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Title: Establishing the facts : Conrad Gessner's epistolae medicinales between the particular and the general
Author: Delisle, Candice
ISNI:       0000 0004 2677 0863
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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A town physician in Zurich, famous for his Historia Animalium and his Bibliotheca universalis, Conrad Gessner (1516-1565) was also an indefatigable letter-writer who left an abundant, though largely unpublished and unexplored, correspondence. In this dissertation, I examine his printed and manuscript letters and attempt to show how sixteenth-century epistolary practices shaped early modern knowledge of nature and of medicine. Letter writing and letter-reading represented a central part of early modern scholarly life, one of the means of self-presentation scholars had at their disposal in order to confirm their belonging to the Republic of Letters. This membership was reinforced by a constant flow of exchange of natural artefacts, books, and remedies. But letters did not merely circulate objects: their essential material was news. Medical letters were an important aspect of Gessner's medical practice. Patients and colleagues wrote to ask for epistolary consultations and tell their own case stories, providing him with fuel and experience to share in the exchange of particulars, and with questions he could circulate within the learned community. Standardised into historiae, information was submitted to the consensus of the correspondents' own networks and consolidated into generally agreed facts, capable of becoming the foundation for generalisation. Letters, however, did not cease to exist once their role in the epistolary dialogue was finished: they remained, very materially, among Gessner's notes and bookshelves. He incorporated them in his treatises, or cut and pasted them into his own collections of medical writings. Later, they were collected by his heirs, and turned into a published selection of Medical letters that constituted both a memorial to their master and a monument of knowledge made out of matters of fact, the essential content of early modern knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available