Hannah Marcus-HPS Colloquium Speaker Series
“Censoring Medicine: Processes of Expurgation, Forgetting, and Remembering in Early Modern Italy”
The Roman Index of Prohibited Books (1559) not only banned the works of theologians like Luther and Melanchthon; it also made it illegal for scholars in Italy to read many works of medicine written and published in Northern Europe. While some of these books were burned, many others were expurgated, or selectively censored. This talk examines copies of expurgated medical books to reveal that Catholic authorities understood the printed book as both an intellectual threat and also a physical object that could be manipulated and regulated. By combining historical and bibliographical approaches, I delve into the medical books themselves as a lost archive documenting the practice of censorship. Close examination of censored objects reveals book expurgation as a process of memory damnation. This damnatio memoriae was not about forgetting, but instead was meant to memorialize the desecration of non-Catholic authors and to deepen the distinction between confessional communities while still allowing medical works to circulate in Catholic Italy.