A FIRST FORAY INTO THE STUDY OF SYPHILIS
Libellus de Epidemia, quam vulgo morbum Gallicum vocant.
Venice, Aldus Manutius, 1497.
FIRST EDITION. 4to., 29 leaves, a-c8, d(4+1). Predominantly Roman letter, little Greek; lower outer corner of title slightly soiled, very light marginal water stains. A very good copy in old vellum, recased, gilt title and author’s name on front cover; five marginalia, including a scholarly cutting remark (slightly cropped), in same contemporary probably French hand at head of title ‘Est Meij Jo. Baptis. Loms[?]’.
First edition of the earliest scholarly account of syphilis, by Niccolò Leoniceno (1428-1524), a very influential physician, botanist and scholar of the Italian Renaissance. A skilled student of Greek, Leoniceno taught in Padua before settling in the university and court of Ferrara. Here, he accomplished pioneering translations of the Greek classics, such as Arrian, Diodorus, Appian, Polybius, Cassius Dio and, first and foremost, a large part of Galen’s corpus. Over the course of his extraordinarily long life, Leoniceno was well acquainted with the most prominent scholars of his time, including Pico della Mirandola, Ermolao Barbaro and Angelo Poliziano. Lending Aldus Manutius some of his prized manuscripts, he took an active part in the Aldine Greek editions of Aristotle and Galen.
In 1497, he published De morbo Gallico, following the epidemic in the Italian peninsula after the arrival of the French troops of Charles VIII. The book, dedicated to Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola, corrects several mistakes of the Arabic medical tradition in identifying and naming diseases and proved that syphilis had been known already to the Greeks and Romans. This and other works by Leoniceno led Erasmus to rate him as one of the few humanists to revive medical studies alongside Guillaume Cop and Linacre. This copy retains the final additional leaf with errata.
ISTC, il00165000; BM STC, V, 557; GW, M17947; Hain, 10019; IGI 6814; Goff, L-165; Klebs, 599.1; Renouard, 14:12 (‘Extrêmement rare, et le premier qui ait été publié sur cette maladie’); Wellcome, 3736; Morton, 2363; Bibliotheca Osleriana, 7452. Not in Durling or Heirs of Hippocrates.