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Criticising Arabic and Latin medical teaching: "a feat of the rarest intellectual courage"

Leoniceno, Niccolo. De Plinii et aliorum medicorum erroribus liber.

Basel, Heinrich Petri, 1529.

4to. (16), 318 pp. Contemporary limp vellum with handwritten title to upper cover. Remains of ties.

Finely printed Basel edition of this important work by the famous medical reformer and humanist Nicolò Leoniceno (1428-1524), correcting the botanical errors of Pliny and aiming to reinstate the classical Greek medical authorities at the expense of their Arabic and Latin interpreters who dominated medical opinion until the late Middle Ages: "Remembering the times in which Leoniceo lived, Garrison considers this work 'a feat of the rarest intellectual courage'. It was accepted by later botanists and thus made possible scientific description of the materia medica" (Garrison/M.). The much contested but ultimately highly influential treatise was first published in 1492 and again (with additions) in 1509. "The teaching in European medical schools at this time was ultimately derived from Greek physicians, especially Galen, but as interpreted and systematized by the Arabic authors. In the several stages of textual transmission, translation, and interpretation that separated European Arabist medicine from the original Greek sources, considerable distortion and corruption had been introduced [...] Leoniceno was one of the chief pioneers in [the] effort to recover and edit the works of the Greek physicians [...]; he sought to demonstrate that the words of the Greek physicians had been so often misconstrued by the Arabists as to make the resulting medical system a menace to human life" (DSB VIII, 248f.).

A good copy showing very little browning. The very appealing contemporary limp vellum binding is a little stained; five of the eight ties lost but for stubs.

Provenance: from the library of count Luigi Terni de’ Gregory of Crema, with the family bookplate and library stamp on the flyleaf; later stamp of the "Kristen Collection" on p. 45.

VD 16, L 1233. Adams L 500. Durling 2791. Wellcome 3735. Cf. Garrison/Morton 1798. Schelenz 408.