VIRDUNG, J.H. Nova Medicinae Methodus.

Ettlingen, V. Kobian, 1532.


FIRST EDITION. ff. [4], 98, [4], last blank. Roman letter. Title within architectural woodcut border with grotesques, 15 half-page astrological diagrams, large woodcut vignette of St Luke to penultimate verso, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight toning, later bibliographical ms note and contemporary ownership ‘Hic liber est emptus Sixto cognomine Kepfer quo (?)nanda dei laus nominetur(?) be(?)’ to title. An excellent copy in modern boards, C20 bookplate of Albert Ehrman to front pastedown, modern bookplate of Broxbourne Collection to rear pastedown.

An excellent copy of the first edition of this interesting work of medical astrology, with a short treatise on urinoscopy, by Johannes Virdung of Hassfurt (1463-1538/39), court astrologer and physician to the Elector Palatine. Virdung ‘quotes Ptolemy stating that astrology is not a separate science, but requires a knowledge of astronomy. Astrology is diagnosis, “sermo de stellis” [a message coming from the stars]; astronomy is “nomos” [law]’ (Cantamessa). Part I provides a theoretical introduction, explaining the tenets of astrology and astronomy, and how these are both different and connected, as well as, following sources such as Ptolemy and Egyptian medicine, the nature of the Zodiac, the 7 errant stars, the illnesses caused by the planets (with a detailed table), and how the various body parts relate to the 12 Houses. Part II applies astrology to medicine, explaining how to calculate diagnoses and prognoses through horoscopes according to one’s birth date. A few sections are also devoted to weight units employed to quantify medicaments, as well as dozens of remedies, such as enema, laxatives, bloodletting, poultice, and syrups, for specific conditions or body parts. Most interesting is the section on ‘pessaria’, substances inserted into the vulva in order to stop or provoke menstruation, e.g., myrrh, nigella seeds or artemisia. Part III discusses how to calculate the ‘dies critici’, i.e., in astrological terms, those marking the crisis of an illness, leading either to improvement or death. Part IV is devoted to urinoscopy, with sections on the contents of urine, which are examined, as shown in a horoscope, in relation to the condition of the liver; several sections discuss how to interpret the colours and elements of urine, and what conditions these may be revealing.

The early owner was the German physician Sixtus Kepfer, author of a pamphlet on the causes and remedies of an epidemic which hit Bamberg in 1544.

The Broxbourne Collection was amassed by the British bibliophile Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), who was especially fond of early European books, type specimens and fine bindings, many now at the Bodleian and Cambridge UL.

NLM, Harvard and UW copies recorded in the US. USTC 678536; VD16 V1267; Durling 4632; Bibl. Magica 1213; Cantamessa 8445 (1533 ed.). Not in Wellcome, Heirs of Hippocrates or Osler. F. Leitschuh, Die Vorbilder und Muster der Bamberger ärtzlichen Schule (1877).
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