1. In the Middle Ages both sides of human consciousness, within as well as without, lay dreaming or half awake beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of faith, illusion, and childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation - only through some general category. In Italy this veil first melted into air; an objective treatment and consideration of the State and of all the things of this world became possible. The subjective side at the same time asserted itself with corresponding emphasis; man became a spiritual individual, and recognized himself as such.
... At the close of the thirteenth century Italy began to swarm with individuality; the ban laid upon human personality was dissolved; and a thousand figures meet us each in its own special shape and dress ... The Italians of the fourteenth century knew little of false modesty or of hypocrisy in any shape; not one of them was afraid of singularity, or being and seeming unlike his neighbours.
- Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (1860) (translated by S.G.C. Middlemore, rpt London, 1944, Pt II, section 1, pp. 81-2)
2. Language Change: New 'Self-' Compounds, with date of first recorded use
3. My self am centre of my circling thought
Only my self I study, learn and know.
- Sir John Davies, Nosce Teipsum (1599)
4. The Birth of the Self
As new waked from soundest sleep
Soft on the flowery herb I found me laid
In balmy sweat, which with his beams the sun
Soon dried, and on the reeking moisture fed.
Straight toward heaven my wondering eyes I turned,
And gazed a while the ample sky, till raised
By quick instinctive motion up I sprung,
As thitherward endeavouring, and upright
Stood on my feet; about me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these,
Creatures that lived, and walked, or flew,
Birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled,
With fragrance and with joy my heart o'erflowed.
My self I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, and lively vigour led:
But who I was, or where, or from what cause,
Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake,
My tongue obeyed and readily could name
What e'er I saw.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, 253-73
5. The portrait, with its roots in the Renaissance, certainly represented its subject as king, pope, infanta or merchant prince, but it also created an individual presence, a self. The desire for glory and fame led rulers and would-be rulers to grandiose displays of individuality ... the technology of the mirror, perfected and marketed by Venice in the early sixteenth century, first enabled people literally to reflect on a whole picture of themselves. By contrast, before the sixteenth century, blown glassmirrors magnified what was near their surface and this made it difficult for people to see their whole appearance. In all this, there was an enrichment of the sense of self.
- Roger Smith, 'Self-Reflection and the Self', in Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present, ed. Roy Porter (London, 1997)