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Analogy and Difference

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Chapter Summary

Medicine and astronomy were both scientific disciplines to which visual demonstration proved helpful, were taught in the universities, and were deeply influenced by humanism and by the development of print culture, but they did not use printed images in the same way. To explore such a difference, the chronology of the development of illustration in both fields (from the first illustrated incunabula to the mid-sixteenth century) is compared, and some explanations (economical, epistemological, cultural) are proposed and questioned. Different reasons can be postulated to explain this lesser presence of images in medical books. One is economic: medical images, when made by skilful artists, were costlier than astronomical diagrams. The Aristotelian and Galenic traditions endorsed the importance of first-hand, visual experience in anatomy. The notion of an antagonism between the use of images and sensory experience was even a topos in medical culture.

Keywords: Aristotelian tradition; astronomical diagrams; Galenic tradition; human anatomy; medical culture; medical images; topos



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