By Margaret Kaiser ~
The National Library of Medicine recently acquired a rare manuscript related to the Ancient Greek physician Galen. It is an Articella—a collection of medical treatises bound together for use as a textbook or reference. This decorated early manuscript on paper was written in Spain, probably around 1475. Manuscript translations into vernacular languages are rare and the texts here have been translated into Catalan, a language that developed from Latin. Once suppressed and banned, Catalan is now considered an official language of Spain.
The text begins in Catalan: “Assi comença lo Libre de Johanici de introduccions del art del Tegni” (Thus begins the Book of Joannitius’ introductions to the art of Galen).
It is a translation of Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʻIbādī’s Isagoge ad tegni Galieni (Introduction to the art of Galen). Hunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʻIbādī, was a physician in Baghdad, better known in the West as Joannitius. He translated many Greek works, especially those of Galen, into Arabic. The Isagoge was an important text for the study of medicine in the medieval university and this copy includes glosses—handwritten annotations added in the margins—that provide additional commentary on the text.
The Isagoge is a collection of brief summaries written to provide an overview of Galenic medicine. It begins with an explanation of the four humors of the human body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile). Illness was thought to be caused when there was an imbalance of these humors. How the humors relate to the elements of the physical world, and influences of the outside world on the human body, including air and the seasons, are also presented. The texts conclude with sections on fevers, abscesses, and the types of diseases that affect the human body, starting with general ailments and then moving to more specific maladies.
This manuscript also includes short treatises on diagnosis by uroscopy and by the pulse. The last item in the manuscript is a collection of nine medical recipes.
Access to this title is provided through LocatorPlus, the Library’s online catalog. For questions about this title and other historical collections, including how to consult them, please contact the History of Medicine Division Reference staff at NLM Customer Support or call (301) 402-8878.
Margaret Kaiser is Acquisitions Librarian for the Rare Books and Early Manuscripts Section in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.