In the course of more than 25 years, which he spent among the bundles of the archives and libraries of Valencia, Rodrigo Pertegàs amassed a huge quantity of handwritten notes. These papers, most of which have survived, include personal and professional details of all the medical practitioners that interested him and which he gradually located during his years as a researcher. They were from all periods, but especially the Middle Ages. All this work was done for a great personal project: to produce a biographical dictionary of all the individuals who, since the medieval period, had worked in medicine in Valencia.
Moreover, his predilection for the Middle Ages is unquestionable. Beyond the importance that this period has, as has been said, in the documents that he amassed, most of his publications refer to it. His attraction for medievalism must therefore have been very great. On one hand, that period in history witnessed the foundation of the country, with the establishment of the kingdom of Valencia, and in literary history above all, the names of the great national authors resounded. On the other hand, as was the case in the European context and in Catalonia too, the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie – of which historians like Rodrigo Pertegàs were members and were its intellectual spearhead – sought legitimation in an idealized later Middle Ages that had witnessed the birth of the bourgeoisie, and in which this social group gained access to the governing, cultural and scientific elite, and were responsible for very important changes in it.
As a good historian of this period, he systematically resorted to biographical bibliographies, from the one by Nicolás Antonio to those specializing in the history of medicine, in particular those by Antonio Hernández Morejón, Anastasio Chinchilla and León Sánchez Quintanar, but also to other local ones like those by Vicent Ximeno, Josep Rodríguez and Just Pastor Fuster. Therefore, in virtually all the doctors that he studied whose written work has survived he included a file with the references to the biographical bibliographies in which they appeared.
Thanks to initiatives like this, the study of medieval and Renaissance doctors became a key part of a legitimizing past that it was necessary to defend. Thus, he showed how the noble profession of doctor had been previously exercised very successfully and how its practitioners enjoyed great prestige. What is more, he corrected the biased view in his day of Valencia’s medieval ancestors. Rodrigo Pertegàs saw in medieval Valencia – as Lluís Comenge, with whom he exchanged scholarly correspondence for many years, and Josep Maria Roca both saw in Catalonia – an admirable medical and health care system, worthy of being imitated, full of great figures to extol. An idealized medical world, no doubt, but one that they showed far more closely and faithfully than many other doctors interested in the history of their own profession have done since.
In short, the works of Rodrigo Pertegàs, Comenge and Roca initiated a profound renewal of the history of medicine to Valencia and Catalonia. Following the example of Karl Sudhoff in Germany, they based knowledge on research and analysis of the sources, and in doing so they incorporated discipline to the academic rigour of new positivist history.
Among his most important historical and medical publications are the biography of the sixteenth-century doctor from Valencia, Vicent Garcia Salat (1896), a biographical study of the medieval doctor Domingo Ros d’Ursins (1902), another one about the male and female apothecaries of Valencia in the fifteenth century, a study of morbo gallico (syphilis, or the “French disease”) in Valencia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (1922), and another about the hospitals of Valencia in the fifteenth century (1927).
But he was not only interested in the history of medicine. Rodrigo Pertegàs gathered information about a great many subjects and illustrious figures virtually unknown at that time. His production comprises a large number of individual works, generally brief, appearing in different periodical publications: the Almanaque de 'Las Provincias', the Revista Valenciana de Ciencias Médicas, the Diario de Valencia, the Anales del Centro de Cultura Valenciana and the Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia. He only published a few books. One of them is Historia de la antigua y real cofradía de Nuestra Señora de los Inocentes Mártires y Desamparados, de la veneranda imagen y de su capilla (‘History of the royal and ancient confraternity of Our Lady of the Innocent Martyrs and the Abandoned, of the revered image and of its chapel’, 1922), his most far-reaching work. This book received a great deal of praise in the form of letters and articles. It must have been very gratifying for him, in those years just when he had gone blind. Nor should we forget La judería de Valencia (‘The Jewish Quarter of Valencia’, 1913) and his Ensayo sobre topografía preurbana de Valencia (‘Essay on Valencia’s Pre-urban Topography’, 1922).