De medicina libri octo.

Leiden, Jean Elzevir, 1657.


12mo, pp. [24], 558, [2]. Roman letter, little Italic; engraved allegorical frontispiece by J. Hackius, printer’s device on title, a few foliated initials and grotesque head- and tail-pieces; very occasional, mainly marginal, spotting, tiny paper flaw at outer lower corner of p. 513. A fine copy in early nineteenth-century French straight-grained red morocco, gilt, signed on spine by Bozerian le Jeune, border with roll of interlocking circles; spine ruled in six compartments, marbled endpapers, a. e. g.; bookplate of William Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire; occasional underlining and marginal internal cross-references.

Finely bound copy of a foundational text of Latin medical practice, first published in 1478. Nothing is known about the Roman encyclopaedist Celsus (c.25 BC-50 AD), whose De medicina is thought to be the extant portion of a vast work possibly including sections on agriculture, rhetoric, law and military arts. De medicina is divided into eight books, providing insights into pharmacy and surgery performed in ancient Rome, including descriptions of bloodletting, treatments for fractures, and the removal of cataracts. Celsus was also a pioneer in classifying skin problems and different types of fever. The text was carefully edited by Johannes Antonides van der Linden (1609-1664), professor of practical medicine at the universities of Leiden and Franeker. For unknown reason, Elzevir introduced some last-minute changes affecting the quality of the text, which remained, however, highly influential for over a century. In his philological endeavour, Antonides relied upon the corrections made by, i. a., Jean Fernel (1497-1558), the learned French physician who invented the term ‘physiology’. Fernel is thought to be the man depicted on the frontispiece of this charming edition.

Along with his brother Jean-Claude, François Bozerian (1765-1818), known as the Younger, was the most appreciated binder of early nineteenth-century France. He was sought after for his precious and refined morocco bindings by first-rank collectors, including, most notably, the Aldine bibliophile Antoine Augustin Renouard. The tooling of the spine is very similar to that of the magnificent La Fointaine set bound for the Duchesse de Berry and sold at Sotheby’s on 8 June 2011 (lot. 174).

Not in Heirs of Hippocrates. Brunet, I, 1727 (‘peu commune’); Graesse, II, 100 (‘rare éd.’); Osler, 294-295; Willems, 797 (‘assez rare’).



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