Books, Printing and Medicine in the Renaissance

Vivian Nutton


The history of the medical book in the Renaissance is only just beginning: there still are enormous gaps in our knowledge. Some general points may be emphatised: doctors, surgeons and apothecaries were often literate; the culture of the dotor was founded at least as much upon the book as upon pratical experience. Much is known about the history of the printing press: but in focusing on espensive, luxury books such as Vesalius' Fabrica we often leave out average products such as the many other anatomy books printed in the 16th century. The most significant feature of printing is perhaps the increase of the amount and variety of what was available and accessible to readers. Looking specifically at one type of book, the plague treatise, the amalgamation of public and private allowed by the printing press becomes apparent. Knowledge was disseminated from universities to the general public: plague texts are scattered in many different private and public libraries, and any attempt at a general survey is bound to be provisional.

Key words: Reinassance - Books - Medicine - Printing

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