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L'horizon de retrospection du <i>Mithridate</i> de Conrad Gessner (1555)

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Abstract

This article is an account of a detailed study of the collection of sources and references used by Conrad Gessner in his <i>Mithridates, de differentiis linguarum [...] obseruationes</i>(1555). Although this volume is of modest length, its author intends for it to be a <i>comprehensive </i>survey of the world’s languages. He does not claim his work to be original, however: he clearly affirms the debt he owes to his predecessors, whom he cites as systematically as possible; quotations make up nearly 50% of the total text. The vastness of Gessner’s scholarship yields a cumulative index – both of the direct sources of the <i>Mithridates </i>and of authors quoted – in excess of 150 names, cited more than 500 times.Taking different criteria into consideration (chronology, frequency of sources, quantitative importance of the cited texts), this article first covers the forms of citation (in terms of length and precision), then gives global statistical data, before providing a more detailed analysis organized by period: antiquity (85 authors cited), Middle Ages (15 authors), and Renaissance (53 authors). These three periods are thus represented in the <i>Mithridates</i>, with a clear predominance of historians from antiquity, along with Renaissance cosmographers, explorers and naturalists.

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