Inspiring innovation from tradition

Two new volumes have been recently published in the series Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean published by Ashgate (UK) and directed by Alain Touwaide:

  • Glen M. Cooper, Galen, De diebus decretoriis, from Greek into Arabic. A Critical Edition, with Translation and Commentary, of Hunayn ibn Ishak, Kitab ayyam al-buhran.
    This is the first edition of the Arabic version, by the famous translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq (A.D. 809-873/877), of the treatise on Critical Days by the Greek physician Galen (A.D. 129-after 216). The Arabic text is translated into English, which is the first into a modern language, and preceded by a substantial introduction that contextualizes the treatise within the Greek and Arabic traditions and the debates on the influence of astronomical phenomena on human health.

  • Patricia Ann Clark, A Cretan Healer’s Handbook in the Byzantine Tradition.
    In 1930 the Cretan healer Nikolaos Konstantinos Theodorakis of Meronas re-copied a notebook (a iatrosofion) containing medical lore passed down through his family over generations. The present volume offers an edition of this notebook together with an English translation. Both fascinating and of critical importance, such notebook allows glimpses of classical and Byzantine medical sources, and illustrates the vitality and resilience of Greek traditional medical and botanical knowledge until the 19th century. Introductory essays and explanatory notes to the translation give context to the notebook and provide the information necessary for a good understanding of the text. The abundant materia medica of the notebook is treated in a substantial appendix: each animal, mineral, plant or product is provided with an overview of its various names through the millennia.

Another publication relevant here is a digital reproduction of a Latin manuscript from the collections of the National Library of Finland in Helsinki available on line in open access, which contains the famous Theorica Pantegni:

Outi Kaltio (ed.), Constantine the African. Theorica Pantegni. Facsimile and Transcription of the Helsinki manuscript (Codex EÖ.II.14).
The Theorica Pantegni constitutes the first part of the Liber Pantegni by Constantine the African, which was a translation of Arabic medical texts. It deals with human anatomy and physiology and goes through the structure of the different organs, their functions, the external factors affecting health, and prognosis. Constantine compiled the work in the latter half of the eleventh century at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy. The manuscript Eö.II.14, published here, can be dated to the 3rd quarter of the 12th century and is one of the earliest surviving exemplars of the Theorica Pantegni. The volume here contains not only a photographic reproduction (in colour) of the manuscript, but also a transcription of the text of each of its page, on the facing page. With such transcription, this volume is a remarkable realization, which will certainly be a reference work for years to come and should become a model to be imitated.

Besides these works on the Mediterranean tradition and the fluxes of knowledge, here are some new publications of interest:

  • T. K. Lim, Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants: Vol. 2, Fruits. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 2011.
  • N. J. Saunders, The Poppy: Discover the Story Behind the World's Most Famous Flower. London: Oneworld Publications, 2011.
  • E. M. Beekman (ed.), Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, The Ambonese Herbal, 6 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.
  • N. C Johnson, Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed: Order and Beauty in Botanical Gardens. London: IB Tauris, 2011.

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