Wolveridge's Speculum Matricis: a mirror on antiquity?

O'Dowd, Michael
The main aim of this study of Wolveridge’s Speculum Matricis of 1670 is to ascertain the extent to which his midwifery manual fitted within the still dominant Greek medical model, and how, if at all, it reflected influences incompatible with, or hostile to, the Galenic tradition associated with the ‘learned’ physician. A detailed examination of the preface, midwifery, illustrations and materia medica reveals a text which mostly (but not completely) derives from Soranic and Galenic traditions, albeit refracted through early modern midwifery and medical texts in English and Latin. Yet the Speculum Matricis is not slavishly derivative, as critics contend. Rather, it is innovative in several important aspects. For instance, Wolveridge uses a dialogue between the midwife ‘Eutrapelia’ and the doctor ‘Philadelphos’ to structure the midwifery component of the catechetical text. In other respects, too, ancient knowledge is presented in a fashion that is accessible to a midwife or ‘grave matron’ reader, who has not the benefit of university education: not least, the text is in English. The Speculum Matricis demonstrates the continuing vitality and flexibility of Soranic midwifery and Galenic medicine.
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland