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Art of Memory
 
by
Frances A. Yates
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Art of Memory

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  588 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The ancient Greeks, to whom a trained memory was of vital importance - as it was to everyone before the invention of printing - created an elaborate memory system, based on a technique of impressing 'places' and 'images' on the mind. Inherited and recorded by the Romans, this art of memory passed into the European tradition, to be revived, in occult form, at the Renaissanc...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 1st 1974 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1966)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,204)
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g
This is a fascinating history of the "art of memory"--an imaginary, spatio-visual technique for storing vast amounts of information before the printed page. Imagine a building with which you are intimately familiar, with plenty of space and a logical sequence to the rooms. Now put vivid, lurid statues (preferably "corporeal similitudes" but objects also work) representing the concepts (or specifics) you want to remember in the rooms at appropriate intervals. When you want to remember something,...more
Kevin
*Note: After re-reading this review, I am thoroughly unsatisfied with it. Try as I may, I cannot convey just how amazing this book is. Before reading it, I had no idea the depth and breadth of what I didn't know. It has changed the way I read classical and medieval history.

This book opened up to me an understanding of an entire discipline dedicated to memory, which I had never discovered previously. I had to re-read the first three chapters after going over them once because it took awhile to ad...more
Ron
I was surprised at the readability of this. But, truthfully, I read it a few months ago and forgot most of what I think about it.
DoctorM
I found this book a while ago--- through the bibliography in Jonathan Spence's "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci", a book I loved (and used to assign to intro World History classes). Dame Frances Yates is a fine writer about the more esoteric side of late-Renaissance and Early Modern Europe (see her "The Rosicrucian Enlightenment"), and "The Art of Memory" is an intriguing account of both the mnemonic arts in 16th-c. Europe and of the way the era imagined ways to describe the world. A fascinati...more
Carrie
Really cool subject matter, I would never have thought about this subject matter as a subject matter, and even cooler is at the center of the subject matter is a mystery, and so you aren't even sure what you are reading about exactly. The beginning of a study, so much untapped into, although also, rather anglo-centric. Maybe some new academic will expand (or maybe has?)this study to include african or asian systems of memory...
Leif
A classic of its field. Sponsored by the Warburg Institute, Yates takes a wide-ranging exploration into grounds bewildering to me, and I admit to skipping a chapter on Lullism and another on Bruno, having lost the thread of sense in Yates' intricate scholarship to the wilds of a Starbucks cacophony. Still, the section running through Simonides andCicero up to Thomas Aquinas left me well-served: Yates is careful, thorough, and not without a sense of humour when she needs one (such as the changing...more
Peter Mcloughlin
a book on the lost art of memory. Before computers and storing everything on the cloud. At a time where a scrap of papyrus or sheepskin (the only things to write upon before printing and paper) cost around the equivalent of 20 dollars and a book cost about as much as a new car today memory was the main medium of everyday knowledge. The art of memory goes back to Simonides although it has also been attributed to other Presocratic philosophers. Quintilian and Cicero are main sources of knowledge...more
sillopillo
Ricordare per immagini passeggiando nei luoghi ...
L'argomento trattato dal libro e' abbastanza particolare in quanto riferisce dei metodi utilizzati nel passato per poter memorizzare grandi quantita' di informazioni in modo da permettere ai grandi oratori di stupire gli ascoltatori con discorsi che potevano durare ore e che erano in grado di citare nomi, nozioni e avvenimenti senza apparente fatica. Il metodo utilizzato permetteva di percorrere le informazioni esposte in "avanti e indietro" senz...more
Orion
Pretty awesome book. It's not a how-to book, but a history of people who were quite memorious and how the techniques of memory changed over time. Before the printed word, people were valued for how much they could remember. So since the Greeks, they devised ever more clever ways to remember important things. I've always been fascinated by "Renaisance Men", polymaths, and encyclopedists, but I never understood how someone could hold such vast amounts of information in their heads. Now I know. If...more
Rachel
I'm not sure why I ended up trying to read this... I think possibly a comment about it in The New Media Reader piqued my interest. It's a scholarly investigation of the "art of memory," a technique dating from ancient times in which one memorizes a speech or a series of facts by "placing" the information on various locations in the memory. For example, you would walk through a building and stop at a pillar here, a shield resting there, and fix the locations in your memory. Then, you associate w...more
Tony Gualtieri
There are enough reviews here describing the contents and quality of this book. For me, the best part was the palpable sense of discovery the author conveyed as she began to see how Simonides's artificial memory permeated Renaissance culture and became a hidden strand connecting Thomas Aquinas's Method to Raymond Llull's Art to Giordano Bruno's enigmatic Shadows and Seals and on to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz's invention of infinitesimal calculus.
Larry
What a fascinating work. Groundbreaking history told with a lively voice. Yates pioneered work on the history of mnemonic techniques which were far more influential than was commonly supposed. Essentially a whole area of intellectual history had been ignored for the last three hundred years because its occult connections made it "disreputable" (it's interesting the blinders academics can wear, and always worth remembering).

