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The Art of Memory Reprint Edition

29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226950013
ISBN-10: 0226950018
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Editorial Reviews

Review

   • "One of those quite remarkable and unclassifiable books on the history of knowledge which suddenly makes sense of three or four issues in terms of one commanding metaphor." --Jonathan Miller, Observer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

The Art of Memory is the classic study of how people learned to retain vast stores of knowledge before the invention of the printed page. In it, Frances A. Yates traces the art of memory from its treatment by Greek orators, through its Gothic transformations in the Middle Ages, to the occult forms it took in the Renaissance, and finally to its use in the seventeenth century. This book, the first to relate the art of memory to the history of culture as a whole, was revolutionary when it first appeared and continues to mesmerize readers with its lucid and revelatory insights.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226950018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226950013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

190 of 194 people found the following review helpful By Mike Arnautov on July 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
A book about memory? Mnemonics, eh? Dull stuff...
WRONG!!! This is just about the most engrossing scholarly work I have ever read. Quite apart from displaying a masterly grasp of her subject, which is far more interesting than I would have believed before reading the book, Yates throws fascinating light on a number of seemingly unrelated topics: the Roman art of rhetoric, the architecture of the Globe theatre, the foundations of Renaissance syncretism, the rise of the scientific method, the delightful irony of a patron saint of science turning out to be an arch-magician, psychological aspects of imagination... -- the list is a long one.
However, for me, it is Yates' illumination of the profound relationship between the scientific method and earlier attempts at mastering the universe by magical means, that stands out as a single, most important aspect of the book. In fact, I would go as far as to say that no study of history and/or philosophy of science can be complete without acknowledging and exploring the relevant insights of "The Art of memory".
If you have any interest in human attempts to comprehend and control the universe, a well-thumbed copy of this book should be on your bookshelf!
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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Kevin S. Kennedy on September 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you are fascinated by history or by scholarship throughout recorded time, you should enjoy this book. Francis Yates has created a detailed examination of memory techniques and their evolution over the course of generations. Beginning in ancient Greece and continuing through the Middle Ages, Yates shows how the art of remembering began as a sort of parlor trick and developed into an important skill in both religion and the occult. The influence from both individuals and cultures is described in a scholarly (yet not annoyingly so) way. While this book is not for everyone, its intended audience should be delighted.
NOTE: This book is not a "how-to" manual for memory. It provides only a very general description of memory methods and is instead an exploration of the history of the art.
An excellent companion piece to this book is _The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci_. Both books were listed in the acknowledgements of Thomas Harris' _Hannibal_.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Al Kihano on December 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
In this era of gigabytes and floppy disks, it is easy to forget that once upon a time we had to commit things to memory. Yates does a wonderful job of recovering the ``art of memory,'' a complex and fascinating set of techniques that were in common use for thousands of years. Orators would construct elaborate conceptual ``memory palaces'' and use them to memorize speeches of staggering length.
Well-written and erudite, Yates' book is the best work I know of on this subject. She treats ancient GReek times and the medieval era with equal ease. For further reading on the subject, try Spence's _The MEmory PAlace of MAtteo Ricci_ or Carruthers' _The Book of Memory_.
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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Yates does an admirable job of researching this art. She begins, as many before her, with the tale of Simonides and his invention of the loci method of mnemonics. She also captures the scope and breadth of an art which traditionally formed part of the liberal studies of any educated westerner, be he Greek, Roman, or German. Yates leads the book towards a more occult vein when she studies Bruno and some of the medieval contributors to this practice. In the book's most interesting moments, she suggests that the Renaissance thinkers' search through the ancient memory treatises directly led to the search for method that Descartes, Bacon, et al. ruminated upon to create the modern foundations of science. Though this is a well-researched, and at times interesting book, the read goes slowly. Many of the themes and ideas appear in an overly repetitive fashion. Further, it is not a 'how to' book but a book on the history of an idea; one will know little about the improvement of memory and all the claims of the ages appear to be tricks at best. The spectacular memories of a few individuals seem less associated with a method and more a function of physiology. Whether or not this ars memoria should be reinstated seems questionable even after this long essay. Worth a read if you have the time and interest; can lead one on a thought-provoking journey with patient reflection.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I ran into this book after having learned over 3000 Chinese characters through what turned out to be Art of Memory techniques. (See James Heisig's books "Remembering the Kanji" series. Take it from me, the techniques work.)
For anyone who is interested in Renaissance and pre-Renaissance history, art, or culture, I believe this book essential to understanding the mindset.
Heartily recommended. For true mental whiplash, read this back to back with Julian Jaynes' "Consciousness as the Breakdown in the Bicameral Mind". You'll never think of Mind or Memory the same way again.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By William J. Romanos on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I consider this one of the most important books I have ever read. It changed my views on ancient and medieval architecture, memory, and the mind. Specifically, this book is the history of the art of memory. It is about how in the age before books or wide-spread literacy, human beings were able to memorize massive amounts of information. For example, the traveling poets in Greece, Cicero in Rome, etc. It also details some architecture was actually designed to facility memorization. The book also discusses the hermetic tradition, some aspects of alchemy and the zodiac, and other related matters - all within the context of the human mind and the human ability to utilize "mental structures," "pictures," and other "devices" - as well as "architecture" to assist in memory and thinking. This book is a scholarly work and was written by a scholar. It is excellent, but it is not a simple or easy book. It is wide-ranging. You will learn some history and some aspects of memorization techniques. But it is not a book on memorization techniques (but you will understand the most important ones from reading this book). It is much better than a how-to-book on memory or memorization. Again, this is one of the most important books I have read and I encourage the serious reader interested in human memory, thinking, architecture, history, etc. to read this book. Excellent.
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