Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England

Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England

Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England

Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England

Synopsis

This is a remarkable collection of scholarly Middle English texts that deal with astrology, fortunetelling, medicine, horticulture, marine navigation, as well as "popular and practical" scientific matters, as they were perceived in the Middle Ages. This groundbreaking volume is indispensable to scholars of medieval studies, the history of science and medicine, early English literature and language, manuscripts, technical prose, and popular culture.

Excerpt

The present volume offers a collection of Middle English texts that deal with popular and practical scientific matters, as such were perceived in the Middle Ages.

In the present context, the semantically charged, but slippery term "popular" is not intended to carry any political or derogatory connotations. Many of the texts are representative of the kind of general scientific and medical knowledge available to a reasonably educated but non-specialist audience. Some contain popularizations of academic or "high" science for the use of non-university professionals. Others, by the fact of their translation into English, were intended to reach a wider readership than their Latin originals; if the survival of manuscripts and the choice of texts for early printing are guides, then a number succeeded in this sense of "popularity" also. But there are no rigid divisions. Although some of the fields are now considered pseudo-sciences, they were seen as valid sciences in the Middle Ages, and most, if not all, of the texts presented here were intended to be used as practical works, either by professionals, semi-professionals, or amateurs.

Of the twelve chapters that make up the volume, nine include texts that have not hitherto been published; the remaining three chapters offer better or earlier texts than those already published. Each text is prefaced by an introduction explaining the general scientific and cultural context of the text's field and a description of the manuscripts and early printed editions (if any) from which the text has been edited. Where appropriate, the significance of the text as a background to Middle English literary works is noted. Explanatory material and notes are given where deemed necessary to individual works. the glossary is a unified, selective one; further semantic and lexicographical information and discussion will often be found in the explanatory notes to selected chapters. Separate glossaries of botanical names and medicinal ingredients and of place names will be found after chapters 7 and 12 respectively.

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