A Translation of Alexandro Malaspina's Meditacíon de lo Bella en la Naturaleza

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Alexandro Malaspina conducted the most ambitious scientific experiment of the eighteenth century, and wrote the Meditación in 1798, while imprisoned for sedition in the fortress of San Antón off La Coruña. His fall, precipitated by the reaction to the politico-economic recommendations he made to the Monarchy on the subject of colonial relations, led to the suppression of most of the results. This translation is an attempt to redress an intellectual injustice, the silencing of a mind at once broader and deeper than those of his most well-known counterparts. Malaspina’s main topics in this work are questions of aesthetics: does Beauty lie in the eye of the beholder? Is Beauty to be found in Art or in Nature? Does Beauty depend on Utility?


“Malaspina’s Meditación acerca de lo Bello en la Naturaleza is a poignant document: the work of a man of forty-four writing, as he himself put it, ‘in the midst of my solitude’ ... It is a work, then, that provides a remarkable vantage point from which to view the impact of the Enlightenment and the upheavals of the French Revolution on an intelligent and widely-read man who was, however, no closet philosopher, having experienced both war and peace and having traveled well beyond the bounds of the known European world.” – Professor John Gasciogne, Head of the School of History, University of New South Wales

“More so than any man from his century – Malaspina was witness to and documented the glory of the natural world in much of its still unspoiled animal, botanical, geophysical, and anthropological diversity ... Rather than philosophic, as such, Malaspina’s Meditación offers a warning on the danger of scientific and philosophical hubris and the ‘vainglorious weakness of the human understanding.’ Malaspina cautions that even Newton, the darling of the Enlightenment – and source of the optimism of Malaspina’s age, is fallible. Nature has an ‘aversion to any general law that tries to subject her work to the limits of our understanding.” – Dr. Russell McNeil, Research Associate, Malaspina University College

“Conferences, edited volumes, articles, essays and television programs have made Malaspina’s name a familiar one to those interested in the history of Spain, the Pacific, and the Enlightenment. Amid this scholarly activity and media interest, Malaspina’s prison years have remained largely a blank, and the emergence of the text of the Meditación is a significant event in the story of his life and thought.” – Glyndwr Williams F.R.H.S., Emeritus Professor of History, Queen Mary, University of London

Table of Contents

Preface by John Gascoigne
A Philosophical Meditation
Malaspina’s Notes
Note A
Note B
Note C
Note E
Note F
Note G
Note H
Note I
Note J
Note K
Note KK
Note M
Note N
Note O
Note P
Note Q
Note R
Note S
Note T
Note X
Note Z
Note Y
Note W
Note AA
Editor’s and Translator’s Endnotes

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