Elaine Leong (Berlin): Tracing Epistemic Itineraries in Early Modern England

12.05.2016 16:00 Uhr – 18:00 Uhr

wann: Donnerstag, 12. Mai 2016, 16-18 Uhr

wo: Historicum, Schellingstr. 12, Raum K026

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars "Perspektiven der Wissenschaftsgeschichte"

"In the late 1630s, Lazare Riviere, professor at the University of Montpellier, delivered a series of lectures on practical medicine. Later, in response of requests from physicians writing from all over Europe, Riviere expanded these to include the theory of diseases and the resulting Praxis medica cum theoria was printed in 1645 and was hugely popular. Peter Cole, the English printer of the work, claims that by 1663 over 1700 copies of the folio-sized tome had been sold. In bringing Riviere's work to English audiences, Cole and his team made two crucial changes to the text. Firstly, in his preface, Cole specifically targeted "Ladies and Gentlewomen" as potential purchasers and readers. Thus, bringing knowledge originating in the University setting into the domestic sphere. Secondly, later editions were often sold and bound with the English translation of Riviere's Observationes medicae (1646) so mixing the older practica with the new medical genre of observationes. This talk traces the Praxis medica's journey from university settings into early modern homes. I examine three crucial stages in this journey. Firstly, the codification of the original practica lectures into print. Secondly, the transformation from the Praxis medica to The Practice of Physick and, finally, how readers engaged with and appropriated the knowledge offered by the book. Each one of these steps, I show, left its own epistemic footprint on Riviere's practica and when taken together form what might be termed an "epistemic itinerary". By that I mean itineraries in which bodies of knowledge become entangled as they journey through the winding, convoluted processes of early modern book production and reading and writing practices. Historians of science and medicine have recently argued that reading, writing and note-taking practices are now also themselves recognised as knowledge codification processes. The story of Riviere's Praxis medica, I suggest, demonstrates that there is much to be gained by paying close attention to the route (and pit stops) which knowledge takes in this process." - Elaine Leong