skip to content

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Greek medical texts

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'> The manuscript contains a collection of <i> Greek medical texts</i> owned by the physician John Caius (1510-1573). The volume is formed of four parts, each with a different origin. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> It was donated to Gonville and Caius College Library by John Caius, second founder of the College. He travelled in Italy from 1539-1544, where he consulted various manuscripts (see S. Berlier, <i> John Caius et le De usu partium. Contribution à l'histoire du texte de Galien</i>, in: Revue d'Histoire des Textes n.s. 6 (2011), pp. 1-14: pp. 5-6) and probably acquired at least some of the Greek manuscripts he later bequeathed to the College. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Part I contains the first 6 books (the last is incomplete) of Galen's work <i> Method of Healing</i> (<i> De methodo medendi</i>). The text was already incomplete when John Caius acquired it. He wrote a note in the manuscript (p. 1:160) pointing out that the continuation of the text was to be found in another, smaller, book with the same contents. The book in question is another manuscript owned by Caius, now <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College, 360/587</a>. This is also a manuscript formed of parts of different origins; in the second part there is indeed the continuation of the text, from the exact point where it ends in MS 47/24; also the pagination carries on from that of MS 47/24. Moreover, in MS 360/587 there is a note by John Caius referring to another, bigger book, containing the missing beginning of the text. As set out in notes written by John Caius in the margins of a printed edition of Galen (Eton College, Fc.2.6-8, on this see Nutton 1987, p. 65), he had for some time owned this imperfect copy of Galen's text (MS Gonville and Caius 47/24), hence the need to have a complete copy of the work. The part of the text contained now in MS 360/587 was written by another scribe, and the manuscript has a different size: considering this and the note by John Caius, Nutton (1987, p. 65) assumed that the copy of the second part of the text, now contained in MS Gonville and Caius 360/587, was commissioned by John Caius. This assumption seems to be reinforced by the fact that the text there begins on the top of a leaf exactly from the point where it ends in MS 47/24, that the pagination carries on from that manuscript, and that the hand of the scribe of MS 360/587 (hand C) recurs also in the margins of MS 47/24 (hand a). The only difficulty in this reconstruction is the fact that the watermarks found in MS 360/587, although not identified in the repertoires, are comparable with examples dated between the last decade of the 15th and the first quarter of the 16th c., which would be a little early for a copy commissioned by Caius (1510-1573). The scribe could have used an "old" stock of paper; or maybe the watermarks, which are only "comparable" to the examples of the beginnig of the century, are in reality later; the question needs more research. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Part II (ff. 2:0-2:49) contains a portion of Galen's work <i> De usu partium</i>, which John Caius used for his edition of 1544 (he edited a portion of book vii, previously unedited, see Berlier 2011, pp. 10-11). The text was written on so-called eastern paper by two scribes. These leaves have been identified by Stéphane Berlier (2011, pp. 12-14) as <i> membra disiecta</i> of a manuscript of Florence, <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 74.4</a>: dimensions, layout and script match, as well as the lacuna in the text. It is not clear how these leaves came in the hands of John Caius. Nigel Wilson (1987, pp. 55-56) dated the script of MS Laur. Plut. 74.4 between the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, a date which, therefore, must be extended also to the second part of MS Gonville and Caius 47/24 (see also Berlier 2011, p. 13 note 41). </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Part III is formed of 10 leaves: the first is a blank endleaf (from the 16th c.), the other nine (ff. 3:1-3:9) are earlier. They contain a part of Galen's <i> De placitis Hippocratis et Platonis</i>, a text of which John Caius published in 1544 the first printed edition ( Nutton 1987, p. 55). As in the case of part II, these leaves have been identified, in this case by Vivian Nutton, as originating from a manuscript in Florence, <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 74.22</a> (see Nutton 1987, pp. 55-56; see also Berlier 2011, p. 12), of the second half of the 12th c. (for this dating see Wilson 1986, p. 115; Wilson 1987, pp. 55-56). Since the manuscript was intact when John Caius collated it for his edition of the text around 1543, but the leaves were already missing in 1582, it is believed that the English physician removed them when he consulted the manuscript during his time in Italy ( Nutton 1987, pp. 55-56).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Part IV (ff. 3:10-3:11) contains a portion of the Greek translation of a medical encyclopaedic work by Ibn al-Ǧazzār (895-979), a Muslim Arab physician of the 10th century, the <i> Efodia</i>. The characteristics of the script and of the paper suggest that these two leaves are to be dated to the 14th century (ca. 1325-1375). Morevoer, also these leaves can be identified as deriving from a manuscript in Florence: <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 75.4</a> (for the identification of the provenance of the leaves from the MS Laur. Plut. 75.4, see the blogpost by T. Miguet, <i><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> De Florence à Cambridge: deux folios du texte grec du Viatique du voyageur d'Ibn al-Ǧazzār retrouvés</a></i> (Manuscrits en Méditerranée, IRHT section grecque, 2021).) </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Dr Erika Elia</p>

Want to know more?

Under the 'More' menu you can find , and information about sharing this image.

No Contents List Available
No Metadata Available


If you want to share this page with others you can send them a link to this individual page:
Alternatively please share this page on social media

You can also embed the viewer into your own website or blog using the code below: