Plenary speakers and panelists

Plenary speakers:

Dr. Elaine Leong (University College London)

Tracing Itineraries of Knowledge: Medical books and their Readers

In the late 1630s, Lazare Rivière, professor at the University of Montpellier, delivered a series of lectures on practical medicine which were later printed as the Praxis medica. A few years later, in response to requests from physicians writing from all over Europe, Rivière expanded the work to include the theoria alongside the practica. This expanded edition was hugely popular and was translated into French and English. By 1655, Peter Cole, the English publisher of the work, claimed that 15,000 copies of the Latin edition had been sold. Moreover, the book did not only leap off the shelves of booksellers but was actually read.  Surviving copies are often annotated and extracts from the work appear in contemporary medical notebooks. In bringing Rivière’s work to English audiences, Cole and his team made two crucial changes to the text.  First, 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 Rivière’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, paying attention to the epistemic changes rendered by practices of publishing, translation, reading and writing. In doing so, I trace ‘itineraries of knowledge’ and demonstrate that there is much to be gained by paying close attention to the route (and pit stops) through which knowledge travels.


Dr. Roderick McConchie (Independent scholar)

The apothecary and the tailor: A comparative study of the entries in the physical dictionaries of 1655 and 1657

Although a discourse community may share values and understandings of the world, it does not follow that they must share everything. Early modern medical lexicographers found plenty about which to disagree as well as much to share. Indeed, the level of disagreement may seem surprising to a modern reader inured to a common scientific understanding of medicine and the regimented lexicon demanded by communication in medical research and practice (see ten Hacken and Panacová 2015). Medical dictionaries have reflected and disseminated both these understandings and the lack of them.

Two physical, that is, medical dictionaries were published in 1655 ad 1657. The first was appended to a translation of Lazare Rivière by Nicholas Culpeper, Abdiah Cole and William Rowland entitled The practice of physick, and the other appeared with Richard Tomlinson’s translation of Jean de Renou’s A medical dispensatory (Wing R1037). The latter was published shortly thereafter as a stand-alone dictionary, while the Rivière translation with its accompanying dictionary was re-issued down to 1678.

There is a loose but not close relationship between the entries of these two works, which this article explores. Some are verbatim, others connected by a word or phrase only, others have little or no relation, and a few have definitions of a term which seem quite divergent. The detailed findings relate to the question of how dictionary entries are transmitted, and the difficulty of constructing an explanatory classification of this process. This also relates to the widely held notion that the repeated appearance of a given definition in a later dictionary must simply be plagiarism. The process of transmission must be examined, not merely the result.


ten Hacken, Pius and Panacová, Renáta (eds) (2015) Word Formation and Transparency in Medical English Cambridge Scholars Newcastle upon Tyne.


Panel discussion: Future trends in historical medical discourse
Prof. Louise Hill Curth (Winchester)
Prof. Andrew Mangham (Reading)
Prof. Tony McEnery (Lancaster)


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