Giordano Bruno

Bruno started off in life as a Dominican friar, and ended up being burnt at the stake in 1600. (Such are the hazards of the job.) In between times, he was an Italian philosopher.Twentieth-century admirers of his work include James Joyce, who made occasional references to 'the Nolan', which baffled his friends. (Bruno was born in Nola.)

Bruno joined the Dominican order when he was fifteen, and familiarized himself with the classical art of memory, through the works of Thomas Aquinas. He soon became widely known for his memory skills and performed in front of the pope, among others, before quitting the order.

As Camillo had done before him, he went to France, where he promised to reveal his memory secrets to the king (Henry III). To show willing, he dedicat-

cd his first book on memory to the king. De Urnbris Idearum is another attempt to order the entire universe, thereby making it more memorable and understandable. It consists of a series of imaginary rotating 'memory wheels' and is mind-bogglingly complicated.

Frances Yates, an expert on the Renaissance magical tradition, has bravely pieced together this extraordinary concept (The Art of Memory, Chapter 9). She suggests that there was a central wheel containing the signs of the Zodiac, which worked the other wheels, each of which was divided up into 150 images! As far as I can gather, there were five wheels in total; they rotated like a kaleidoscope, generating any number of images.

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