Painting Naked Truth: The Colóquios of Garcia da Orta (1563)

in Journal of Early Modern History
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This article aims to reassess the figure of Garcia da Orta and his work, Colóquios dos simples e drogas da Índia (Goa, 1563), a dialogue between Oriental and Western knowledge, by addressing aspects of the author’s origins and education in the Iberian Peninsula. As a member of the Jewish community and the son of refugees, Garcia da Orta was accustomed to frontiers. He was a traveling convert particularly well-prepared for cultural interchange and mediation. As a physician trained in the Humanist universities of Salamanca and Alcalá de Henares he was familiar with philological projects based on translation and transculturalism. We thus present the Colóquios as a polyglot materia medica (by analogy with the Polyglot Bible), and his motto painting naked truth as the vindication of an experience which can only be gained away from the center on the periphery.

Journal of Early Modern History

Contacts, Comparisons, Contrasts. Early Modernity Viewed from a World-Historical Perspective




Ines Županov, “ ‘The Wheel of Torments’: Mobility and Redemption in Portuguese Colonial India (Sixteenth Century),” in Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (Cambridge, 2010), 24-74.


Luís Filipe de Sousa Barreto, “Garcia da Orta e o diálogo civilizacional,” in II Seminário Internacional de História Indo-Portuguesa, ed. Luís de Albuquerque & Inácio Guerreiro (Lisbon, 1985), 543-568.


Teresa Nobre de Carvalho, “Colóquios dos Simples de Garcia de Orta,” 167. See also Teresa Nobre de Carvalho, O mundo natural asiático aos olhos do Ocidente.


Helmut Siepmann, “O diálogo-discurso científico entre tradição e inovação,” in Livro de Actas do Colóquio Garcia de Orta e Alexander von Humboldt: errâncias, investigações e diálogo entre culturas (Lisbon, 2008), 157-163.


Pym, Negotiating the Frontier, 109-132.


Perona, Antonio de Nebrija, 40.


Gerrit Bos, “The Creation and Innovation of Medieval Hebrew Medical Terminology, Shem Tov Ben Isaac, Sefer ha-Shimmush,” in Islamic Thought in the Middle Ages: Studies in Text, Transmission and Translation in Honor of Hans Daiber, ed. Anna Akasoy and Wim Raven (Leiden and Boston, 2008), 195-218. Montgomery, Science in Translation, 1-14.


Jose Pedro Machado, “Lexicologia científica de origem oriental nos ‘Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas,’ ” in Garcia da Orta. Revista da Junta de Investigações do Ultramar 11 (1963): 755-788.


Ficalho, Garcia da Orta e o seu tempo, 242-243. We refer to Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), the great Dutch scholar.


Sebastião Iken, “Linguistic Aspects in Garcia de Orta’s Colóquios,” in Garcia de Orta and Alexander von Humboldt: Across the East and the West, ed. Anabela Mendes (Lisbon, 2009), 77-94. The first Portuguese grammar came later than the Spanish, and also represented a vindication of a vernacular language of its role in the imperial context and an exaltation of its scientific status: Fernão de Oliveira, Grammatica da lingoagem portuguesa (1536). See Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe (Chicago, 1977), vol. II, book 3, p. 501-509.


Avelina Carrera, “Introducción,” in Dictionarium Medicum, ed. Avelina Carrera (Salamanca, 2001), 9-27, 13. For a detailed study of the versions and translations of Dioscorides in the European tradition, see César E. Dubler, La “Materia Médica” de Dioscórides: Transmisión medieval y renacentista (Barcelona, 1953), vol. I, 48-72.


Ines Županov, “Botanizing in Portuguese India: Between Errors and Certainties (16th-17th c.),” in Garcia de Orta and Alexander von Humboldt. Across the East and the West, ed. Anabela Mendes (Lisboa, 2009), 21-29.


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