PETER Of Ravenna

Peter of Ravenna was a fifteenth century entrepreneur who spotted a gap in the market for mnemonics. Trained as a jurist in Padua, he published a memory book in 1491, which in today's terms was an international bestseller. The Phoenix was translated into many languages, went through numerous editions and was considered a bible for anyone who wanted to improve their memory.

Peter removed memory from the religious context that Thomas Aquinas and the thirteenth-century Scholastics had given it, and set about introducing mnemonics to the lay masses. He encouraged people to look out for suitable journeys on their holidays and recommended the use of sexual images. The practical handbook was publicized by his own memory feats: he memorized 20,000 legal points, 200 speeches of Cicero, and the entire canon law. (Give me Trivial Pursuit any day.)

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