Mnemonics and medieval culture

This is a working list. That something is included here does not mean I recommend it.


  • These techniques are not hard to learn or use. The hard part is to find something useful to do with them. Test preparation, medical studies, games, stage magic, sales, public speaking
  • I cannot use visual mnemonics while driving. This must be why we have radio, but not television, in cars. Why we have giant television screens by the side of the road is an open question. Tentatively, I blame George Bush.
  • Mnemonics have always been used in two ways: to organize information, and broadly to mislead people. Cicero, Metrodorus, Saint Thomas. At the end of the middle ages, the balance tipped away from organizing to where it is today, associated with stage magic, insincerity, and charlatanry. Did Renaissance magic represent one, the other, or both? Does misleading oneself count?

Studies, criticism, biography

  • The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, by Jonathan D. Spence
  • Logic and the Art of Memory, by Paolo Rossi
  • The book of memory:A study of memory in medieval culture, by Mary J. Carruthers
  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, by C.S. Lewis
  • The Art of Memory, by Frances A. Yates
  • Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, by C.S. Lewis
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas, by G.K. Chesterton
  • The History of the Abacus, by J.M. Pullan
  • Wax Tablets of the Mind, by Jocelyn P. Small
  • * The Universe in a Handkerchief, by Martin Gardner
  • The Evolution of Medieval Thought, by David Knowles
  • Feudal Society, by Marc Bloch
  • * Mnemotechnics and Virgil, by Elizabeth-Anne Scarth
  • * The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, by Mary Carruthers (Editor), Jan M. Ziolkowski (Editor)
  • * The Singer of Tales, 2nd ed., by Albert B. Lord
  • The Making of Memory in the Middle Ages, edited by Lucie Doležalova: “…case studies on memory in different parts of medieval Europe and in a variety of fields”
  • Review of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer

Primary works

  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated by Rolfe Humphries
  • The Song of Roland, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boëthius
  • * The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser
  • The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
  • * The Aeneid, by Virgil
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine
  • * Jerusalem Delivered, by Torquato Tasso
  • * Lives of Famous Greeks and Romans, by Plutarch
  • The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, by Mary Carruthers, Jan M. Ziolkowski
  • The Treasure Chests of Mnemosyne: Selected Texts on Memory Theory from Plato to Derrida, ed. Uwe Fleckner, photography by Sarkis

More recent memory books


  • How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week, by Dominic O’Brien
  • Memory Power, by Scott Hagwood
  • Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It, by Kenneth L. Higbee
  • * The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas
  • * Mind Hacks, by Tom Stafford & Matt Webb
  • * Modern Mnemotechny, by Asa S Boyd
  • * Phreno- Mnemotechny, by Francis Fauvel-Gouraud
  • * Pick on Memory Culture, by Edward Pick
  • * Mnemonics Applied to the Acquisition of Knowledge, by RobertPike Jr. and William C. Pike


  • Mnemonics, Rhetoric and Poetics for Medics, by Robert L. Bloomfield
  • Memorize the Faith! by Kevin Vost
  • Better Bridge with a Better Memory, by Ron Klinger
  • Visual Mnemonics for Biochemistry, by Laurie L. Marbas
  • Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power, by Sam Burchers


  • St. Thomas Aquinas, by Ralph McInerny
  • * In the Palaces of Memory, by George Johnson
  • * The Mind of a Mnemonist, by Aleksandr R. Luria



* To do