FICINUS, Marsilius [with] INSULANUS MENAPIUS, Gulielmus.


FICINUS, Marsilius [with] INSULANUS MENAPIUS, Gulielmus. De Vita, libri tres [...] (with) De ratione victus salubris.

Basel, [Bartholomeus Westheimer], 1541.


Small 8vo. pp. 631 [57]. Italic letter. Printed marginal notes and occasional mss. in two hands in brown and black ink, commenting or elaborating on text. Historiated inital at beginning of each work. Index at end and printer’s device to verso of final leaf. Light age yellowing, a little marginal browning to few leaves of index, a clean crisp copy in slightly later vellum, gilded label to spine, sprinkled edges.

A fascinating pair of works relating to health. The first, on medicine, draws also upon elements of philosophy and astrology. The author, Ficinus (1433-99), was an Italian priest and humanist philosopher, whose father had been a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici in Florence. First published in 1489. ‘De Vita’ furnished the reader with medical and astrological advice for maintaining health and vigour, while exploring the Neoplatonist view of the world’s integration with the human soul. Ficinus took particular interest on the interaction between the micro- and macrocosmos and in somatic and psychological manifestations to cure diseases. The third book focuses on leading a healthy life in a world full of demons and spirits. The author’s astrological and alchemical pursuits, observable in this text, resulted in his being accused of heresy in 1489, but he was pardoned by Pope Innocent VIII.

The second treatise focuses on lifestyle, food and drink, by a doctor from Grevenbroich in West Germany, who died in 1561. The author surveys and compares the writings of classical authors such as Galen, Pliny, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Cicero, and others in a discussion about healthy lifestyle. He considers exercise, comparing the effectiveness of pursuits such as athletics, riding, sailing and walking. Menapius also considers the environment and the effects of natural phenomena such as wind upon health. There are chapters on when and how long to sleep, recommending more sleep in winter than in summer.

The majority of that text, however, is dedicated to diet with chapters on various food and drink, including vegetables, grain, neat, offal, eggs, milk, cheese, fish, honey, oil, vinegar, water, wine and beer, as well as condiments. The text recommends methods of preparation, general observations about each product and when to consume them. This guide has several humanising moments, particularly when a connection is made, through use of the classical authors, between eating beans and producing wind. Other recommendations provide a glimpse into the Renaissance mindset, with the author warning against the consumption of kidneys and most testicles as they contain ‘vitiosi succi’, roughly translated to ‘wicked juices’.

A fascinatingly entertaining pair of humanist medical works, approaching health and lifestyle from two very distinct perspectives.

USTC: 602591, Adams: F 421 (first work only), Simon: 251 and 445, edition not in Wellcome, Durling, Bitting, Vicaire, Notaker, Morton or Oberlé.
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