AETIUS, Amidenus.

AETIUS, Amidenus. Contractae ex veteribus medicinae tetrabiblos.

Basel, Froben, 1542


FIRST EDITION thus, Folio, pp. (xii) 932 (xxxii). Roman and italic letter, attractive woodcut historiated and floriated initials, typographical ornaments, printer’s device on t-p and verso of last. Early repair to lower margin of t-p, occasional very light waterstain to upper edges, tiny wormholes to blank outer corner of a couple of initial and final gatherings, rare contemporary marginalia. An excellent copy, well-margined, crisp and clean, in contemporary pigskin over boards, covers blind stamped to a panel design, first border with a floral roll, second and fourth with flowerbud and acorn stamps, third with roll of heads, central panel with flowerbud stamps, spine with blind ruled raised bands, blind stamped floral decoration in compartments, paper label. Germanic ecclesiastical arms of a bishop or abbot and monogram ‘M.A.L.’ gilt stamped to upper cover and oxydized, contemporary ms. note concerning price of volume and binding to front pastedown, later ms ex. libris ‘Sum Joannis Follini Philos[ophiae] ac Medecinae Doctoris’, “nunc Joannis Martini Waibel’, “Fran: Cunradis Myller Midic(?)” and monogram PDS to t-p.

Attractive copy of this medical encyclopaedia by the Greek Aetius. This is the first edition of the complete Latin translation realised by Janus Cornarius (c. 1500-1558), Saxon humanist, philologist and friend of Erasmus. The blind stamped decoration of the binding is German in style, and a very similar pattern of flower bud stamps appears on bindings realised by the S.S. binder (Simon Syvers, second half of the 16th century) of Wismar (see EBDB id. 100061r).

A native of Amida in Mesopotamia (modern Diyarbakır, Turkey), Aetius was a Greek medical writer who lived about the end of the fifth century. Very little is known about his life: he studied at Alexandria – the most famous medical school of the time – and lived in Byzantium, where he became court physician to the Emperor Justinian I. Highly regarded by Renaissance physicians, he is defined here by Cornarius as the greatest of the medical writers. Aetius’ ‘Tetrabiblos’ – so called because it comprises four books, each divided into four parts – is an extremely valuable and important medical treatise. In fact, it is a compilation from the writings of several authors, many from the great library at Alexandria, which would have been otherwise lost. In particular, we find the works of Ruphus of Ephesus and Leonides in surgery, Soranus and Philumenus in gynecology and obstetrics, but also Aetius’ own observations on diseases and treatments.

An interesting feature of Aetius’ work is that of proposing recipes for creating complex medical compounds composed of many ingredients: these were in general use at the time and appear also in the works of Galen. Among the most complicated concoctions, we find a plaster recommended for tumors, hard lumps and gout; among the most curious, there is one for contraception consisting of aloe, wallflower seed, pepper, and saffron. Interestingly, “Aetius […] introduced much of Egyptian pharmacy, and was particularly fond of external applications, as well as of charms and amulets so common in the same country. In composing a certain ointment he required that there should be repeated in a loud voice, “May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob deign to accord virtues to this medicine” (Dunglison). However, “It was from Galen himself and not from the east that Aetius derived his most strikingly superstitious passages. […] for example, the use of an amulet of a Greek jasper suspended from the neck by a thread so as to touch the abdomen; the story of the reapers who found the dead viper in their wine and cured instead of killing the sufferer from elephantiasis to whom they gave the wine to drink” (Thorndike). Remarkably, appended is also Coronarius’ translation of a short treatise on weights and measures by Paul of Egina.

Joannes Follinus is likely the Dutch physician Jan Follin. A native of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (‘Netherlands), he worked as a doctor in Cologne and wrote two medical treatises, ‘Synopsis tuendae et conservandae’ (Silvad. 1646) and ‘Tyrocinium medicinae practicae’ (Colon. 1648). Joannes Martinus Waibel may be the German Johann Martin Waibel (c.1620-1675), a doctor active in Neuburg (Ströller III. 599.04). “Franc. Cunradis Myller” is possibly the German doctor “Franz Conrad Miller”, of Bamberg, mentioned in ‘Heilkräfte des Wolverley in Fiebern und andern faulen Krankheiten”, a medical work published in 1777.

USTC 600292; Adams A306; BM STC Ger 16th century, p. 7; Wellcome I, 50; Durling 46; Brunet I, 104; Graesse I, p. 39; Heirs of Hippocrates 26. This ed not in Garrison-Morton. R. Dunglison, History of Medicine from the Earliest Ages to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century 916 (1872). L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Vol 1 (2003).
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