LOBERA DE AVILA, Luys. Libro de pestilencia.

[Alcalà de Henarez, Juan de Brocar, 1542?].


Small folio. ff. [10], xlii. First part in Gothic letter, second in Italic, double column. Title in red and black within decorated woodcut border with putti, grotesques and imperial arms and ‘Non plus ultra’, decorated initials and ornaments. Margins a little trimmed, just touching title border and a couple of headings, slight browning, the odd very minor water stain. A very good copy in later limp vellum, eps probably renewed (but not modern), lacking ties, a bit creased, early ms inscription crossed out to +2 and last verso, early C17 16-line ms inscription to AA6 verso (blank).

A very good copy of the scarce second edition, the first recorded only in two copies, of this important work on the plague in Castilian and Latin, with sections on pestilential fevers, phlebotomy, and medicaments. Lobera de Avila (c.1480-1551) studied medicine in France and was physician to Charles V. He wrote important works on nutrition for ‘caballeros’ (i.e., gentlemen) as well as the first book on anatomy printed in Spain. First published in 1540, ‘Libro de pestilencia’ opens with a short treatise addressing questions posed to Lobera by the Abbot of a Spanish monastery, concerning the ‘regimen sanitatis’ and the ‘accidents of the soul’. The following section, in Castilian, examines ways of preserving oneself from and treating the plague, through the virtues of stones, pills, theriacs, leeches, bloodletting, excessive sweating, and the purulent swellings caused by the plague. The remainder of the work is in Latin. It begins with the plague, the prognostic signs presaging an epidemic, and how to preserve oneself through healthy living. In case of illness, it gives advice on treating the swellings, with a ‘secret’ recipe for distilled roots, electuaries and pills, and the fevers. There follows a long treatise on kinds of medicaments, e.g., causing sleep, treating haemorrhoids or destroying kidney stones, with lists of substances and recipes. It concludes with a few sections on phlebotomy and bloodletting, with the use of leeches. Appended is a treatise on sudden illnesses, such as syncope, poisoning, a dog’s bite, spasms, subeth (i.e., coma), and – most interestingly – drowning (and how to save someone who has been underwater too long) and suffocation from wood smoke within a small space, with specific tragic examples from Spain and Germany. A c.1600 annotator wrote a short text in Castilian, which we have not traced. It recounts a moment of adverse fortune in life, after a terrible storm, and is signed by a Soror Doña Sebastiana Bernarda – most probably a nun.

5 copies in the US. USTC 344797; Wilkinson 11409; Durling 2830. Not in Wellcome (but now present), Heirs of Hippocrates or Osler.
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