University of Portland

Professor Herman Asarnow



[When Fire, and Aire, and Earthe, and Water, all weare one:
Before that worke, devine was wroughte, which nowe wee looke uppon.]


An Image-Oriented Introduction to Backgrounds
for English Renaissance [Early Modern] Literature


This series of copies of original Renaissance illustrations and texts is organized to present to you a sense of life and culture in England from around 1550-1670. It aims at being suggestive of the broad interests and range of beliefs in Renaissance England. It in no way claims to present a comprehensive overview of the times. But it does offer, mostly through images taken from the time, a sense of the range of ideas, concerns, and ways of understanding and knowing the world that we will encounter in our readings in Renaissance British literature during the semester.

The illustrations are accompanied by commentary and captions that explain why they are included in this collection and how they might relate to what we will read. They are organized in 8 sections. This is the same organization you will find in your index to the photocopies of these illustrations handed out to you on the first day of class.


You may move through these groups of illustrations and commentary in order, or you may "click" on any one and go to that group directly.

1. Views of London from the 17th Century

2. Pages from an Almanack for 1663

3. Snippets from several texts--by Shakespeare, Bacon, and Pope--offering important ideas about "the Elizabethan World View," in particular, about humanity and its place in God's Creation.

4. Title pages of first editions from selected "Classical" Renaissance English publications.

5. Images and texts on Science and the Natural World--competing Renaissance Views

6. Title pages and snippets from "Popular" English Renaissance Publications

7. The Renaissance obsession with Mutability and Mortality

8. Renaissance Cosmology


Originally created July 31, 1996, this site was last updated & its links refreshed on August 23, 2013.

. Contact me at: asarnow@up.edu You are also welcome to visit my personal page: http://faculty.up.edu/asarnow