Every Man’s Companion: Or, A useful Pocket-Book: The Travel Journal of Dr Martin Lister (1639-1712) and Correspondence Networks
Intellectual Geography / Tuesday 6 September, 2011
In 1663, Martin Lister left his parents’ house in Lincolnshire to study medicine in Montpellier. During his three years in France, he kept a detailed journal in an almanac published as Every Man’s Companion: Or, A useful Pocket-Book (MS Lister 19, Bodleian). My paper, an analysis of the pocketbook, demonstrates the intellectual development of a significant seventeenth-century physician, providing a vivid account of early modern medical education, and a detailed representation of the grand tour of a gentleman. As it is the only example of this almanac extant, conservatorial considerations will also be addressed. My analysis of the pocketbook will be enhanced by other varied and rich referential sources of material. Another 25 pages of memoirs about Lister’s time in Montpellier also survive (MS Lister 5, Bodleian), as well as 43 French letters from Lister’s correspondence. Furthermore, Lister’s travel companions, Phillip Skippon and John Ray, each published an account of part of their travels permitting a delineation of the intellectual geography of an English expatriate group of virtuosi and natural philosophers in late seventeenth-century France.
Because Lister’s field notes and itinerary in his pocketbook are quite detailed, it is possible to map and trace his journey from England to Montpellier and back via Paris. As an exhibited and published photographer, I did just that in June 2011, spending three weeks documenting key stages of his journey to provide the reader with a ‘speaking picture’ of early modern medical education as well as the travel of a virtuoso. The photographs of landscape, inns at which he stayed, natural history specimens, and museums and artefacts arrest the senses so the images lead into the text and into the richness of its associations. The documentation of the journey is also a form of humanistic fieldwork, giving the historian insights into the natural-history specimens, modes of travel, noted antiquities, and other empirical evidence that allow us to reconstruct the mental world of the early modern virtuoso.