Inspiring innovation from tradition

Capitalizing on the activity of Alain Touwaide over the past decades, the Institute is supporting a major program of inventory of Greek medical manuscripts: the Catalogue of Greek Medical Manuscripts.

Research sometimes becomes an inquiry in the way of Sherlock Holmes, with surprises and coups de théâtre. As a first phase of this Catalogue, Alain Touwaide is currently preparing a census, which will be a revision and update of the early20th century catalogue compiled under the direction of the German philologist Hermann Diels, to be published by the UK company Ashgate, in the series Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean. In the meantime, the catalogue of Diels is now available in open access on the Internet on two sites: the Berlin Academy of Sciences and the Health University Library in Paris. The catalogue has also been databased by the Institute and is available in its Web site in open access.

Since the publication of Diels’ catalogue, some manuscripts have been destroyed, others have become known to the scholarly community, and some apparently difficult to trace appear surprisingly on the Internet. Among the latter, the notes taken by the French physician and classical scholar Edouard F. M. Bosquillon (1744-1814), currently preserved by the French Health University Library. Interestingly, his notes – together with two other volumes among the holding of the same library – offer a glimpse onto the way ancient medicine was recovered among Western scholars. Although their books do not add any new text to those already know, they show how ancient medicine made its way into modern erudition, who were the people who played a role in its (re)introduction into scholarship and science, and how they proceeded. The question is important and goes well beyond history, as it helps understand how our knowledge of the texts reporting ancient practices has been shaped.

The Institute is working on a project for a garden where the many plants used by ancient physicians will be cultivated. More to come in due time...

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