Aphorismi, 1583.

Aphorismi, 1583




Hippocrates 460 BC, Cos - 377 BC, Larissa

Aphorismi, 1583. (Nicolao Leoniceno Vicentino, translator and interpreter) and (Giovanni Marinelli Marinello, commentator).  Published in Venice, Giacchino Brognollo, this book was purchased online from an antique bookstore in November 2021.

Aphorisms are concise expressions of medical truth, valid for Hippocrates’ time. It is essential to understand that what we believe as the work of Hippocrates of Cos (~460 BC. Cos - Larissa, 377 BC) is, in fact, a collection of ancient Greek medical wisdom written by at least 19 different authors, none probably by Hippocrates himself, wisdom that was refined across several centuries (5th century BC through 1st century AD), influenced by physician’s experience from the School of Cos, Cnidus, and Alexandria. These works collectively are termed the Corpus Hippocraticus and include about 70 books. Almost none survived in its original form. Over the first millennium, they were translated into Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic, and Latin in the middle of the 16th century. The invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century facilitated republishing of works attributed to the classics of the antique world, including Hippocrates. The first Latin translation of his work appeared in 1525. Subsequent translations and editions of the Corpus Hippocraticus were improvements of previous versions. Two editions are worth mentioning, the one published in 1576 by James Hollerius Stempani (Jacque Houllier, ~1502 -1562), a French physician, and the 1596 edition.

Hippocrates proposed looking at a patient holistically and believing in one’s power of observation and one own critical evaluation of signs and symptoms via inspection, palpation, auscultation, and percussion. The holistic approach is remarkable, considering the lack of medical knowledge and reliance on superstition. One of his famous aphorisms Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experimentation perilous, and judgment challenging, is still valid.

The current volume has 237 pages, a 35-page index, and commentary by Joannis Marinello. There are two copies in the U.S. (University of Texas, Medical Library; Welch Library at John Hopkins). Niccolo Leoniceno (1428-1524) made the original translation from Greek in 1490. It would be hard to find a Sixteenth Century medical doctor or medical student who did not carry this tiny book with him. The volume was part of a 28-volume rare-book donation made by Dr. Andrew I Spielman to the College in the summer of 2022.

Editorial notes by Andrew I Spielman.

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