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Communities of Learned Experience

Epistolary Medicine in the Renaissance

Nancy G. Siraisi

Publication Year: 2012

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 of medical learning and practice. 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.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

I was extremely honored by the invitation to give the first set of Singleton Lectures at the Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe of the Johns Hopkins University in October 2010. This book presents a revised version of those lectures. At Johns Hopkins I should like to express my gratitude especially to Christopher Celenza, codirector of the Singleton Center; ...

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pp. 1-13

The numerous Latin letters on medical subjects written by sixteenth-century physicians constitute one small part of a much larger universe of early modern European learned and scientific correspondence. For a generation now, the role of correspondence in early modern erudition and exchange of ideas, of arguments, of objects of interest to collectors ...

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1. Contexts and Communication

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pp. 14-37

This chapter considers some examples of letters exchanged in the middle and later decades of the sixteenth century between learned physicians in Italy and in northern Europe that subsequently came to be included in contemporary printed collections of medical letters. Though its primary concern is with letters as they appeared in printed collections, ...

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2. The Court Physician Johann Lange and His Epistolae Medicinales

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pp. 38-61

Reusner was Lange’s distant relative; his words occur in the preface he wrote for a posthumous edition of Lange’s Epistolae prepared by yet another relative, Georg Wirth, for a time a court physician to Charles V and Philip II and Lange’s confidant and heir. Lange’s German world was, as Reusner’s preface makes clear, ...

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3. The Medical Networks of Orazio Augenio

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pp. 62-84

The medical letters of Johann Lange were the product of an early to mid-sixteenth-century career in which a relatively brief period of university study and teaching led to lifetime tenure at a German princely court. Lange’s intellectual formation was rooted in the first generation of medical humanism in German universities, ...

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pp. 85-88

Published collections of medical letters were at least in part a humanistic genre in origin, inspired, like compilations of Renaissance letters relating to other areas of knowledge, by interest in ancient letters and letter writing, enthusiasm for the recovery of ancient literary forms, and appreciation of the openness and diversity of a format appropriate for all kinds of inquiry and critique. ...


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pp. 89-154


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pp. 155-163

E-ISBN-13: 9781421407845
E-ISBN-10: 1421407841
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421407494
Print-ISBN-10: 1421407493

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 4 halftones
Publication Year: 2012