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Medicinal mercury in early modern portuguese records: recipes and methods from eighteenth-century medical guidebooks


Walker, Timothy (2015). Medicinal mercury in early modern portuguese records: recipes and methods from eighteenth-century medical guidebooks. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 69(4):1017-1042.

Abstract

This chapter will present and explicate rare information regarding circumstances and techniques for the application of medicinal mercury in the Portuguese medical context during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Through the use of Portuguese medical texts (including translated excerpts), the chapter will provide insight into how early modern Portuguese practitioners processed and employed mercury to treat various ailments. Of interest, too, will be that these remedies were developed at several disparate locations throughout the Portuguese imperial world (China, India, Angola, Brazil, and Portugal), and often drew upon, and blended, indigenous medical substances from the region where each remedy originated. Regarding the use of mercury in South Asian medicine, medical scholars have noted that, from the sixteenth century onwards, much of the intra-Asian (and global) mercury trade was conducted through Portuguese merchants and agents. This work asserts that Portuguese merchants and shippers had unique access both to mercury at the commodity’s main sources in Spain and Peru (Almadén and Huancavelica, respectively), but also to established, developed colonial trade routes throughout the eastern hemisphere. Most of the information presented here is excerpted from two little-known eighteenth-century Portuguese primary sources: a Jesuit compilation medical and apothecary guide in manuscript, and a published physician’s treatise regarding fevers and other illnesses encountered during a posting of nearly a decade in Angola.

Abstract

This chapter will present and explicate rare information regarding circumstances and techniques for the application of medicinal mercury in the Portuguese medical context during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Through the use of Portuguese medical texts (including translated excerpts), the chapter will provide insight into how early modern Portuguese practitioners processed and employed mercury to treat various ailments. Of interest, too, will be that these remedies were developed at several disparate locations throughout the Portuguese imperial world (China, India, Angola, Brazil, and Portugal), and often drew upon, and blended, indigenous medical substances from the region where each remedy originated. Regarding the use of mercury in South Asian medicine, medical scholars have noted that, from the sixteenth century onwards, much of the intra-Asian (and global) mercury trade was conducted through Portuguese merchants and agents. This work asserts that Portuguese merchants and shippers had unique access both to mercury at the commodity’s main sources in Spain and Peru (Almadén and Huancavelica, respectively), but also to established, developed colonial trade routes throughout the eastern hemisphere. Most of the information presented here is excerpted from two little-known eighteenth-century Portuguese primary sources: a Jesuit compilation medical and apothecary guide in manuscript, and a published physician’s treatise regarding fevers and other illnesses encountered during a posting of nearly a decade in Angola.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 69 (2015) > 4
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:23 Jan 2017 10:13
Last Modified:23 Jan 2017 10:13
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-1045

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