This book has influenced several important writers of fiction in the deca...more
King
i think this book help me to gain my memory skills and i learn everything easily.
Bethany
3.5 stars. The first half of the book is an absolutely fascinating history of mnemonic art from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages. Once it turned into a study of Giordano Bruno's hermetic writings, I found myself a bit lost (having never heard of him until this book). I'd recommend some background on Renaissance occult stuff before tackling these chapters (the author says as much and refers us to her book on Bruno). The last part discusses memory arts in the early modern period, and gets in...more
Davinici
Small disclaimer, I'm not a history buff and had hoped to pick up tidbits of wisdom about memory management from these pages.

Unfortunately the detail and scrutiny with which the author focuses on the relationships, public opinion and culture of memory made this a very boring read for me. The writing style in general read more like a dissertation than a book.

It is a very complete work, and I think a great piece of historical literature, but I didn't finish it. For my expectations it really fell b...more
Graham Mumm
Fascinating journey of memory from Simonides to the present day. Gets a bit boring at the end but the first half is great reading.
Steve
This is the story of the how first the ancients and then the men of the early modern era up to the Renaissance developed the "house of memory" - the devlopment of memory using place and image. Yates concentrates a fair bit on the occultic methods of Giordino Bruno. There are some interesting sections on the Puritans and Ramist logic, as well as Williams Perkins, and the wrestling match between the occultists and the Ramists/Puritans.
Tanya
totally unhelpful, he just went around and around naming people who had taught the memory palace stuff, but wasn't at all clear how to actually do the process. I didn't finish this book, and I would have given this zero stars.
Ruck
Yates has become one of my favorite academic writers. Her topics (and teachings) skirt the fringe, and this book is no different. People familiar with her work on Giordano Bruno will recognize him in this book as well, as well as the (perhaps over)important role he played in developing The Art of Memory. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Renaissance history.
Carolyn
I love books about things I not only know nothing about, but things I had not only never heard of but impinge on things I do know about. This book traces the history of the idea of the 'memory palace' from classical times to the 17th century, concluding with the hypothesis that the Globe Theatre was in fact designed using the traditional 'memory palace' as a template.
Rob
This amazing history of the Art of Memory, dating back into the Roman writings of an unknown writer most often associated with Cicero, was absolutely fascinating, and started me down the long and winding road of my love of Giordano Bruno (that John Crowley helped me with). This book has also led me to the wonderful works of Mary Carruthers on medieval memory.
Ke Huang
I found it really interesting. At times, it felt like it got on a tangent, but I learned a lot about how religion and knowledge are linked.

I wonder if many female characters are represented because they are supposed to be virtuous.

Maybe the book is also telling about the way that the brain is shaped. Or how art and science are related.
Michael
A good history of the art of memory, especially on its more occult renaissance form. Of course, I wasn't aware that that was going to be the main focus of the book when I started reading it, so I wasn't thrilled, but it was still interesting in and of itself. I'd say it was also very helpful for simply learning non-occult mnemonics anyway.
Andy
I have a feeling I'll be digesting this for a long time. It was a fascinating look at a weird underbelly of rhetoric, philosophy, and religion and reminded me that I really don't know as much as I like to think I do about any of those things.
Steve Carpenter
Jun 30, 2007 Steve Carpenter rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with CRS
Shelves: heavierstuff
An excellent book on the science and technique behind the mind and memory. Heavy reading, but well worth it for anyone looking to improve their memory. This is not a "how to" book, but an excellent scholarly work about the history of memory.
Gary Hoffman
No doubt one of the most important books on the history of memory techniques, but flawed.
Kevin
I have found this book a valuable window into how memory was cultivated in the pre-modern period, and this window as served me well when reading primary sources or looking at artwork from that period.
Lucka
After reading "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything", this seems way too boring, difficult to read, bringing nothing new. Left unfinished about half way through.
Julie Reid
in all honestly i have not read the entire book. it is a difficult book, but my rating is still five stars. it is a complicated and steep book but i love the parts i've managed to traverse thus far.
Björn
Jul 14, 2009 Björn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Number 65 on modern library top 100 nonfiction list. Guess I should read the other 64 first?
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