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Patents and Prisons: Simon Sturtevant and the Death of the Renaissance Inventor

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Publication details

JournalHuntington Library Quarterly
DatePublished - Jun 2009
Issue number2
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)239-256
Original languageEnglish


This essay reconstructs the rise and fall of an English inventor named Simon Sturtevant (ca. 1570-1624?). Almost unknown today, he wrote ingenious works on everything from lexicography to military technology and secured patents in the fields of hydraulic engineering, metallurgy, and book production. Like many other speculators, he ended up in debtors' prison: his fate is a painful reminder of the epidemic of debt that swept through Elizabethan and Jacobean London, and he has much to teach us about those who made their livings-and sometimes lost their lives-during what Defoe would later call the first Age of Projects.

    Research areas

  • Simon Sturtevant, prison writings, inventors, debtors' prison, King's Bench

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