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Some notes on seventeenth-century continental hospitals

J. D. Alsop


SIR HANS SLOANE (1660-1753), the eminent Stuart and Georgian physician, was an avid collector of historical manuscripts, particularly those relating to all branches of medicine and the allied sciences. His collection, an original nucleus of the British Museum, remains one of the most important archives for research into the medical history ot early modern Europe. Even the voluminous documents devoted to unrelated subjects otten contain some information of relevance for the history of medicine. It is the intention of this article to draw attention to, and describe some of, these obscure items concerning the nature of continental hospitals in the seventeenth century which are hidden in otherwise non-medical works. The sources for this information are five manuscript diaries of European travels kept by Englishmen between 1610 and 1687. Four of the documents, for the years 1610, 1626, 1655-8, and 1687, are anonymous. Another was kept by the physician Joseph Colston on his way to the University of Padua in 1641 to study medicine. An additional diary, written by the Catholic divine Richard Lassels (d. 1688) as his account of Lady Catherine Whetenalls journey to Italy in 1650, contains a few references to Italian hospitals and has been included to complement the descriptions in the Sloane Manuscripts. The journals were composed during grand tours and principally concern France and Italy, with one description of Malta. In all, observations on nine hospitals in five European cities were recorded.

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