[ARNALDUS DE VILLA NOVA, pseudo]. Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum.

Venice, per Bernardinum Venetum de Vitalibus, [after 1500?]


4to. 60 unnumbered ff., a-p4. Roman letter. Splendid large woodcut portrait of physician at his desk surrounded by astrological instruments. T-p dusty, traces of oval stamp in lower blank margin, minor repairs on verso, slight yellowing, a few ll. a little thumbed, occasional very minor marginal foxing, small ink mark to foremost edge of n3-4, light water splashes to verso of last. A good copy in modern polished calf antique, decorated to style, old paper eps, blind tooled, two faded early ms. ‘Loci Ale’ (?) [monastic ownership] to t-p, the odd C16 marginal ms. note.

A rare Venetian edition of this most influential medieval medical work. First published in Louvain in c.1480, after an extensive medieval ms. circulation, it was reprinted hundreds of times and translated into several vernaculars. It is a Latin poem on the preservation of good health composed for the king of England in the early C12. The authorship was attributed to physicians of the School of Salerno, the most important medical establishment in the early middle ages, where the Greek tradition of Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides met the novelties of newly translated Arabic medical treatises. ‘[It is] a catch-all of advice and instruction on how to preserve health, rules of hygiene and diet, simple therapeutics, and other instruction intended more for the laity than for the medical profession. It was committed to memory by thousands of physicians’ (‘Heirs of Hippocrates’, 43). The very extensive commentary was written by the Catalan physician and alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova (1240-1311), who studied at Montpellier and was in the service of three Aragonese monarchs. Advice on virtuous behaviour include tooth brushing, a short post-prandial nap, and small meals; further on food and drink, the poem explains, for instance, the medical virtues of wine and practical ways of determining whether a wine is good quality (smell, colour, taste, transparency), as well as the healthier kinds of meat. It discusses the properties of herbs and provides recipes for preparations, and instructions on purgation and phlebotomy. Arnaldus’s commentary expands on the concise verse, adding detailed physiological explanations and quoting Greek and Arabic authorities.

This is one of five editions by Vitali recorded in ISTC, dated c.1500 to c.1505. (Vitali worked in Venice c.1498-1508.) This is the same as ISTC ir00080000 / GW M37390, except for a different title subdivision, a printed Greek cross just above the t-p woodcut, and the absence of a few printed paragraph headings in the first gathering. This appears to be much scarcer than the above. The lovely astrological woodcut was also used in another two Vitali editions and another without date or imprint.

These bibliographies only list different editions/issues: ISTC ir00080000; Goff R80; Essling 610; Sander 6389; GW M37390; Durling 3807; Wellcome I, 5371; Vicaire 308; Oberlé 314; Simon pp.71-2; Heirs of Hippocrates 43. Not in Harvard C16 It.
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