Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 May 2011
English medical texts from the period 1500–1700 are a large and heterogeneous group of writings, including texts circulating in print and manuscript forms on a range of medical topics, representing a variety of genres, written by authors with varying educational and professional backgrounds for different types of target audiences. The 200 years in focus here were a period of important changes from the medieval world view to the first stages of empirical science. In this chapter, we shall first discuss the background and the transmission of medical knowledge with different modes, oral and written, and media, printed books and manuscripts. Sections 2.2 and 2.3 give an overview of medical literature throughout the two-century period. Section 2.4 introduces the Early Modern English Medical Texts (EMEMT), a computer-readable text collection designed to facilitate research on printed medical texts of the period and used as primary material in the studies in this book.
Printing and manuscript circulation
Dissemination of medical knowledge underwent major changes in the early modern period. The advent of printing introduced a new technology that enabled the production of multiple copies of a text more quickly and more cheaply than had been possible with copying by hand. This affected both the more prestigious kinds of text, those produced by learned men, and those texts that were meant to provide basic medical information to laypeople, for instance almanacs that might sell for 2d.