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April 12, 1965

Medieval Medicine: A Book Preview

JAMA. 1965;192(2):124-126. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080150054013

Loren C. MacKinney (1891-1964), one of our outstanding scholars in medieval history, devoted much of his career to medieval medicine. In his researches into manuscript sources he paid especial attention to miniatures and illuminations that illustrated particular facets of medical practice.

In present day medical texts we accept the photographs and drawings as quite customary supplements for the verbal material. Before the invention of printing, illustrations were comparably useful, but involved vastly greater difficulty. All books were, of course, copied by hand and the copyist or scribe was a skilled and respected worker. But a scribe was not necessarily an artist. To fill the need for illustrations a specialized class of artists and illustrators gradually developed.

In the early and medieval period religious writings, with appropriate illustrations, dominated book production but secular writings and secular illustrations later became more and more important. Manuscripts might deal directly with medical subjects, as,

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