First Medical Text on Syphilis

Leoniceno, Nicolo. Nicolai Leoniceni Vicentini, Philosophi and Medici clarissimi, opuscula: quorum catalogum versa pagina indicabit. Per D. Andream Leennium Medicum, à multis quibus scatebant vitijs, repurgata, atque annotatiunculis illustrata.

Basileae: Apud And. Cratandrum, et Io. Bebelium, Anno mdxxxii [1532]. 321 x 216 mm (12.5 x 8 ¼ in). Folio. [4], 175, [1] ll. In Latin. Final leaf misnumbered 157.’ With Cratander’s device as a title vignette and final unnumbered leaf with Bebelium’s device on verso. Woodcut initials. Bound in early vellum over boards, with heraldic stamp on both covers (that we were not able to identify). Leather spine title label with gilt lettering, with publication place and year beneath in ink. Red speckled edges. Ink inscription in an old hand on verso of front free endpaper states (in French): [“M. Brunet, in his Manuel du Libraire, quotes a rare minor work by Leoniceno; he did not indicate this collection, which informs everyone, and which, itself, is not common.»] Autograph on title page: Ex Libris: Dr. Paul Decoux, Paris, 1869.” Blind embossed stamp on edge of title page: Decoux, Docteur en medicine a Treignac (Correze).” The same stamp appears in numerous places throughout the book. Ink stamp with a facsimile of an autograph on verso of title page. Decoux also signed the title page verso and beneath the colophon on the verso of leaf 157. Very good or better overall. Minor damage to spine; boards scuffed and some soiling, with a small gouge to the front cover revealing the board beneath. A few gatherings mildly age-toned; but a crisp, solid, wide-margined copy, exhibiting little wear. 

First edition of the author’s collected works, including an early printing of the first medical text on syphillis. Niccolo Leoniceno was a physician and translator of ancient Greek and Arabic medical texts. He wrote the first scientific paper on syphilis in 1497, which is included in the present volume in its own chapter under the title De morbo Gallico, sive Neapolitano.” Also included is his critique of Pliny’s Natural History (first published 1492) in which he identifies numerous errors and thus questions the integrity of classical knowledge.

Rehashes a major debate of the Renaissance. That the first edition of Leoniceno’s collected works–published eight years after Leoniceno’s death–begins with the four-part critique of Pliny shows the impact this debate had on 16th century European intellectuals. The text is presented between a 1491 letter from Angelo Poliziano and a 1506 response from Francesco Consorti. Leoniceno’s treatise pointed out errors in the medical portions of Pliny as well as in the works of barbarian’ (that is, medieval Arab) physicians” (Nauert). This called into question the accuracy of works by Pliny, and perhaps many other classical figures. Pliny’s apologists were spurred on in part by the anxiety that these errors put Pliny on equal footing with Arabic scholars, who were placed into a category of difference that denoted inferiority (“ta non approbas, quod Plinium de vita ac literis optime meritum, intra eandem cum barbaris aleam prosverim”). Among them was Poliziano and Pandolfo Collenuccio, who argued that the error was not with Pliny himself, but with corruption introduced by copyists and translators of his works.

Leoniceno’s challenge to Pliny’s authority was a result of Leoniceno’s own study of Greek manuscripts, of which he amassed a large collection, including many versions of a single work. Establishing an authoritative medical text was important since it had consequences for the effectiveness of treatments. Knowledge of Greek allowed Leoniceno to read the classics in their original language, compare them to each other, and compare them to his own observations. His quest for accurate translations–and to discover false knowledge that was attributable to authors and not their translators–led to collaborations with Aldus Manutius, who made use of Leoniceno’s extensive library and philological skills. Leoniceno would also translate works by Galen and Hippocrates and provide commentaries on them.

A clean copy of the first edition of the collected works of Leoniceno which emphasize analysis of primary sources and questions in textual authority that remain vital to this day.  

This edition of collected works is very scarce, with no auction records found. 

USTC 607877

VD16 zv 9577


In stock

Stock Code: 1139B16 Collections: , Catalogue:


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