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NTM. 2009;17(4):359-85.

[A journey into the (un)known. Borderlands of knowledge for Leonhard Rauwolf (1535?-1596)].

[Article in German]

Author information

Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universität Würzburg, Würzburg.


The Augsburg physician Leonhard Rauwolf is known to the history of Western sciences for "discovering" the exotic flora of the Near East. This article deals with the social background of his studies in Germany and France and his perception of foreign lands, plants, and peoples. Before Rauwolf started his journey at Marseille in 1573 he had received a proper education in practical botany at Montpellier under Guillaume Rondelet. He had also collected about 600 specimens of plants in his herbarium. According to the common medical conventions of his time--most prominently represented by the Renaissance anatomist Andreas Vesalius--in his travel account Rauwolf claimed to tell only what he had seen, experienced, observed by himself, or touched with his own hands. Contrary to his own claim of pure "autopsy", or direct experience, however, Rauwolf's Aigentliche Beschreibung [Actual Description] was composed from different sources. As previously unnoted manuscript letters from the Trew-collection at the University Library of Erlangen show, editorial work on Rauwolf's book was a lengthy process. The final composition ended up drawing on such different sources as the Old and New Testament, ancient natural philosophy, Christian travel literature and sermons, more recent botanical books, oral information from other academics, fellow travellers or indigenous people, and--finally--Rauwolf's own mpressions and observations.

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