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

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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.

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


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

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