Materia Medica and the History of the Book in Seventeenth-Century Portugal

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This article provides an analysis of the most successful books on materia medica printed in Portugal in the seventeenth century and their influence on subsequent works. The study is informed by methodologies and concerns from the field of the history of the book and pays particular attention to paratexts, genres as well as to physical formats. It shows that these elements were fundamental in defining intended audiences and in constructing strategies of legitimation for their authors. In addition, it assesses issues of readership by considering the marginalia preserved in some copies of these books. The investigation has also into account a significant number of manuscripts on the subject. In spite of their limited circulation, this article shows the advantage of manuscript culture in the dissemination of knowledge on materia medica. Since they could circumvent censorship, particularly in the case of chemical remedies, they reveal a more open approach towards therapeutic innovations and the integration of new ideas and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394–430
Number of pages37
JournalNuncius-Journal Of The History Of Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2021


  • materia medica
  • history of the book
  • chemical drugs


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