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Michael Boym’s Medicus Sinicus: New Facts, Reflections, Conclusions

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Following the author’s previous work on reconstituting the transmission to Europe, disappearance, and eventual publication under other names of the Polish Jesuit Michael Boym’s manuscript work on Chinese medicine, this article recounts the recent discovery of some of these manuscripts. They are kept at the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow, and were originally part of the Chinese Library of the Elector of Brandenburg, where they were acquired from Dutch officials who had earlier bought them from the Jesuit Philippe Couplet (who had obtained them from Boym’s last companion). The complex story of these manuscripts’ travels documents the keen interest in Chinese medicine among the many competing European powers and institutions in the seventeenth century; it also shows that we should be careful in assessing whether the publication of Boym’s seminal work under other names was willful plagiarism, or a result of contemporary tensions and confusion.
Cet article fait suite aux travaux antérieurs de l’auteur sur la transmission en Europe, la disparition puis la publication sous d’autres noms des travaux manuscrits sur la médecine chinoise du jésuite polonais Michael Boym. Il relate la découverte récente d’une partie de ces manuscrits dans la bibliothèque Jagiellonienne à Cracovie, et montre qu’ils viennent de l’ancienne bibliothèque chinoise du Grand Electeur de Brandebourg, où ils ont été originellement acquis auprès d’officiers hollandais qui les avaient achetés auprès du jésuite Philippe Couplet, qui lui-même les avait obtenus du dernier compagnon de Boym à la mort de celui-ci. L’histoire complexe des voyages de ces manuscrits met en lumière le fort intérêt pour la médecine chinoise de la part des diverses puissances et institutions européennes du 17e siècle, alors en vive concurrence ; elle nous engage aussi à la prudence quant aux jugements que l’on peut porter sur la publication des travaux pionniers de Boym sous d’autres noms, qui doit autant aux tensions et confusions politiques du temps qu’à un plagiat intentionnel.

Affiliations: 1: Gdansk, Poland


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