GALEN. Des tumeurs oultre le coustumier de nature

Lyon, chez Etienne Dolet, 1542


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. 26 [iv]. A-B8 (without B7 & B8 blanks). Italic letter. Dolet’s woodcut device on title, fine white on black criblé initial, contemporary manuscript annotations with underlining, C19th label with shelf mark on pastedown, bibliographical note on fly. Light age yellowing, single worm hole in lower blank margin. A fine copy, beautifully bound in dark blue morocco by Chambolle-Duru, monogram gilt stamped to centres of covers, spine with raised bands, gilt lettered, edges double gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt, joints rubbed.

Rare first separate edition of Pierre Tolet’s French translation of Galen’s influential work on tumours: Ustc records two versions of this edition, one with a blank at the end, one with Dolet’s large woodcut device. This version, apparently without the device at the end, is recorded by USTC in one copy only, at the BnF. Pierre Tolet or Petrus Toletus (1502-1586) was a French doctor who pioneered, with Jean Canappe, the transmission of medical and surgical knowledge in the French language. He studied medicine in Montpellier (where he was a fellow student of Rabelais), before practicing at the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon eventually becoming Dean of the faculty.  He set up a teaching program in French, with daily visits by students to the hospital with patients and created a single training course for doctors, barbers and apothecaries. A friend of Rabelais, he was also a leading figure in Lyon’s cultural life and a member of an influential circle of scholars (Barthélémy Aneau, Maurice Scève, etc.) He was one of the great popularisers of medical knowledge of his time, and was a pioneer of the precedence of invention and discovery over received authority. “Pierre Tolet is known to us mainly as one of the actors performing the ‘Morale comoedie de cellui qui avoit espousé une femme mute’ (by Rabelais) at Montpellier. His importance goes however beyond the fact that he is mentioned by Rabelais. He was in fact one of the first men to demand the use of the French language in medicine.” C. A. Mayer. ‘Pierre Tolet and the Paradoxe du Vinaigre’

Etienne Dolet, the renowned humanist scholar and printer, got his privilege to print for ten years from Francois I in 1537, due to the publication of his Comentariorum Linguae Latinum. He vowed, having just been released from prison in Toulouse for his criticism of a law prohibiting the free association of students, to use this privilege to “augmentrai de toutes mes forces les richesse litéraires”, and was certainly faithful to his promise. Etienne Dolet played a major role in the publishing of these medical texts in French, encouraging both Tolet and Canappe in their translations, as he understood the significance of such a project, which was still radical in France at this period. He was accused of heresy in 1542, and imprisoned again, but released in 1543. This time he was advised by his friends and colleagues to leave the country as Clement Marot had done, and later Robert Estienne would do, but felt that out of conscience he should stay. A decree issued by the Parliament of Paris ordered the burning of 13 of his works, either from his press or written by him, and later two cart loads of books from his press were seized and brought to Paris for destruction. The final condemnation came in 1544, from the faculty of Theology, for his translation of Plato’s Axiochus in which the phrase “après la mort tu serais rien du tout” was judged heretical and atheist. Dolet was tortured, strangled and burnt to death on the Place Maubert in august 1546. All books from Dolet’s press are rare.

USTC 29570. Claude Longeon, ‘Bibliographie des Oeuvres d’Etienne Dolet’ 235. Durling 1943. Baudrier. Gültlingen. Welcome. Hiers of Hippocrates. Osler.
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