Medical Compendium

Manuscript on paper, probably Italy, [1529-c.1540].


8vo (157 x 105mm). Manuscript on paper, 100 unnumbered ll., [*]6 [*]14 [*]12 [*]12 [*]12 [*]12 [*]12 [*]12 [*]8, 24 blank, several ll. with rubricated title or initial only, mostly 1-8 lines per full page, in Latin. Red and black ink, cursive hand. Watermark: globe surmounted by cross. First recto dusty, couple of tiny water stains to some lower edges. A very good copy in modern vellum, ms title to spine, armorial dry stamp with lion and bands to couple of ll.

An interesting ms likely by an early C16 Italian physician – probably a young student – as a reference in his daily work. Organised alphabetically, it was intended to summarise the nature, symptoms and treatments of common illnesses, although never completed. The first leaf provides a brief explanation of units of measurement as they would have appeared in medical recipes. He mentions Rhemnius – the author of a work on weights and measurements – as a source for the ‘obolus’ and ‘semiobolus’, ancient Greek weights, which he equates with the C16 ‘scrupulus’ (1/24 of an ounce) and ‘italica amphora’, which equals 48 ‘sextaria’ (one ‘sextarius’ being approx. 567 millilitres). There follows a short section with guidance on bloodletting surgery, and several sections – in alphabetical order – on specific illnesses. These include headache, incubus (nightmares), epilepsy, melancholy, toothache, asthma (also ‘suspirium’ or ‘anhelitum’), deep skin ulcers (‘phagedena’), anorexia (‘cachexia’), priapism and fevers. The main source, with minor variations, is the first ed. of Caelius Aurelianus’ ‘Tardarum Passionum’ (Basle, 1529), based on a single 9 th -cent. ms once in the monastery at Lorsch. This provides a terminus post quem for our ms, no later than 1550s. Mss of Caelius’ works were and remain extremely rare. The 1529 ed. also included Oribasius’ works, whence the reference to ‘Italica amphora’ was drawn. Caelius’ works were remarkably important for early modern physicians: ‘Aurelianus aready described in detail the rhythmic pattern – daily and seasonally – of asthma. Tooth pain was also first described by Caelius to peak at night and that drugs were not able to fully suppress the pain, a first indication of chronopharmacology’ (Lemmer).

I.E. Drabkin, ‘Notes on the Text of Caelius Aurelianus’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 76 (1945), pp. 299-320; B. Lemmer, ‘Caelius Aurelianus\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' textbook on medicine of the fifth century’, Chronobiol Int., 36 (2019), pp.883-85.
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