GALEN. De ossibus [with] De usu partium corporis humani

[Lyon], Guillaume Rouillé [with] Philibert Rollet apud Guillaume Rouillé, 1549 [with] 1550


12mo, 2 works in one, separate t-ps, pp. 64; 937 (lv). Roman and italic letter, rare Greek, printer’s device to t-ps, light age yellowing and slight mainly marginal foxing, a few ink spots to outer edges. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary pigskin, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer border with roll of foliage and flowers in roundels, vignette depicting Justice with caption: IVSTICIE QVISQVIS PICTVRA LVMINE CERNIS DIC DEVS ESTIV to upper cover (gilt, perhaps later), vignette of Lucrece with caption: CASTA TVLIT MAGNA FORMAE LVCRE LAVDE ACTAT MAGEST” to lower, spine with single blind raised bands, missing ties. Contemporary ms. “ex libris H Riberii DM” and “Est Ioannis Florini Rheti” to t-p, C19 engraved bookplate of the French bibliophile and book collector of Montpellier Count Achille Kuhnholtz-Lordat (1820-1893).

Attractive collection of two medical works by Galen, in Latin translation, in a handsome contemporary German binding. The impression of the designs is exceptionally fine and detailed: on the upper cover, the personification of Justice holding a sword and a scale; on the lower cover, the legendary Roman noblewoman Lucrece, stabbing herself with a dagger. In the second half of the 16th century, representations of female allegorical figures became popular on German bindings, especially among Saxon binders, and the pair of Justice and Lucrece was a recurrent and highly appreciated subject. “Originally based on some pictures or engraving of the Cranach school, for all of them wear the plumed hat and the many gold chains which we see on the mythological pictures of Lucas Cranach and his pupils (Goldsmith)”. A very similar example, possibly realised in Saxony about 1575, is recorded by Goldsmith (n. 244, pl. XCVI).

The first work in this collection is Galen’s fundamental ‘De ossibus ad tyrones’ (On bones for beginners), translated by the Italian humanist and physician Ferdinando Balami (fl. 1514-1552). First prepared and published by Balami in 1535, this translation became very popular and went through several editions in the 16th century. “Balami made his Latin translation from a Greek transcription done by the eminent Greek scholar Janus Lascaris (1448?-1535) sometime before 1535. Lascaris had had access to a ninth century Galenic manuscript at the Laurentian Library in Florence which, although possibly corrupt, was a bonafide work of Galen written about 180” (Heirs of Hippocrates). This succinct treatise contains a description of the bones of the human body starting from the skull and mandible, moving on to the thorax and limbs, and all the way down to the feet.

The second work is ‘De usu partium corporis humani’ (On the usefulness of the body parts), in the Latin translation made by the Italian scientist and translator Niccolò da Reggio (14th century) in 1317. The first edition was published in 1543 (Paris, Wechel). Written by Galen between 165 and 175 AD, this treatise on anatomy and physiology aims to demonstrate each body part was specifically designed by a divine creator to perform one specific function or action. The 17 books contain a detailed review of all body parts and their associated structures: among the most interesting, Book 1 offers a masterly exposition of the flexibility of the human hand.

“Next to Hippocrates, Galen was the most noted physician of antiquity. Born in Pergamon, he received his formal medical education in Smyrna, after which he travelled widely in Asia Minor and to Alexandria to extend his medical knowledge. He settled in Rome where he carried on a large practice, attracting patients from all over the empire. His influence was enormous, and for centuries his writings were accepted as authoritative by Greek, Roman, and Arabic physicians” (Heirs of Hippocrates).

“Ioannes Florinus Rhetus” may be the Swiss Johannes Florin (or de Florin), from the village of Disentis, a student who appears in a register of the University of Basel under the year 1565-66 (Die Matrikel Der Universität Basel, Band II, 1956). The identity of “H Riberius”, ‘Doctor Medicinae’, is unfortunately obscure.

1) USTC 157815; BM STC Fr. 16th century, p. 195; Durling 1913; Heirs of Hippocrates 36 (first ed.). This ed not in Adams or Wellcome I. 2) USTC 150511; BM STC Fr. 16th century, p. 196; Durling 1950. This ed not in Adams, Wellcome I or Heirs of Hippocrates.
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