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Marvels of MedicineLiterature and Scientific Enquiry in Early Colonial Spanish America$
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Yarí Pérez Marín

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789622508

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789622508.001.0001

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The surgeon’s secrets

The surgeon’s secrets

The medical travel narrative of Pedro Arias de Benavides

Chapter:
(p.21) Chapter 1 The surgeon’s secrets
Source:
Marvels of Medicine
Author(s):

Yarí Pérez Marín

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789622508.003.0002

Chapter 1 explores the Secretos de Chirurgia (1567), a text written by Pedro Arias de Benavides, a Spanish surgeon who travelled throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America in the mid-sixteenth century. Part surgical manual, part medieval book of secrets, part voyage diary, the Secretos weaves together medical and anatomical information alongside the author's own extended personal journey. My analysis situates the text in the scientific context of the time, highlighting Benavides’s innovative use of medical illustrations, several of which are printed life-size and transform the work into a surgical instrument in and of itself. By comparing marginalia present in surviving copies of the book, I offer a roadmap into the range of possible period responses on the part of early modern readers. Sold in Europe as well as in the Americas, the text’s frequent humorous anecdotes betrayed a growing unease at the marginal status assigned to members of overseas communities by European authorities, anticipating future strategies of resistance to colonial rule, and calling into question the extent to which the peninsular/criollo divide is a useful distinction when examining materials written in colonial Mexico during its foundational period.

Keywords:   Pedro Arias de Benavides, Nicolas Monardes, surgery, early modern medicine, visual culture, colonial Mexico, humour, medical instruments

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