The Reception of Vernacular Midwifery Handbooks in Renaissance Italy
Gabriella Zuccolin (PhD Salerno, 2007) was Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2014-2017), and held grants from the Open University (2012-2013), the University of Pavia (2008-2011) and the Warburg Institute (2007). Her research focuses on the intersection of print culture, women's medicine and the role of vernacularisation in science, 1450–1600. She has published on the interconnected realms of medicine and philosophy as fostered by Italian universities and Quattrocento courtier milieus. She has edited two Latin and vernacular works by Michele Savonarola, forthcoming in the series Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi and The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe.
My project investigates the main avenues through which vernacular medical knowledge about childbirth was created and transferred in Renaissance Italy. It not only considers the three printed obstetrical works available in Italian before 1601, with five editions in total (by Rösslin, Marinelli and Mercurio), but it also takes account of unedited manuscripts and consilia medica (e.g. by Giovanni Battista Muzi, d. 1595). The earliest phase of print did not give rise to the sense that women had authoritative knowledge over women’s medicine (except in terms of uncomplicated childbirth), but only to the expectation that midwives and laywomen would ideally avail themselves of this new obstetrical literature. This research aims to gain a better understanding of whether the printing press, with its potential for broader dissemination of knowledge, and the creation of such an expectation, served more to reinforce than to challenge the gendered divisions already established in the late medieval-period. By incorporating gender analysis into current debates about the history of reading practices and the role of vernacularisation in science, my project also intends to reveal whether the inherent limitations of our sources (ownership notes, annotations, inventories, wills) prevent us from determining any gendered reception for those kinds of texts.