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Journal > Volumes > 53 (2022) / 2 (Summer)
What the Emperor Knew: Natural History in the Tafel-Reden of Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–64)
Tilmann Walter
Universität Würzburg

The Tafel-Reden of Ferdinand I (1503–64) provide a direct insight into scientific and other matters that the Habsburg emperor had to discuss at court. The document comprises over two hundred pages on topics as diverse as zoology, sexuality, technology, geography, history, and politics. It was recorded by the Saxon physician Johann Neefe (1499–1574) from autumn 1563 until spring 1564 and printed in 1674. This article analyzes the Tafel-Reden together with dedicatory letters and other encomia from physicians and naturalists to the emperor. It demonstrates that natural history was subject to lively discussion at table, drawing mainly on the knowledge of ancient authorities such as Aristotle and Hippocrates. Reports of sensational, occult, and miraculous phenomena also attracted attention. Neefe gives an impression of Emperor Ferdinand’s personality, a ruler commonly known as the “father of the Peace of Augsburg” (1555), by making him appear as a relaxed and open-minded conversationalist.

Pages: 437 - 432