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MAT-MED Materia Medica in Transit. The Transforming Knowledge of Healing Plants

Project description

Herbal healing in 16th-17th century Italy

Books and manuscripts on the medicinal properties of plants in the beginning of modern Italy’s history were very popular, both among specialists and the general population, who also contributed to their production. Providing descriptions of herbs and remedies for various conditions, they circulated widely in Europe even reaching as far as the West Indies. MAT-MED in Transit will examine archival Materia Medica materials written in the vernacular in 16th and 17th century Italy to establish how this knowledge was disseminated, and how it influenced healing practices. In addition, a unique database will be built through academic and research collaboration in Europe and abroad, allowing input from related future research.


The MAT-MED in Transit project focuses on the circulation of scientific knowledge related to the medicinal virtues of 'simples' (mainly plants) in early modern Italy through archival records and an in-depth study of two vernacular textual genres, herbals and recipe books, produced both in manuscript and printed form between the 16th and the early 17th centuries.

The project will reconstruct the use of plants/substances with the awareness that Italy represents a segment of the more global transit of medical matter between European countries and between Europe and the West and East Indies. MAT-MED in Transit aims to ascertain who were the consumers of the huge production of printed books and manuscripts of vernacular Materia Medica and the women's role in this process of appropriation; why and how, not only professionals but ordinary people, read books and penned manuscripts on local and exotic Materia Medica; how the circulation and use of Materia Medica affected their practices of healing and the underlying theoretical framework.

Through a novel interdisciplinary approach that builds on the applicant’s dual expertise in History of Medicine and Book History, MAT-MED in Transit looks at the past Materia Medica with the ultimate aim of raising current awareness of the value of Nature as a resource for our everyday life.

A close collaboration between the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) at Brown University, the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) and the new Ca’ Foscari’s Center for Digital Research in Humanities, will allow the creation of innovative digital tools that can be supplemented in the future by other European sources, with the goal of exploring new digital methods for historical research.


Net EU contribution
€ 251 002,56
Dorsoduro 3246
30123 Venezia

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Nord-Est Veneto Venezia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)