ALTOMARE, Donato Antonio.


ALTOMARE, Donato Antonio. De medendis humani corporis malis.

Venice, Marco de’ Maria, 1558.


Large 4to. pp. [8], 640. Italic letter. Woodcut printer’s device to title, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight age yellowing, occasional very minor marginal spotting. An excellent, clean, well-margined copy in contemporary French calf, double blind ruled, centrepieces with small gilt hatched tools to covers, raised bands, small gilt fleurons to compartments, traces of old paper label, head and tail of spine, corners and lower joint repaired, spine slightly cracked, a bit scuffed, scratches to upper cover. Contemporary ms ‘Sum Claudij frugeret’ and early ‘Bard. Dr med’ to title, few contemporary ms marginalia.

An excellent, clean copy of the second, enlarged edition of this popular medical work, first printed in Naples in 1553. Donato Antonio Altomare (or Altomari, 1506-62) was a renowned Neapolitan physician and philosopher. ‘De medendis […] malis’ focuses on ‘the art of medicine’, based on the obvious ancient authorities as well as on the author’s own professional experience. It devotes each section to a specific illness, its nature, causes, symptoms, ‘prognostics’ and treatment, as well as its physiological and anatomical considerations. These include common conditions such as toothache, nose bleeding, swollen glands, hiccup, dysentery, worms and women’s illnesses, as well as more complex ones such as diabetes, liver inflammation, ‘morbus regius’ (the king’s evil), hidropisy, cardiac syncope, blurred vision and coma. Most cited are the sections on mental illnesses. ‘De Lupina insania’ famously discusses lycanthropy (werewolves), a type of melancholy whereby those affected walk around at night imitating wolves, which, according to Paulus Aegineta, is worse in February. Altomare explains how he treated successfully two cases, listing the causes and symptoms and attempting to identify the physiological causes. A long section is devoted to melancholy, which he discusses from a strictly medical, not philosophical, point of view, identifying three kinds, and providing numerous recipes for medicaments and instructions for procedures. Another section focuses on memory loss, discussing how symptoms relate to specific complexions of the brain. The contemporary annotator, Claude Frugeret, was physician in Beaune and author of a commentary to Aristotle’s ‘Logic’ printed in Paris in 1568. He glossed a few passages with cross-references to Galen, with a special interest in conditions of the brain, e.g., treatments of sleep disorders, ‘deliramenta’, melancholy, convulsions, unconsciousness and epilepsy, as well as hidropisy.

NYAM, NLM and Minn copies recorded in the US. USTC 808895; Durling 193; Wellcome I, 244. Not in Heirs of Hippocrates.
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