From the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries in Spain, health-related information in the vernacular began to circulate widely in treatises, compendiums, manuals, plague tracts, summaries, encyclopedias, and recipe collections. These were often the work of concerned physicians who attempted to refashion medical information to appeal to nonprofessionals. In Fictions of Well-Being Michael Solomon explores the shaping of this audience of sickly readers, highly motivated individuals who, when confronted with the painful, disruptive, and often alienating conditions of physical disorder, looked for relief in books.
Vernacular medical writing from late medieval and early modern Spain emerged from the interrelated imperatives to address the immediate or future hygienic and pathological needs of the patient while promoting the reputation and learned credentials of the physician. For sickly readers, a medical treatise was more than just a collection of technical information; such a work implied that they could do with a medical text what the physician normally did at the bedside. In their imagination, the treatise became a type of palpable instrument that encouraged the reader to take advantage of its possible use and benefits. In these fictions of well-being, we may see the antecedents of the self-help and popular medical books so prominent on today's best-seller lists.