Inventing Inventors in Renaissance Europe
Catherine Atkinson analyzes how at the turn of the sixteenth century a leading Italian humanist - author of a famous history of England (one of Shakespeare's sources) - uses the concept of "invention". "On the inventors of all things" ( De inventoribus rerum 1499), written by Polydore Vergil of Urbino (+1555), praises man's inventive genius in all fields of culture and is written in the manner of an early cultural history. In the later part of the work, written on the eve of the Reformation and published in 1521, Vergil turns to the highly controversial subject of religion and investigates how the various institutions of the church of the Latin West had arisen. Effectively this meant examining whether they had been adopted from the Jews or pagan Romans or, in the case of rites and practices of later origin, who had "invented" or introduced them. Inevitably this drew the author into the heated debate on the legitimacy of rites, making it of interest for both Protestants and Catholics for several centuries.