Scientific Illustration in the Middle Ages: Topics and Functions

Giulia Orofino


Medical and scientific Middle Age manuscripts are often richly illustrated, even when texts, written in the early and the late Antiquity, were not supposed to be accompanied by pictures or diagrams. Technical or practical treatises - especially herbals - were thus transformed in volumes meant for entertainment, which exploited the myths and the possibility of fabulous digressions implied in scientific information. This is particularly true of manuscripts from Southern Italy, and from the milieu of the Frederick II's court, produced for a non-professional public. Miniatures and illustrations from the Swabian age mark a difference with the preceding epoch, exhibiting the results of close empirical observation and the restoration of classically styles images. medical books in particular bear a novelty: scenes of therapeutic and surgical interventions, full of realistic details.

Key words: Scientific illustration - Middle Ages - Manuscripts

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