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Communities of Learned Experience

Epistolary Medicine in the Renaissance

Nancy G. Siraisi

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Sixteenth-century physicians had their letters on medical topics published in printed collections to record their exchange of ideas and make known their professional expertise.

During the Renaissance, collections of letters both satisfied humanist enthusiasm for ancient literary forms and provided the flexibility of a format appropriate to many types of inquiry. The printed collections of medical letters by Giovanni Manardo of Ferrara and other physicians in early sixteenth-century Europe may thus be regarded as products of medical humanism. The letters of mid- and late sixteenth-century\u2026

Sixteenth-century physicians had their letters on medical topics published in printed collections to record their exchange of ideas and make known their professional expertise.

During the Renaissance, collections of letters both satisfied humanist enthusiasm for ancient literary forms and provided the flexibility of a format appropriate to many types of inquiry. The printed collections of medical letters by Giovanni Manardo of Ferrara and other physicians in early sixteenth-century Europe may thus be regarded as products of medical humanism. The letters of mid- and late sixteenth-century Italian and German physicians examined in Communities of Learned Experience by Nancy G. Siraisi also illustrate practices associated with the concepts of the Republic of Letters: open and relatively informal communication among a learned community and a liberal exchange of information and ideas. Additionally, such published medical correspondence may often have served to provide mutual reinforcement of professional reputation.

Siraisi uses some of these collections to compare approaches to sharing medical knowledge across broad regions of Europe and within a city, with the goal of illuminating geographic differences as well as diversity within social, urban, courtly, and academic environments. The collections she has selected include essays on general medical topics addressed to colleagues or disciples, some advice for individual patients (usually written at the request of the patient’s doctor), and a strong dose of controversy.

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Reviews

Siraisi deftly guides the reader with engaging and descriptive prose toward her modest theses... It is a welcome introduction to the world of medical epistles in the Renaissance.

This book goes a step further in the current critical reassessment of the minor genres of early modern medical literature, traditionally viewed as secondary sources. Mastering Renaissance history and historiography, Siraisi shows how they can be used to access the world of sixteenth-century medical practitioners avoiding artificial distinctions between the social and intellectual motives underpinning their multifold activities.

These studies will be useful to anyone exploring the development of espistolae midicinales. Siraisi also offers valuable evidence of the establishment of an eraly medical Republic of Letters.

[Communities of Learned Experience] reflects Siraisi's routinely thorough research and engaging prose, and it would be difficult to argue that the book does not accomplish what it sets out to do.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
176
ISBN
9781421407494
Illustration Description
4 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Contexts and Communication
2. The Court Physician Johann Lange and His Epistolae Medicinales
3. The Medical Networks of Orazio Augenio
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
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Nancy G. Siraisi

Nancy G. Siraisi is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the City University of New York. She is author of History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning.