscriptions so characteristic of this work may owe something to the influence of visual alphabets and memory images, … the dream archaeology of a humanist mingles with dream memory systems to form the strange fantasia.”

[G. de Souza, Masters of Memory, p. 17]

[F. Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Polyphilii, p. 403]

[*] See >Xanthippe.

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