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The Casebooks Project

In the decades around 1600 a pair of English astrologers recorded 80,000 consultations. This is one of the largest surviving sets of private medical records in history. The Casebooks Project, a team of historians in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, spent a decade transforming this paper archive into a digital archive. The results are changing the way we understand the histories of medical encounters and bodily experiences, writing practices, and everyday life. They are also informing today’s concerns: just as new paper technologies led doctors to begin to record series of cases 500 years ago, so digital technologies – from digital medical records to health apps – are changing how medical professionals and their patients think about data and narrative. Casebooks has produced a web-based interface that allows readers to search and read the cases and to situate any given case or person within the corpus as a whole. The underlying, future-proof dataset can be downloaded. All 15,000 pages of the original manuscripts, held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, can be viewed through an image archive. The website contains critical information about the astrologer-physicians, their patients, the history of astrological medicine and life in early modern England, together with material about how to use the casebooks for teaching and research. An engagement framework fostered a playful approach to the casebooks and ensured that this innovative combination of traditional scholarship and digital humanities produced work that is meaningful to a broad constituency of academics and laypeople. An anonymous referee described Casebooks as ‘one of the major historical enterprises of the twenty-first century’, while Cliff Siskin (NYU) referred to the website as ‘the best digital archive experience that I have ever had’ (, 29.50).

Visit for the latest updates to the Casebooks Project: A Digital Edition of Simon Forman’s and Richard Napier’s Medical Records

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