The Fellows of the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge bonded with one another in the 1660s, in response to external skepticism about their observation-based epistemology and practices, through an active book-gifting network that seeded their libraries with one another’s works. An examination of the way membership in the Royal Society was demarcated, negotiated, and cultivated vis-à-vis books and other archived properties serves to illuminate the contradictions inherent in the birthing of the hybrid identity of the gentleman-scholar as the ideal practitioner of the New Science in England during the Restoration period. The Fellows, in turn, rejected the upstart gentlewoman-scholar and poet, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, and her efforts to participate in their book-gifting network, revealing the limitations on their ability to absorb challenges to the observation-based methodology of the New Science, and hence to truly embrace diversity of thought and identity at a time when the perimeters of scientific inquiry were being drawn.

You do not currently have access to this content.