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Doctor's Order: An Early Modern Doctor's Alchemical Notebooks

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This is a case study on a series of at least thirty-four sixteenth-century notebooks from the Sloane collection, which reconsiders early modern note taking techniques and the organisation of knowledge. These notebooks were written by an anonymous compiler, a physician who read widely in the alchemical and medical literature available in his lifetime, the late sixteenth century. In the alchemica, he devotes individual volumes to specific alchemical substances, which are connected with each other by means of a complex system of cross-referencing; they are constantly revised and change appearance according to the physician's latest ideas about alchemical medicines. As a result, the notebooks not only preserve received information (a task otherwise performed by commonplace books in this period)— they also represent an equivalent to the alchemical workshop, where the combination of different textual elements generates knowledge.

Affiliations: 1: Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia


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