Skip to Main Content

HIST 2220 War and Society (Jobin) - An Introduction to Works Held in Rare and Distinctive Collections: Warfare in the Early Modern World

Preparing for Warfare in the Early Modern World


Johannes de Ketham, 'Wound Man,' Fasiculo de medicina. (Venice: Zuane & Gregorio di Gregorii, 1494).

National Library of Medicine, NIH

D.K. Bailey Collection, Special Collections, Rare and Distinctive Collections

Johannes de Ketham, professor of medicine in late fifteenth-century Vienna, compiled or owned Fasciculus Medicinae (first printed in 1491), a collection of medical treatises that draws on ancient Greek and Arabic medical texts.  It was the first illustrated work on medicine to appear in print and covers a number of medical treatments:  the care of wounds, the application of herbal remedies, bloodletting – with its role in maintaining a balance of the four humors – and urology.

'Wound Man,' which appears in this collection, lays out the treatment for various injures:  to care for one pierced by sword or lance, for example, a physician should prescribe 'tepid beer with serpent’s fat' (Fasciculus medicine, tr. Luke Demaitre, 1988, 58).

Digitized copies from the National Library of Medicine of Johannes de Ketham's 'Wound Man,' in Fasiculo de medicina are available here. 


Baldessar Castiglione, The Courtyer.  London, 1577. 

Special Collections, Rare and Distinctive Collections

Count of Casatico Baldassare Castigione (d. 1529) was an Italian ambassador, diplomat, soldier, and, beginning in 1504, resident in the court of Urbino.  The Covrtyer, first published by the Aldine Press in 1528, remained immensely popular in courts across sixteenth-century Europe. 

Elizabethan courtier and poet Edward de Vere, the seventeenth earl of Oxford sponsored Bartholomew Clerke's Latin translation and Latin foreword.  The English edition of 1577, translated by Thomas Hoby, became just one source for Shakespeare.

This copy is a translation of Castiglione’s Courtier by Englishman Thomas Hoby.  It set standards of social behavior for the English aristocracy and was read or owned by contemporaries of Shakespeare:  politician and philosopher Francis Bacon; playwright Ben Jonson; and James I.   

Castiglione's residence at Urbino shaped his thought on the ideal courtier.  Philosophical conversation presided over by Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, and her sister-in-law, Emilia Pia, centered on questions of what constituted the perfect courtier or the ideal Renaissance gentleman and woman.  Castiglione writes that, among other attributes, the courtier should possess the spirit of a warrior, a fluency in multiple languages, and a knowledge of the classics.  Read a little of his recommendations for courtiers and gentlewomen trying to navigate the challenges of court above. 

A full scan of Special Collections' copy of Castiligione's Courtyer is available here.   



Vincentio Saviolo, His Practice.  London, 1594. 

Special Collections, Rare and Distinctive Collections

Vincentio Saviolo, a swordsman and writer on fencing, was born in Padua. After arriving in England, he established a school located in rooms under what became the second Blackfriars playhouse. 

In 1595 he issued Vincentio Saviolo, his practise, in two bookes, the first intreating of the use of the rapier and dagger;  the second, of honour and honourable quarrels, the first manual on fencing to be published in England. Saviolo enjoyed the patronage of Robert, earl of Essex, whom he described ‘the English Achilles.’

Of honour and honourable quarrels, seen above, includes an interesting passage on the nobility of women, which lavishly praises Queen Elizabeth.  He writes: ‘These lines therefore shalbe adorned and honoured with the name of this most glorious Princesse Elizabeth our gracious Queen, whose fame hath built her towers of triumphes, even in Countries farthest removed from her, and forced her very enemies in the storme of their malice and spite to praise her name, to admire her mercifulnes and wisdom, and to feare her power: this is such a manifest and worthy example of womanly worthiness and feminine perfection, that the perfectest men must by truths enforcement acknowledge themselves most unperfect …’

A full scan of Special Collections' copy of Vicentio Saviolo's work is available here.   


Gerhard Mercator, Gerardi Mercatoris atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura (1630)

Special Collections, Rare and Distinctive Collections, CU Boulder Libraries

Though renowned for his cartographic skills and his innovative projection that improved navigation at sea, the Flemish cartographer Gerhard Mercator (c. 1594) travelled little.  He depended upon scholar and correspondents around the globe, including Elizabeth mathematician, astrologer, and courtier, John Dee, who promoted Mercator's work in the English court, encouraging exploration to the east by way of an as yet undiscovered northern sea passage that would avoid the potential for piracy and conflict to the East. 

Etched and hand-painted - the painting in the early years done by Mercator's wife and daughters - the atlas provides a window into late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century understanding of the world. 

The atlas, with its warships at sea and inset engraving of the inhabitants of Brazil, also illustrates the New World as a destination for Old World expansion.