Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus (Syphilis, or the French disease, 1547)
Girolamo Fracastoro (1478-1553). A true Renaissance man, Girolamo Fracastoro was born in Verona into a Catholic family. His education took him to University of Padua obtaining a medical degree in 1502. During his studies, Fracastoro was a fellow student with the Polish astronomer studying medicine at the same university, Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543). He died of a stroke in 1553 at the age of 75. There is a statue in his honor at the Piazza dei Signori in Verona.
Several areas of science and humanities were of interest to Fracastoro. He taught logic at University of Padua, studied plants, literature, music, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, practiced medicine in Verona, debated questions of philosophy at the Academy of Manutius and wrote diverse studies in the field of arts and natural sciences.
The spread of syphilis following the return of Columbus from the New World and the ongoing military conflict between the armies of Alfonso II of Naples and Charles VIII of France (1494-1495) spread the disease in a population that had no defense. The French called it the Neapolitan disease, the Italians, Poles, Germans called it the French Disease (Morbus Gallicus). Girolamo Fracastoro was the first to write about the disease in 1521. His pastoral poem, "Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus", a poem containing close to 1300 verses written in eloquent Latin, describes Syphilo, the name of the shepherd punished by the God Apollo for defying him. The work was translated into 100 languages and had brought fame and acclaim to Fracastoro. The name of the shepherd was used by Fracastoro to coin the disease that was decimating European populations following the Naples outbreak of 1495. In 1546 Fracastoro correctly described it’s contagious nature in "De Contagione et Conatgiosus Morbis". Fracastoro had a broad array of interests and impact. He published a book on astronomy (Homocentricorum seu de Stellis Liber Unus, 1538), five years prior to Copernicus, his fellow medical student.
The current volume in our collection is a 1547 compilation of two related works: Fracastoro' Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus, published in 1530, and Alfonso Ferri’s work on the use of guaiacum to treat syphilis.
Alfonso Ferri (Ferro) (1500? – 1595)
De Ligni Sancti Multiplici Medicina, et Vini Exhibitione (The Complex Relationship of Medicine and Wine)
Was an Italian surgeon and physician who published several treaties on gunshot wounds, the use of guaiac to heal the wounds and developed an instrument to remove bullets. He was physician for several Popes at the end of the 16th century. Little else is known about Ferri’s life, except he was born in Naples at the beginning of the 16th century. Even the year is uncertain.
The book in our collection contains both Ferri's and Fracastoro's work in one bound copy. Both works were published prior. The first 178 pages are Ferri’s work followed by 56 pages of Fracastoro's 1300 verse poem about Syphilo.
Editorial notes by Andrew I Spielman.
1547 Version >>>