Alexander Neckam: … and the sailors will thus know how to direct their course when the pole star is concealed through the troubled state of the atmosphere

Realo at Headfarm understands everything in terms of texts and writing.
H (andy) is a figure of thought. H insists that discussions should be productive.
J. discusses implicit or hidden structures of power and chances to subvert them.
Magnes wants to find out how the others have constructed their relation to him.
D. is an artist.

Realo: Suddenly, it’s there …
Magnes: Suddenly? It was there already, used by sailors.
Realo: By men who didn’t write, you mean?
H.: Men who didn’t have time to write.
J.: Men who didn’t think about writing.
Realo: Men who didn’t pay attention, because they weren’t writing.

Magnes: Nevertheless around 1200 a monk writes in two different books about a something nobody in the West wrote before. I quote: “In the European Middle Ages the knowledge that, under certain conditions, a small needle would point in a specific direction and could thus be used for orientation, spread surprisingly rapidly. Without making much ado about it, this directing force, which could be transferred from magnets to iron needles, was utilised by seafarers in the High Middle Ages. References to this are found in the writings of monks and poets in monasteries, universities, chancelleries, and at courts. Just how this knowledge came to Europe — overland from China via the Silk Road, by sea via the Indian Ocean and Red Sea to the south and east coasts of the Mediterranean where it was observed and copied by French crusaders, or via the centres of  Arab science in southern Italy — is not known. It is clear from the references in texts that the European High Middle Ages assimilated this knowledge from non-Christian cultures and utilised it economically, scientifically, and aesthetically in the period 1187 to 1314, but without naming the source or sources.” I found this text somewhere in the web with the reference that its part of an essay that will be published in a volume named VARIANTOLOGY 5.
Realo: In fact you are talking about manuscripts, some called them books or „liber“, but they were not printed books. We cannot date them exactly: In 1187 the English monk Alexander Neckam (1157–1217) mentioned the direction-indicating pointer in De naturis rerum. The date of 1187 is given by Amir D. Aczel*, Heinz Balmer ** gives a date within the range 1180–1190 because of Neckam’s other work that is relevant in this context named  De utensilibus,  Constant J. Mews*** gives a more cautious date: Mews presumes that both De naturis rerum and De utensilibus; were written after Neckam’s sojourn in Paris, which ended ca. 1190.
H.: What does that mean? You are worshipping an obsolete ideal of scholarship, a scholarhip which does not help to deal with today’s questions.
D: What are today’s questions?
H: The lack of political ideas, by the way in Egypt the streets are burning.
Real: Text is an idea which is able to destroy any structure.
J.: You cannot say this without adding that text creates structures. The Holy Quran for example.
Magnes: Please listen for a moment. The first written notion of the directive force in Europe leads to a narration about the power of instruments, it is a power to change social, political, cultural conditions. The context is a sort of encyclopedia or a dictionary by which a scholar explains to his pupils meanings of words. First he explains what a ship is. He does this  in verses („navium diversitates his vercibus compreh[en]duntur”) and then he adds special features, explaining them in prose: „… there must be a needle mounted on a dart (habeat etiam acum jaculo superpositam) which will oscillate and turn until the point looks to the north, and the sailors will thus know how to direct their course when the pole star is concealed through the troubled state of the atmosphere”. I quote Alexander Neckam quoted  after Brother Potamian****.

* Amir D. Aczel,  Der Kompass — Eine Erfindung verändert die Welt [2001] (Reinbek, 2005), p. 41; English edition: The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention that Changed the World, (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2001).
** Heinz Balmer,  Beiträge zur Geschichte der Erkenntnis des Erdmagnetismus (Aarau, 1956), p. 51.
*** Constant J. Mews,  „Alexander Nequam“, in: Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine. An Encyclopedia, ed. Thomas Glick et al. (New York, 2005).
**** Brother Potamian, „Notes”, in: The Letter of Petrus Peregrinus on the magnet; transl.: Brother Arnold; introductory notice: Brother Potamian. New York: McGraw Publishing, 1904, p. 37. The Latin text of Neckam is published in: Alexander Neckam, De Nominibius Utensilium, ed. Hunt. Hunt, T.: Teaching and Learning Latin in 13th-Century England, I-III, Cambridge: Brewer, 1991, p.188: f. 114 vb].

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