Melissa Reynolds is a cultural historian of later medieval and early modern Europe with broad research interests in the history of medicine and science, the history of material texts, and the history of gender and the body. At Princeton, she has taught in the Humanities Sequence and developed courses for the history department on the history of reproduction and on digital humanities methods. She is currently revising her dissertation into a monograph, “How To: Reading Medicine and Science in England, 1400–1600,” which follows ordinary English readers as they gained access to medical and scientific information once confined to monastic libraries or university lecture halls. In the everyday acts of reading, correcting, or selecting from an array of medical and scientific information to fill “how-to” books, ordinary English readers learned to parse new information, make value judgements about competing knowledge claims, and embrace their roles as consumers and purveyors of that knowledge in their own right. Based on extensive archival research, “How To: Reading Medicine and Science in England,” compares nearly 200 later medieval “how-to” manuscripts with over 500 editions of “how-to” books printed between 1485 and 1600, to show how interactions with very old knowledge gave rise to very new ideas about medicine and science in early modern England.
Reynolds received her Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Richard III Society and the Medieval Academy of America, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Rare Books School at the University of Virginia. Her articles and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Social History of Medicine, Journal of British Studies, the Washington Post, and the online forum The Recipes Project, where she is also a member of the editorial team. She was also a member of the translation and transcription team for Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France, a digital critical edition of a sixteenth-century French craft manual produced by the “Making and Knowing Project” at Columbia University. This fall she is on teaching leave, but in spring 2021 she will again teach “Fertile Bodies: A Cultural History of Reproduction from Antiquity to the Enlightenment.”