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Extra resources for Ancients and Moderns (Washington University Studies.)
The sixteenth century witnessed innumerable voyages which continually widened the knowledge of lands unknown to the ancients. This enormous expansion in geographical learning was not without effect in militating against the standing of antiquity, especially in the next century, and nowhere did it show its influence more significantly than in the numerous geographical figures of speech with which the moderns urged their claims upon mankind. And yet so firm a hold had ancient authority obtained upon the Elizabethan mind that it was with difficulty and apology that any deviation from the path of antiquity was ventured.
30 Other matters might indeed be left to speculation in libraries, but magnetism as revealed by the compass was an ever-present phenomenon, in which centered the reality and necessity of actual observation. Certainly interesting accounts of the variation of the needle observed in quarters the ancients never reached were recorded and brought back to England. 31 And when magnetism came to be more thoroughly explored, mariners were urged to study the action of the compass, and become the agents of scientific observations.
Sence Ptolomæus that famous Kinge hath of that argument left to vs his Geographie. Vnto whome I answer, confessing me not worthy to kisse his fotesteppes, aswell for the maiestie of his person, whan he liued, as also for his excellent Learning, Science, & diligence," that the work was too large to be completed by any one man. He finds it necessary to apologize for even attempting to contribute -11- to a field pre-empted by an ancient. As regards another geographical matter Cuningham says, "although Ptolomæus and Auicenna were of sufficient authoritie, to make you credit this thing.