University of Haifa, School of History

Medieval-Renaissance Studies Association



12 2013     , 146


Imaging a New Profession in the 12th and 13th Centuries:

Besançon 457 and the Physicians Task


Monica H. Green

Arizona State University

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a new profession was born in western Europe: the learned physician. OBoyle and Montford have examined visual representations of the learned physician, but both focus on the later thirteenth century, by which point the profession was already well-established. In a multi-year project, I and several colleagues have amassed evidence for the emergence of learned medicine in the long twelfth century by identifying every Latin medical manuscript produced in western Europe from c. 1075 to c. 1225. Of over 500 manuscripts, only a handful carry depictions of physicians. This talk will focus on the transitional decades between the early and middle thirteenth century, suggesting that new modes of visual representation occurred at the precise moment of a major textual shift in learned medicine. Besançon, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 457, hitherto unstudied by medical historians, not simply provides the most extensive narrative of the physicians tasks before the late thirteenth century, but also presents an astounding feature: the first systematic depictions of human anatomy as a critical component of the physicians professional knowledge. Art historical analysis places the manuscripts production in Paris around the year 1260. This was the moment when the southern Italian corpustexts translated from Greek and Arabic in eleventh-century southern Italy and synthetic works building on them written at Salerno in the twelfth centurybegan to be displaced by the Toledan corpus translated from the Arabic by Gerard of Cremona. This shift is captured both by the library assembled by Richard de Fournival just before mid-century and in the ways physicians chose to depict themselves and their scientia in their manuscripts.


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