I just stared reading Mary Poovey’s A History of the Modern Fact and I’m excited. I’m still in the intro, but she’s way deepening what I’ve been thinking and writing about facts. (If she uses Malthus as an example I’ll be pissed, since I thought I’d come up with the differences between the first and sixth editions of his book as an example of the birth of modern facts in the early 1800s. I’m afraid to look in the index. Yes, writing makes me petty.)
The intro makes it clear that she’s taking facts back to the invention of double entry bookkeeping and “mercantile accommodation.” Mercantile accommodation was, she says, the system of informal agreements that enabled merchants to accept each other’s bills of exchange. So, is she going to tie credentials to mercantile credits? Does our system of trust in authorities of knowledge come from our system of commercial trust? I’ll have to read more to find out if I’m just making this up because it’s 2AM and I’m in an airport.