FIRST EDITION of these ancient Greek medical texts with some of the most outstanding Renaissance illustrations of scientific subjects, comparable only to Vesalius’s ‘De fabrica’ (1543) and Estienne’s ‘De dissectione’ (1545). ‘One of the most beautiful scientific books of the Renaissance’ (Norman). Printed at the private residence of Benvenuto Cellini at the King’s expense, the book is a monument of the Fontainebleau school.
Guido Guidi’s Latin translation of the original Greek text is one of the most beautiful scientific books of the Renaissance. It includes Latin translations of treatises on surgery by Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, and others, with commentaries by Galen and other ancient writers. Hippocrates’ treatise on dislocations and Soranus’ work on bandages are illustrated with woodcuts, many of them full-page, which illustrate the treatments discussed in the text. Both texts and illustrations derive from a tenth-century illustrated Greek manuscript compiled by the Byzantine physician Nicetas. Brought to Italy by Janus Lascaris in 1495, this codex was used by the Florentine physician Guido Guidi (1508-69) for the preparation of this Latin translation. ‘Most of the book is devoted to Hippocrates’ writings on ulcers, fistulas, and head wounds … and Galen’s commentaries on Hippocrates’ works on fractures and joints. Also included are Galen’s work on bandages as well as Oribasius’ De laqueis and De machinamentis [on orthopaedic devices] … This book is often considered to be the finest textbook of surgery to be printed in the sixteenth century’ (Heirs of Hippocrates 263).
Guido Guidi was a respected scholar of the Cinquecento and grandson of the painter Domenico del Ghirlandaio. Graduating in medicine, he practised in Rome and Florence. In 1542, he settled in Paris as the Royal Physician to King Francis I of France and became the first professor of medicine at the Collège de France (1542-1548). While in Paris he shared quarters with Benvenuto Cellini, who also accommodated the press that produced this edition. The woodcuts, probably by Francois Jollat, were based on drawings by the Italian mannerist Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570) and Jean Santorinos that were copied in turn from the tenth-century codex (now Florence, Laur. Plut. LXXIV, 7). These drawings survive together with Guidi’s reference to the artists, in the dedication manuscript of the translation presented to Francis I (Paris, BNF lat. 6866; see H. Omont, Collection des chirurgiens grecs avec dessins attribus au Primatice, Paris n.d.). The origin of the designs has been traced back to the first century B.C.; they were undoubtedly transmitted directly from Antiquity to Byzantium and so may be regarded as embodying the genuine Hippocratic tradition of surgical practice (H. Schne, Apollonius von Kitium, Leipzig 1896).
Following the death of his patron Francis I in 1547, he taught philosophy and medicine at the University of Pisa for 20 years and was appointed as private physician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de Medici. Guidi’s name is still attached to the canal of the sphenoid bone (the Vidian canal) and the nerve which traverses it (the Vidian nerve). Provenance: Manuscript inscription on the title of Joseph de Ciconiis (surgeon, of the island of Burano at Venice, dated 28 April 1721 indicating presentation to:) – Cesare de Negris; inscription on title of Simon de Negris with that of Antonius Maria in same hand. Choulant-Frank pp. 211-2; Dibner, Heralds 118; Durling 2204; Garrison-Morton 4406.1; Mortimer French 542; Norman 954; Osler 155; Waller 1960; Wellcome I, 6596.