Vernacular Medical Books in Early Modern England

Vernacular Medical Books in Early Modern England

Mary Fissell (Johns Hopkins University), Elaine Leong


Titlepage to Salvator Winter's <i>A Pretious Treasury: Or A New Dispensatory</i> (London, 1649). Wellcome Library, London.

By the mid-seventeenth century, London printers and booksellers offered the English reading public a wide array of vernacular medical books. Readers could pick and choose from an assortment of herbals, pharmacopeias, general medical guides, surgical handbooks, midwifery manuals, regimens and medical recipe books. A few of these works have a long history, having been available in manuscript before the invention of moveable-type printing. But the advent of print fostered a boom in in the numbers and forms of medical works in the vernacular, often addressed to lay readers. These texts were eagerly consulted by householders who utilized the knowledge contained within not only for their home-based medical activities but also as a way to inform their decisions as consumers of medical services. This project documents and makes searchable (by title, author, subject etc.) all pre-1700 medical books published in English. Particular attention will be paid to tracking English translations of medical texts originally penned in other European vernaculars and Latin.

Project members past and present include: Daniel Glombitza, Tillmann Taape and Olivia Weisser