Medicina Aphoristica

Gennaro Perotti



Gennaro Perotti


Medicina aphoristica sive auctorum qui ea de re scripserunt delectus quorum quamplurima recensita, nonnulla ad praesentis medicinae utilitatem accomodata cura, & studio Januarj Perotti Archiatri Neapolitani (1712), which translates roughly: A collection of medical knowledge from authors that have written on this subject, selected for their present medical utility and cure, by the Chief Physician of Naples, Gennaro Perotti.

Although the cover shows only one, the book has two authors: Gennaro Perotti and Johann Jacob Waldschmidt (1644-1689), physician, professor, Dean of Medicine and rector at the University of Marburg, Germany. Unfortunately, there is very little knowledge about Perotti himself except that he was the chief physician in Naples.

This book in today's medical literature would be entitled: Current Recommended Practice for Chronic Ailments. Perotti and Waldschmidt collated best practices and medical treatment recommendations for acute and chronic ailments looking at two giants of the ancient world Hippocrates and Celsus. Although Perotti appears on the cover as the sole author of the book, about one quarter of the book is authored by Jacob Waldschmidt. Perotti should be considered in today's day and age more as an editor.

The 219 page book was written in Latin and printed in Naples by Felicis Mosca in 1712. The publication was supported by Bernardini Gessari, a known benefactor for several other medical texts of the time. The book contains four sections:

  1. Hippocratis Aphorismorum - The Teachings of Hippocrates, ( p. 1-104). that includes the famous aphorism of Hippocrates: "Vita brevis, ars longa…." - Life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experimentations perilous, and judgment difficult.
  2. Leges Medicinae Hippocratis Aphorismis Adjunctae - Medical rules (i.e. recommended treatment) based on Hippocratic teachings (105-122)
  3. Monita Medica (de Morbis Chronicis) - Practica Necessaria per Plurimos Morbos Illustrate - Recommended Treatment for a Variety of Chronic Ailments (page 123- 190) by Johann Jacob Waldschmidt.
  4. Aurelii Cornelii Celsi Insigniores Sententiae - Notable Medical Opinions Selected from the Work of Aurelius Cornelius Celsus (second century Greek philosopher and physician, page 191-219).

Of particular importance is the section entitled "De Morbis Dentium" or Diseases of the Teeth. On page 138-139, Waldschmidt, the author makes three remarks. First, that dental pain can be caused by cold, hot, acid, pungent, sweet, milk and cheese. Second, that "Amoniacalia (i.e. remedies based on ammonia) can correct oral malodor as well as a frail person". And third, that "those that drink fountain water have healthy teeth, those indulging in wine have darkened and defective ones."

On page 176 Waldschmidt describes "De odontalgia" (Dental pain). He states that: "Dental pain of unknown origin is a sign of pregnancy, that can be confirmed by many women." (Dolor dentium quandoque insallibile est signum conceptionis, quod plurimae confirmabunt mulierculae" and that "Triple infusion of freshly prepared Aqua Mirabilis, held in the mouth is excellent in reducing pain" (Aq. (…) mirabilis (…) triplici infusione florum recentium parata in ore detenta, egregie sedat dolorem.) Aqua Mirabilis was a well-known potion in medieval times and contained "cardamom, cloves, cubeb galingal, ginger, mace and nutmeg, soaked in spirit of wine and redistilled" according to Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl, 'Aqua - Aqua mirabilis', in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820 (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online.

Waldschmidt recognizes the value of applying opium into the lesion of a carious teeth to reduce pain ("ipsum opium cavo denti inditum doloris demulcet atrocitatem" (page 178), and that fumigation with Henbane seeds are useful for pain caused by the tooth worm (fumus seminis carbonibus injecti ore haustus multis prosuit paefertim si dolor fuerit a vermibus.)

A final warning from Waldschmidt sums it up "everything cold, hot and sweet are damaging (the teeth), (omnia frigida, omnia fervida ut et saccharata nocent).

Editirial notes by Andrew I Spielman.

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