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Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Greek medical texts

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript is a composite of multiple short parts, variously produced in the second half of the 15th and first three quarters of the 16th century, whose content consists chiefly of <i>Greek medical texts</i>, but also includes a commentary on the <i>Odyssey</i> by the ancient Greek scholar Didymus Chalcenterus, who worked in Rome in the time of Augustus, a brief text on the orations of Demosthenes by the 4th-century CE writer Libanios, and a short section of the 6th-century <i>De aedificiis</i> of Procopius of Caesarea, on the buildings constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian I.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The longest of the medical works is a text on urine by the leading Byzantine medical writer Ioannes Zacharias Aktouarios, whose biography is uncertain but who apparently worked in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. This text is credited with an unusual degree of originality and breadth in its use of sources from outside the Greek tradition, which became the definitive work on its subject and remained so for several centuries. There are a number of other short works, some of which are by the great ancient physicians Hippocrates and Galen, while others are anonymous.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript is made up of ten distinct physical components, written on different types of paper by as many as nine different copyists, many of which at least were clearly produced in different contexts, as their watermarks indicate that their production was spread across a range from the middle of the 15th to the middle of the 16th century. Two of these hands have been identified with known Greek scribes who both worked in north-eastern Italy: one Nikolaos, who is known to have worked in Venice and Padua at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, and Konstantinos Mesobotes, found in Venice, Padua and Bologna during the first half of the 16th.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>While most of the texts here appear in only one physical component of the manuscript, that of Ioannes Aktouarios spans two, the beginning appearing in the section copied by Nikolaos (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(77);return false;'>ff. 35r-66v</a>) and the second in the following section, copied by Mesobotes (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(141);return false;'>ff. 67r-141r</a>). However, despite the fact that these scribes worked in the same region during overlapping periods, it is clear that these sections were not produced as part of a single project, nor was one produced to complete the other, since there is a large overlap between the portions of the text they contain. The watermarks also indicate that the latter portion was produced a considerable time after the former. These therefore appear to be simply fragments of two original manuscripts produced in unrelated contexts and bound together. This section by Mesobotes also contains other medical texts, while a later component of the manuscript, containing the work of Procopius, is also in his hand (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(357);return false;'>ff. 176r-185r</a>). Gamillscheg and Harlfinger state (<i>Repetorium der Griechischen Kopisten 800-1600</i>, I, 224) that another section (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>ff. 1r-4v</a>, containing the text of Libanios) was also the work of Mesobotes, but the script does not appear very close to other examples of his work, and the likely dating of the watermarks is earlier than his known period of activity.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At some point not long after the completion of the latest portions, the components of these manuscripts were acquired by John Caius (1510-1573), the English physician and second founder of Gonville and Caius College. He evidently either acquired them as one entity or had them bound together, since a note in his hand survives recording his donation of the manuscript to the college (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(8);return false;'>f. [iii] verso</a>). This is one of a number of Greek manuscripts of wholly or partially medical content acquired by Caius from Italy.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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