The Book of the Sick of Santa Maria della Morte in Bologna and the Medical Organization of a Hospital in the Sixteenth-Century

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  • 1 Harvard University

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In 2012 a manuscript was rediscovered in the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio of Bologna, titled Libro degli infermi dell’Arciconfraternita di S. Maria della Morte. It is the record of incoming patients of one for the main hospitals of the city, devoted exclusively to the sick poor and not just to the poor, called Santa Maria della Morte, compiled by a young student assistant (astante) for the period 1558–1564. I publish here a transcription of a portion of this Libro pertaining to the year 1560. My introduction situates the manuscript within the context of the history of early modern Italian hospitals, describes the organization of the hospital of Santa Maria della Morte based on archival sources of the period, and finally highlights the connections between surgical and anatomical education and the internal organization of the hospital.

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    See for example John Henderson, The Renaissance Hospital: Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 70–110; Sandra Cavallo, Charity and Power in Early Modern Italy: Benefactors and their Motives in Turin, 1541–1789 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 39–97; Giulinana Albini, “La gestione dell’Ospedale Maggiore di Milano nel Quattrocento: un esempio di concentrazione ospedaliera,” in Ospedali e città: l’Italia del Centro-Nord, XIII–XVI secolo, edited by Allen J. Grieco and Lucia Sandri (Firenze: Le Lettere, 1997), pp. 157–178; Salvatore Marino, Ospedali e città nel Regno di Napoli. Le Annunziate: istituzioni, archivi e fonti (secc. XIV–XIX) (Firenze: Olschki, 2014), pp. 3–74. The most recent overview, which can be consulted for a more complete bibliography, is Francesco Bianchi, “Italian Renaissance Hospitals: An Overview of Recent Historiography,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, 2007, 115: 394–403.

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  • 4

    Nicholas Terpstra, Lay Confraternities and Civic Religion in Renaissance Bologna (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 180.

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    Marina Garbellotti, “Ospedali e storia nell’Italia moderna: percorsi di ricerca,” Medicina & storia, 2003, 6:115–138, pp. 118–120.

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  • 16

    Luigi de’ Sarti da Piano, Thesoro delle Indulgenze di Bologna (Bologna: G. Rossi, 1589), pp. 350–351, quoted by Vincenzo Busacchi, “L’Ospedale della Morte,” in Sette secoli di vita ospedaliera, edited by the Amministrazione degli Ospedali di Bologna (Bologna: Cappelli, 1960), pp. 149–167, p. 160: “Quivi è l’Hospitale per i poveri febbricitanti, diviso in tre Classi, per gli huomini, per le donne, & per li feriti: & sono con gran carità governati così dell’anima, come del corpo, & da ottimi Cittadini con carità visitati.”

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  • 19

    Giancarlo Benevolo, “La confraternita e l’ospedale di Santa Maria della Morte,” in Tra la vita e la morte (cit. note 14), pp. 24–33, pp. 28–29.

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  • 37

    Jerome Bylebyl, “The School of Padua: Humanistic Medicine in the Sixteenth Century,” in Health, Medicine, and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century, edited by Charles Webster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 335–370; see also Henderson, The Renaissance Hospital (cit. note 2), pp. xxv–xxxiv.

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  • 40

    Volcher Coiter, Externarum et internarum principalium humani corporis partium tabulae (Norimbergae: in officina Theodorici Gerlazeni, 1573), p. 120. On hospital dissections, see Monica Azzolini, “Leonardo da Vinci’s Anatomical Studies in Milan: A Re-examination of Sites and Sources,” in Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1250–1550, edited by Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, and Alain Towaide (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 147–176; on private surgical and anatomical teaching, see Cynthia Klestinec, Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers, and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), pp. 142–166.

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  • 45

    See Carlo Poni, “Per la storia del distretto industriale serico di Bologna,” in La seta in Italia: una grande industria prima della rivoluzione industriale (Bologna: il Mulino, 2009), pp. 153–227.

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  • 47

    Bernice J. Trexler, “Hospital Patients in Florence: San Paolo 1567–1568,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1974, 48/1:41–59.

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  • 48

    See Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological (New York: Zone Books, 1991), translated by Carolyne R. Fawcett, pp. 39–43; Charles E. Rosenberg, “Disease in History: Frames and Framers,” Millbank Quarterly, 1989, 67/1:1–16.

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  • 54

    See Nancy Siraisi, Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils: Two Generations of Italian Medical Learning (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 108–114; Michael McVaugh, The Rational Surgery of the Middle Ages (Firenze: Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2006), pp. 13–52.

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