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Title of a book by Frances A. Yates, University of Chicago Press, 1966. ISBN 10-226-94999-0.

From the preface:

Few people know that the Greeks, who invented many arts, invented an art of memory which, like their other arts, was passed on to Rome whence it descended in the European tradition. This art seeks to memorise through a technique of impressing 'places' and 'images' on memory. It has usually been classed as 'mnemotechnics', which in modern times seems a rather unimportant branch of human activity. But in the ages before printing a trained memory was vitally important; and the manipulation of images in memory must always to some extent involve the psyche as a whole."

A more recent book on the same topic is The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan D. Spence, Viking Press, ISBN: 0140080988. Ricci was a Jesuit missionary to China. He developed the art and taught it to Chinese scholars to demonstrate the superiority of the West to China.

Thomas Harris credits both books in the acknowledgement to his book Hannibal, the third book in which Hannibal Lecter appears.

The art of memory is one that is enjoying somewhat of a revival nowadays as people realize that the only real obstacle to success is intelligence, and this includes of course the ability to recall facts accurately and reliably. The memories contained in greek, roman and later arab minds was vast. If ever built in real life, these "memory palaces" would often give London a run for it's money in size and complexity. Each house, street, area had a specific purpose, and fitted into the whole.

Ironically this kind of huge static storage system was often an obstacle to progress as paradigm shifts resulting from new and revolutionary ideas often required people to abandon large sections of their palaces of accumulated knowledge which they were unwilling to do. It has been suggested there is evidence that famous figures in history such as Cicero, or Shakespeare were adept in the use of these memory techniques.

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