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Forbidden Knowledge

Medicine, Science, and Censorship in Early Modern Italy

Hannah Marcus

Forbidden Knowledge

Hannah Marcus

360 pages | 40 halftones, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2020
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226736587 Published September 2020
E-book $10.00 to $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226736617 Published September 2020
Forbidden Knowledge explores the censorship of medical books from their proliferation in print through the prohibitions placed on them during the Counter-Reformation. How and why did books banned in Italy in the sixteenth century end up back on library shelves in the seventeenth? Historian Hannah Marcus uncovers how early modern physicians evaluated the utility of banned books and facilitated their continued circulation in conversation with Catholic authorities.
Through extensive archival research, Marcus highlights how talk of scientific utility, once thought to have begun during the Scientific Revolution, in fact began earlier, emerging from ecclesiastical censorship and the desire to continue to use banned medical books. What’s more, this censorship in medicine, which preceded the Copernican debate in astronomy by sixty years, has had a lasting impact on how we talk about new and controversial developments in scientific knowledge. Beautiful illustrations accompany this masterful, timely book about the interplay between efforts at intellectual control and the utility of knowledge.
Introduction: The Paradox of Censorship

1. The Medical Republic of Letters and the Roman Indexes of Prohibited Books

2. Locating Expertise, Soliciting Expurgations

3. The Censor at Work

4. Censoring Medicine in Rome’s Index Expurgatorius of 1607

5. Prohibited Medical Books and Licensed Readers

6. Creating Censored Objects

7. Prohibited Books in Universal Libraries


Review Quotes
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
"Marcus shows how censors did their job in Counter-Reformation Italy, using medicine as a test case. Censors’ tools ranged from humanist techniques for reading, which enabled them to find and highlight problematic passages, to pens and scissors, with which they defaced the names of religious enemies and much more. But their means and powers were always limited. Drawing on unexplored documents, Marcus also recreates the system of permissions that enabled medical men to stay abreast of the new books printed in Protestant Europe. As lively as it is learned, this book reveals that Italian libraries witnessed as many scenes of struggle as of repression."
Katharine Park, author of Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection
Forbidden Knowledge is a fascinating story of what can go wrong in censorship regimes when the censored field is seen as essential to human health and welfare, and when the works of the authors most in need of censoring are widely recognized as indispensable to the field. In this impeccably researched book, Marcus brings her story alive by focusing on the people involved in censorship and expurgation: frustrated administrators, busy and uncooperative professors, expert readers eager to pad their libraries at the Church’s expense, and an expurgator so pious he insisted on censoring his own works. An important contribution to the histories of early modern medicine, censorship, and the book."
Adrian Johns, author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates
"Marcus’s story about censorship ranges much more widely than most Anglophone accounts of the topic. Her point is that the system as we see it developing in sixteenth-century Italy was not only a device for suppressing texts, but a collection of practices for editing them, approving them, and directing their circulation. The book is provocative, overdue, and exciting. It will become an obligatory point of reference in the field, and I can imagine it acting as the launching pad for a generation of future studies."
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