Il tesoro della sanita. Nel quale s’insegna il modo di conseruar la sanita et prolungar la vita.

Venice, Lucio Spineda, 1601.


8vo. pp. (xvi), 270. Roman letter, verse in Italic. Woodcut printers device on title, woodcut floriated initials, charming grotesque head and tail-pieces and ornaments, woodcut portrait in roundel of Pope Sixtus V on *2 recto, ʻ‘Westburyʼ’ label on pastedown. Light age yellowing, leaf R1 loose, title page repaired in lower blank margin, tiny worm trail in blank outer margins, the occasional minor marginal spot or stain. A good, unsophisticated copy, in contemporary vellum over thin boards, vellum split at lower edge of upper cover, and upper edge of lower cover, contemporary manuscript note on upper cover, a little worn.

Interesting and important systematic treatise on the health giving properties of food and wine, and a comprehensive guide to the ideal conditions for health, from recommendations on daily activity, rest and bathing, to such things as the advantages and disadvantages of eating garlic. The ʻ‘treasureʼ’ is divided into two parts. In the first Durante considers the effects of, motion and rest, sleep and wakefulness, starvation and repletion. The second part examines food, discussing in detail the properties of each ingredient. Each ingredient discussed is prefaced with a short Latin poem on its properties. There is much discussion of the order in which food is eaten, and he also treats in detail of the combinations in which food can be eaten, and the mitigating qualities of certain foods eaten with others.

“Among the first to write about this was the Italian doctor Castor Durante da Gualdo: The “unwholesomeness” of cheese can be reduced “by eating it with pears” or other fruits such as walnuts, almonds, or apples.” Massimo Montanari “Cheese, Pears, and History in a Proverb.” There is a long chapter on wine, divided into seventeen sub‑chapters, in which he discusses such things as the general effects of the moderate drinking of wine followed by a chapter on immoderate drinking, and the relative merits of white, red, young, old, new, and sweet wines etc. He gives twelve rules on how best to enjoy wine and describes many of the wines in favour at the time in Italy. There is also a section on “Vino contra Peste.”

“Durante, a physician and man of letters, is famous for his treatise first published in Rome in 1586. The Tesoro was not written specifically on the occasion of a plague; rather, it was a classic regimen sanitatis: a handbook for maintaining good health. However (…) Durante’s advice became relevant in these epidemic contexts. From the beginning of his work, Durante shows that he holds a holistic view of medicine. He links the mind and body in his general medical philosophy, even in chapters not dealing with the accidents of the soul. For example, in a section dedicated to the benefits of rest, “Della quiete,” Durante proposes moderation of physical exercise and rest. (…) Certainly, nowhere is Durante’s holistic medical approach as clearly articulated as in the section of his manual dealing with the accidents of the soul. In chapter V of the Tesoro, which is dedicated to emotional well‑being, he makes a strong affirmation regarding the great powers of the mind on the body. (…) More than anything else, Durante recommends equilibrium. He warns against the dangers of excess, even in cases that deal with an emotion that would normally be classified as benevolent, such as happiness.” Martin Marafioti. ʻ‘Post-Decameron plague treatises and the Boccaccian innovation of narrative prophylaxis.ʼ’

A fascinating work from the splendid collection of Italian cookery books formed by Lord Westbury, culinary expert and author with Donald Chase Downes of OSS fame.

BM STC IT C17th p. 314. Simon. Bibl. Bacchia. 201 (1588 edition) “Important chapitre sur le vin” Unzelman, Wine and Gastronomy p. 52 (1586 & 1588 edition only). Vicaire, 303. Oberlé, 73. (1593edn.) Bitting p.137. Durling, 1333 (other edns) Wellcome 6874. (1588). Alden 601/28.


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