BOWELS AND MIND

De moribis mesenterii abstrusioribus.

Leipzig, Capar Closemann, 1630.

£1,250

8vo., pp. (16) 365 (41). Roman and italic letter. A good, well-margined copy, vellum stub in early English hand, in fine contemporary English calf, border triple-ruled in blind, slightly worn at foot of spine, all edges speckled red. “price 1:4” on verso of fly, on title page “W.K. p. 1:4” and “Will: Kemp” in contemporary manuscript.

Third edition of a medical treatise published in 1616 and 1625, concerning illnesses of mesentery, or the lining between the bowels and the back wall of the abdomen, by Matthaeus Martini, a physician from Eiselben. The treatise describes the causes of obstruction in this area of the body, offering dietary remedies like citrus, and concludes with practical remedies for purging the body of illness, sometimes literally, as with Martini’s recipe for vomitus provocatio. It also links the illnesses of the lower body to the mind; Martini argues that diseases of the mesentery are symptoms of melancholy, cold and dry black bile, so warm and moderately dry climates are recommended.

The second part takes up more than half the volume, and considers the mesentery in terms of ‘the history and management of the mental condition of hypocondriacs,’ melancholy. Following a poem about imbalances of the humours, by which the mesentery and bowels are first affected, Martini provides a compendium of remedies from Galen, Hippocrates, Avicenna and others, to treatments resulting from his own research. He concludes with an extensive index.

A similar position was taken by Robert Burton, who lists the mesentery among the chief causes of hypochondriacal (or ‘windy’) melancholy in Part I of The Anatomy of Melancholy. Both authors cite Laurentius to support their assertion, and it is striking that both draw causal links between the psychological and the physical — although Martini offers these in a shorter, more practical medical guide. He describes his own work in the subtitle, as ‘according to a School of Physicians until now overlooked, and not written by a famous Ancient.’

In the dedicatory preface (addressed to the Lords and Nobles of the city of Nuremberg), Martini explains that he spent most of his life training in Italy, under Doctor Phillippus Camerarus, a native of Cologne who had also been educated in Italy until held a heretic by the Inquisition. Little is known about Martini himself. His other works include a treatise on the diagnosis and cure of scurvy (1624), and another work on hypochondria (1643). An interesting copy clearly imported into England in sheets; Kemp unfortunately has not been identified.

BMC C17 Ger. M394. Wellcome 4091. Not in Durling, Heirs of Hippocrates, Garrison, Morton or Osler.

L1144

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