Monday, August 12, 2013


María Teresa Santamariá Hernández (ed.), Textos médicos grecolatinos antiguos y medievales: estudios sobre composición y fuentes. Colección Humanidades 123. Cuenca: Ediciones de la Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 2012. Pp. 286. ISBN 978848278825. €18.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Fabio Stok, Università di Roma Tor Vergata (

Version at BMCR home site


This book includes the papers presented at the conference held in Albacete in October 2011. Six of them are in Spanish, three in Italian, one in German. The approach of most of them is well explained by Klaus-Dietrich Fischer in his contribution to the volume, 'Hochmittelalterliche redaktionelle Eingriffe in medizinischen Texten' (pp. 29-53): the medical texts, as in other cases of technical texts, are very often modified not only by errors and misunderstandings, as commonly happens in the transmission of texts, but particularly by deliberate editorial modifications, by means of which the copyist/compiler adapts the text to his own needs and those of his own cultural milieu. As examples of this, Fischer examines three cases, the Quaestiones medicinales of Ps. Soranus, the Liber Medicinalis of Ps. Democritus (a fragmentary Latin version of Oribasius's Synopsis) and the Physica Plinii (a later version of the Medicina Plinii): the various manuscripts of these works reveal additions, omissions and lexical and stylistic modifications which adapt the original text to the contemporary culture and language.

The editorial consequences of this approach are examined by A. Ferraces Rodríguez, 'Arqueología del Ars medicinalis de animalibus, un bestiario altomedieval todavía inédito' (pp. 11-28), who underlines the suitability of parallel editions of the different redactions of a text. The text he examines is a set of recipes from animals, extracted from the Liber medicinae de animalibus of Sextus Placidus Papiriensis: the two extant versions of this text present different numbers of chapters, and such differences are reflected in the editorial arrangement.

Similar factors have affected the transmission of the Latin translations of the gynaecological treatise of Soranus: A. M. Urso, 'Il Liber geneciae ad Soteris obsetrix e la tradizione di Sorano' (pp. 215-44) examines a catechism derived from Soranus which was edited in 1882 by Rose on the basis of the Ms. Laur. 73, 1. The text reveals a conflation of late antique materials in which one can identify Soranus' Latin translations of Mustio and Caelius Aurelianus. M. E. Vásquez Buján, 'Mecanismos de adaptación de algunas adiciones en la versión Aa del Oribasio latino' (245-65) examines one of the two versions of the Latin translations of Oribasius: he argues that this version was made by a copyist who introduced lexical and syntactic modifications and enlarged the text with a chapter taken from Theodorus Priscianus.

Another type of formation of the medieval medical texts is examined by E. Montero Cartelle, 'Métodos de formación de obras médicas latinas medievales: a propósito de los Remedia contra maleficia' (pp. 107-23). The transmission of large and bulky works was expensive and laborious: therefore medieval compilers extracted and adapted shorter books from their sources. The example examined is that of the Remedia contra maleficia, a set of recipes againts infertility caused by spells, a text traditionally included in the printed editions of Arnald of Villanova. The work is a conflation of parts from the so-called Pantegni of Constantine the African and from the Thesaurus pauperum of the so-called Pedro Hispano.

Two other papers concern Sextus Placitus' work. M. T. Santamaría Hernández, 'Establecimiento de fuentes y enmiendas textuales en el Liber medicinae ex animalibus de Sexto Plácido' (pp. 151-86) identifies Sextus's sources in the works of Pliny the Elder, Marcellus of Bordeaux and in the Cyranides, a medieval work of hermetic medicine. J. C. Santos Paz, 'Organización y fuentes del recetario de zooterapia conservado en el manuscrito Bodley 130' (187-214) examines a set of recipes drawn from animals preserved in the Oxford manuscript Bodley 130: he shows that the compiler of this set knew not only the ancient Anglo-Saxon translation of Sextus (an opinion shared by de Vriend, editor of this text), but also the Latin text of Sextus.

Of great interest is the paper by I. Garofalo, 'Il De pulsibus di Philaretus e il Perì sphygmón di Philaretos (con in Appendice l'edizione del De Pulsibus)' (pp. 55-94): he demonstrates that the so-called Philaretos Perì sphygmón edited by Pithis in 1983 is a Greek translation of the De pulsibus Philareti, a Latin version of the Ps. Galenic De pulsibus ad Antonium (edited by Kühn). It is a rare case of a translation from Latin to Greek in the 14th century. In an Appendix, Garofalo publishes a provisional edition of the De pulsibus Philareti based on seven manuscripts.

The paper by J. Pascual Barea, 'Las propiedades terapéuticas del Equiferus desde Plinio hasta el siglo XV' (pp. 125-50) concerns the history of pharmaceutics. At least five substances from the equiferus (that is encebra or Iberian zebra) were used from Antiquity to the 15th century, produced in regions where these wild horses abounded, such as Central Europe and La Mancha in Spain.

Less related with the main topics of the volume is the paper by I. Mazzini, 'Pubblico, volontà didattica e organizzazione della materia nel De medicina di A. Cornelio Celso'> (pp. 95-106), who assumes that Celsus' work was written not only for physicians, but also for an educated and wealthy public interested in medicine.

The volume includes an index of names and manuscripts, abstracts and key words (267-86). On the whole, the book offers several original additions to our knowledge of the medical literature of the Middle Ages.

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