FERRI, Alfonso.


FERRI, Alfonso. De ligni sancti multiplici medicina et vini exhibitione.

Rome, Antonio Blado, 1537.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. [58]. Roman letter. Woodcut arms of Pope Paul III to title. Outer margin and gutter of title a little dusty, next two ll. slightly adhering at gutter, occasional minor marginal spotting, lower edge trimmed short, touching a few signatures or catchwords, fore-edge of H1 trimmed. A good copy in carta rustica, spine strengthened with later paper, C19 paper label, early ms title to lower edge, the odd C16 marginal note.

First edition of this ground-breaking medical treatise (and Americanum) on the use of Guaiacum (‘lignum sanctum’) for the treatment of syphilis and other illnesses, one of the most important herbal remedies brought back from the New World. Alfonso Ferri (d.1595) was surgeon to Pope Paul III, Paul IV and Julius III, professor at Naples and Rome, and author of a treatise on the treatment of gun wounds. Among the earliest works devoted to this subject, his ‘De ligni sancti’ introduced a new recipe for the preparation of Guaiacum with wine instead of water (as used in the New World). It begins with an explanation on the nature of Guaiacum, with references to methods of preparation, e.g., Santo Domingo and San José (as glossed by the occasional early annotator of this copy); its natural and medical properties, especially in the case of ‘morbus gallicus’ (syphilis), for which it became the main remedy; detailed instructions on its preparation (‘decoctio’), including the kind of vessel to be used, and additional ingredients; and ways of administering the resulting syrup. The second part explains how dozens of illnesses can be treated with Guaiacum: e.g., headache, melancholy, insomnia, vertigo, epilepsy and hair loss, with a longer section on syphilis and a few on the properties of quicksilver, to be used in tandem with Guaiacum. The final part explains how Guaiacum is more effective when administered with wine, as wine is more easily absorbed by the stomach. A very important medical work.

USTC 829334; Durling 1506; Wellcome I, 2239; Harrisse, Bib. Amer. Vet. (Add.), 116; Alden I, p.45; JCB 23:5-6. Not in Heirs of Hippocrates, Simon or Oberlé.
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