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date: 03 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines automata, precious clockwork powered mimetic objects, that were produced in numbers at the turn of the seventeenth century in the German-speaking world. These self-propelled mechanical objects have long been held by scholars to be exemplary of the early modern desire to replicate nature. Why is this the case, though, when nothing about them—neither their scale, their material makeup, their subject matter, nor their programmed movement—is naturalistic? Coming to terms with what these objects animated and the themes they engaged reveals not just how these objects flaunted their artificiality and but also brings about a long-needed distinction between seventeenth-century automata and those discussed by mechanistic philosophers, such as Descartes, and later eighteenth-century automata, like those crafted by Jacques Vaucanson.

Keywords: automata, clockwork, Holy Roman Empire, mechanistic philosophy, Jacques Vaucanson, René Descartes

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