GARIOPONTUS. Habes sincerioris medicinae amator, iterum renatos VIII de morborum causis

Basle, Enricus Petri, 1536


8vo, pp. (xvi) 494 (ii). Italic and Roman letter. Printer’s device on verso of last, woodcut initials (floriated at the beginning of each main section), typographical ornaments. T-p a bit dusty, light marginal waterstains and a little spotting to first nine ll., very slight age browning intermittently throughout, little tear on lower edge of one l., single small wormhole to lower outer corner of first half. A rather good, clean, wide margined copy in C16 English calf, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, delicate fleurons stamped at corners of inner panel, decorative ornament at centre. Spine with seven blind ruled raised bands, renewed. C15 manuscript stubs from the ‘Institutiones Grammaticae’ (Liber XVI) by the Latin grammarian Priscian (ca. AD 500). Ms. ex-libris ‘Sum Nicolai Carre’ on t-p and front paste down. Elegiac couplet ‘Omnia si perdas famam servare memento, qua semel amissa, postea nullus eris’ (proverb, anonymous Latin author, in Nihus 1642) to recto of first blank leaf, ms. medical notes in same hand to verso. 7 line biographical note concerning the author, probably C1700, on t-p, C19 autograph “A. Auzelly” at head of 1st leaf.

A good copy of the third edition of this manual of pathology attributed to the Longobard doctor and medical writer Gariopontus (c. 1050). The work is essentially an encyclopaedic anthology of Greek medicine in vulgar Latin – mainly based on the writings of Galen, Hippocrates, Theodorus Priscianus and Alexander of Tralles – which the author integrated with his own personal considerations. The result is a “neatly-organised, synthetic work, edited to remove corruptions and designed for practical therapeutic uses […] indeed, a carefully designed ‘Book of Diseases’, and a user-friendly collection of the remedies employed to treat them” (Glaze). In the literature, this manual is usually referred to as Passionarius (‘book of diseases’) and this name appears in the title of the first edition published in 1526. Interestingly, due to the compilative nature of the treatise, the editio princeps indicates Galen as author instead of Gariopontus. Two new editions were published in 1531 and 1536 by Enricus Petri: these bear different titles and clearly recognise Gariopontus’ authorship – in both of them, his name appears in a large capitalis quadratus type script on the first page. Of the two, this edition printed in 1536 is rarer.

Gariopontus is regarded as the most notable representative of the Medical School of Salerno (southern Italy, not far from Naples), active during the first half of the XI century. A manuscript note on the title page informs us that the German bibliographer Johann Albert Fabricius (1668-1736), in his ‘Bibliotheca Latina’, was wrong in stating that Gariopontus lived in XII century; in fact, the Italian Cardinal Peter Damian, who died in 1072, wrote in a letter that he met Gariopontus, and described him as a “senex, vir videlicet honestissimus, apprime litteris eruditus”.

The Passionarius comprises seven books in which diseases are presented for each body part from the head downwards: (1) head; (2) chest and stomach; (3) abdomen and intestine, (4) limbs, (5) the whole body, (6-7) fevers. A table of contents is provided at the beginning, and chapter’s headings are listed at the beginning of every book. Remarkably, Gariopontus is the earliest writer to mention anaesthesia by inhalation of narcotic vapours. A work “greatly desired by learned physicians” (trad. from t-p of the first ed.) during the XVI century, it was then largely neglected by scholars and its importance has been only recently reconsidered.

The English style of the binding might suggest that the ex-libris ‘Sum Nicolai Carre’ belongs to the Cambridge scholar Nicholas Carr (1524–1568). One of the original fellows of Trinity College, he was appointed the first regius professor of Greek in 1647. However, the two ex-libris in this copy do not seem to match Carr’s handwriting or other ex-libris on his books held at St. John’s College. Another possibility, perhaps more plausible, would be to read the French name Nicolas Carré: in this case, we find two candidates: a French ‘maître chirurgien’ (master surgeon) who died some time before 1684 (Inventaire sommaire des Archives départementales antérieures à 1790, p. 183) and a Parisian printer and bookseller active around 1625 (Lottin, p. 82).

USTC 602959; Adams G 253; VD16 G409; Durling 2004; see Graesse III, p.27. This ed. not in Wellcome I. F.E. Glaze, Galen Refashioned: Gariopontus in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance (in: Textual Healing: Essays on Medieval And Early Modern Medicine, 2005). Archives départementales des Ardennes, Inventaire sommaire des Archives départementales antérieures à 1790 (1901). A.M. Lottin, Catalogue Chronologique des Libraires et des Libraires-Imprimeurs de Paris depuis l’an 1470 (1789).
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