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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.
It is commonly argued that in the early modern period remedy books formed the most popular end of ‘a spectrum from popular to elite medicine’, with theoretical textbooks at the most elite end (Wear 2000: 40). A more accurate description of the situation would be to say that remedy books spanned the whole spectrum from popular to elite medicine, as remedies were prepared by and for the rich and the poor alike and they constituted ‘a shared material culture between lay people and medical practitioners’ (Wear 2000: 103). Although the pragmatic and interpersonal aspects of medieval and early modern recipes and related genres have previously been examined by Taavitsainen and Pahta (1995), Taavitsainen (2001c), Mäkinen (2002) and Grund (2003) (see also Ratia and Suhr, Chapter 10 in this volume), their relationship to the intended audience as stated by the author has not been studied systematically.
This chapter examines the textual strategies that seventeenth-century writers of printed remedy books aimed at laypeople employed to make them more accessible to their stated target audience. The question is approached by comparing a selection of recipe collections, ostensibly aimed at common laypeople, to English translations of authoritative recipe collections meant for the use of the medical community. The interpersonal strategies employed by the authors of the nine recipe collections will be compared by looking at several indicators of interpersonal orientation, including overt reference to the reader in the text, the use of authority references to convince readers and the use of classical languages and terminology in the recipe collections.
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