De tenuis humoris febrem faciente ante purgationem per artem incrassatione…

Venice, Paulus Manutius, 1558.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, ff. (xvi), 267, (iii). a-b2 A-Kk8 Ll4. Italic letter, a little Roman and Greek; Guide letters, a few printed side notes (mostly names of references). Aldine device on title page and verso of final leaf. Spotting to margins of last two quires, a few very lightly browned. A good copy. In mid C19th calf gilt, lightly rubbed. Single rule frame along edges of covers with floral framing on the inside and fleurons at the corners. Gilt spine with label: ‘PACINUS’. Green silk page-marker. Armorial plate of the Dutch medical family Van der Hoeven on the front pastedown; autographs of two members on front free endpaper.

First edition of apparently the only published work of Pacini, and an uncommon medical Aldine. Giacomo Pacini (d.1560) was a Renaissance physician from Bologna, of Milanese origin. He taught at the university of Pavia, in which Matteo Corti and Branca Porro were amongst his colleagues, and Francesco del Pozzo one of his pupils (a Galenic physician known for his polemic against Vesalius’s anatomical work). Pacini lectured in philosophy and medicine at the University of Bologna and, from 1445 until 1559, he practised medicine in the Dalmatian city of Ragusa.

This scarce work is one of many books on fevers and epidemics issued in C16th Northern Italy, where the study of medicine blossomed in the major scientific universities, especially Padua. This medical treatise contributed to the lively debate on fevers by setting out Pacini’s arguments against the stances of some leading physicians of the time, such as Leonhart Fuchs and Giovanni Manardo. Pacini discusses the nature of the bilious humour, whose stagnation in the human body allegedly provoked the corruption of health. According to the theory of the four humours, which was systemised in Ancient Greece and then constituted the backbone of Western medicine until the nineteenth century, the balance between these vital fluids (called sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric humours, by association with the four human temperaments) was crucial for the preservation of good physical and mental condition. An excess of bilious humour, the choleric one, was linked to the putrefaction of the yellow bile. This event was considered of a fiery nature since the choleric temperament was associated with the element of fire. In some cases, this was believed to induce a feverish state usually called intermittent fever, or tertian fever, due to its occurrence on every third day. Pacini argues in favour a purgative concoction as a cure for this ailment. Unlike his opponents, he advises to operate the thickening of the bilious humour and prevent any further degeneration of it.

In the prefatory letter the physician addresses the Senators of Bologna, to whom the book is dedicated. Three short poems in praise of the author follow and an extensive table of contents arranged by chapters precedes the text, which is divided in two parts. The first ‘disceptatio’ contains thirty chapters. Pacini’s thorough analysis of the classical authors and their later interpreters culminates with a sort of ‘concordance of the philosophers’, which is brought out in the five chapters of the second part. Among Pacini’s sources, to mention a few, there are naturally Hippocrates and Galen, the legendary founders of Western medicine; their successors Aelius and Paulus Aegineta; Aristotle and his Arabic commentators, such as Avicenna and Averrois, but also the platonic thinkers; the medieval authors, such as Simon of Genoa, Thomas Aquinas, Tommaso del Garbo, Giovanni Arcolani; Leoniceno and Sebastiano dall’Aquila, author of De morbo Gallico, one of the first works on syphilis. In the second part Pacini attempts to reconcile the teachings of the Greek and the Arabic medical traditions, boosting the ‘concordantia medicorum’ for which he is best remembered.

MZT 2305; Adams P-6; Renouard 173.2; Wellcome 4687. Not in Durling, Garrison and Morton, Heirs of Hippocrates, Osler.


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