UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The art of medicine and the art of design : manuscript mise-en-page and the thirteenth-century medical classroom Gardner-Harrison, Alvionne Elaine


Teaching in the classrooms of the early universities was primarily done in the scholastic mode, which prioritized classroom dispute and formal argument. This instructional practice was applied in law, theology, and arts faculties, as well as medicine. Although scholars have begun to explore the role of scholasticism in medical teaching during this formative period, the impact that it had on the design of manuscripts intended for medical education has yet to be addressed systematically. I study the range of design choices implemented by scribes when producing these medieval medical textbooks—the Articella and Ars commentata—using a corpus of eighty total manuscripts produced during the thirteenth century. In the course of this study, I develop and present a novel, visual analysis-oriented framework, with which I assess manuscript page design in a systematic manner. This framework facilitates meaningful comparisons between corpora and in the case of this study its capacity for enabling comparison is demonstrated with a chronological analysis. This approach blends conventional manuscript studies with analysis of cultural context to facilitate understanding of the ways in which the needs of those teaching or studying medicine in a scholastic classroom are reflected on the page. The study has two main outcomes: an understanding of the ways that information was used and communicated in medical education, and a framework that enables structured and objective comparisons to be made between the page designs of different groups of manuscripts, irrespective of their time or location of production.

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