The Production Process of Medical Books
by Heretic on October 26, 2016 - 4:57pm
The title of this book is “Culpepper’s Compleat and Experienced Midwife”. It is a small rectangular book that measures roughly 5 x 8 inches. The binding of the book is made of leather, and the front cover has been detached. The pages are made of paper that have been affected by foxing. The book in written in English, which is the vernacular in England, and this version is the fifth edition. It consists of 213 pages, with a table of content located at the end of the book, and there is only one image located at the beginning of the book, which consists of several people, but it is difficult to describe their actions. This book is difficult to open safely; it is extremely stiff. It is difficult to describe it’s scent other than saying that it smells old. When comparing some pages, it is possible to see that there are pages in which the ink is less dense than on other pages. The page numbers are located on the top of the pages, but there is a different notation used on the bottom of the pages consisting of a letter and a number. Furthermore, when switching form one page to the next one, the last word used on the page is rewritten on the following page.
Just like Elizabeth Eisenstein says, when the switch happened from scribers to printers, “…the results of [reviewing the manuscript] were being aimed in a new direction – away from fidelity to scribal conventions and toward serving the convenience of the reader.” (Eisenstein, 2005) It is possible to see this change with Culpepper’s book mentioned earlier, since it included an introductory title page and a table of contents. Furthermore, the notation used on the bottom of the pages are made by the printer to help him print these books in the correct order more efficiently. This is one of the many “new skills” that were developed after the switch from scribing to printing (Eisenstein, 2005). However, after the same switch, “…engraved images became more, rather than less, abundant …throughout Western Europe.” (Eisenstein, 2005), but this increase in image is not apparent in this book. One of the reasons this may be is because of the fact that a lot of content must be included in a book small enough to carry along with you. With the same idea, the small size of the book, the broken front cover and the content of the book points towards the idea that this book was frequently used, since it contains many guides for midwives. Lastly, this book is the fifth edition, which means that there have been other versions of it made before, and it would mean that after a certain amount of time, there have been changes brought to its content, whether it is adding or removing information. As Eisenstein mentions, “…[printing] enabled many observers to check freshly recorded data against received rules.” (Eisenstein, 2005) Just like how it’s done today, medical knowledge is produced by someone, but constantly changed by others who add and remove elements based on further researching. However, the primary ways people obtained knowledge in the Early Modern period was through books like Culpepper’s and through “spoken word”, which can be difficult to change to some extent, and were practically only available to people who had access to books and teachers. Nowadays, with the global scale of the Internet, when medical knowledge is produced, it is available to anyone who has access to this network and is modifiable to any extent with the use of proper experimentation and justification.
Elizabeth Eisenstein, “Defining the Initial Shift,” The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, 2nd Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) :13-45.