Gabriella Zuccolin. Summa doctrina et certa experientia: Studi su medicina e filosofia per Chiara Crisciani. Micrologus Library Series. Florence: SISMEL, 2017. 490 pp. EUR 68.00 (paper), ISBN 978-88-8450-762-4.
Reviewed by Jeff Doolittle (Fordham University)
Published on H-Sci-Med-Tech (October, 2017)
Commissioned by Lucy C. Barnhouse (College of Wooster)
In publications spanning forty-five years, Chiara Crisciani has investigated the complex relationships between philosophical, medical, and alchemical thought in medieval Europe; this substantial Festschrift edited by Gabriella Zuccolin, a gift on the occasion of Crisciani’s seventieth birthday, brings together twenty studies by friends, colleagues, and collaborators, many of whom are themselves leaders in the field. Published as part of the Micrologus Library by SISMEL (Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino), a series noted for its excellent studies and editions in the history of medieval intellectual cultures, this collection focuses primarily on texts, transmission, and exchanges within the European university milieu from the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries.
As Zuccolin lays out in a brief introductory essay and then amply demonstrates in a comprehensive bibliography, Crisciani’s research has provided considerable insight into the fluid and vibrant relationships between literate traditions of medicine, philosophy, and alchemy in medieval academic environments. Many of the essays gathered here consciously engage with Crisciani’s work and fruitfully open up new avenues for further research. The twenty papers are organized into four thematic sections, each encompassing a significant trajectory in Crisciani’s agenda. There is tremendous value in this volume: in addition to engaging studies, there are a number of edited texts appearing in print for the first time.
The first section explores the complex relationships between medicine and philosophy, and like Crisciani’s own publications, these five essays focus on the close reading of scholastic texts. In the first, Luca Bianchi explores the medieval origins of an oft-cited Renaissance and early modern dictum (“Ubi desinit physicus, ibi medicus incipit,” used as Bianchi’s title) taken from Aristotle’s De sensu et sensato, and traces its history through a series of Aristotelian florilegia back to the thirteenth-century commentaries produced by Oxford philosopher Adam of Buckfield (ca. 1220-94). Then, the next four essays by Pietro Rossi, Andrea Tabarroni, Roberto Lambertini, and Gianfranco Fioravanti all contribute newly edited texts with brief introductions. Rossi’s study focuses on the Summa super 4 libro Metheororum, a meteorological treatise by an enigmatic thirteenth-century author usually styled as Guillelmus Anglicus. In addition to the transcription of Section I (De congelatis) of this treatise from MS Paris, BnF, Lat. 6552, Rossi also argues that this text gives further insight into the rhetorical habits that define Guillelmus as an author. Tabarroni and Lambertini both contribute studies of shorter texts ascribed to the University of Bologna physician Bartolomeo da Varignana (fl. 1300-10). Tabarroni proposes a reconsideration of a short text that introduced da Varignana’s commentary on Galen’s De interioribus (MS Vatican City, BAV Lat. 4452), arguing that it is best understood not as an introduction at all but as an example of a sermo in principio studii medicine, an oration by a medical master to incoming students at the inception of a new academic year, probably delivered sometime between 1290 and 1310 at Bologna, perhaps by da Varignana himself. Lambertini’s contribution, “Un medico-filosofo di fronte all’usura: Bartolomeo da Varignana,” studies da Varignana’s ideas about usury based on a unique quaestio on the topic appended to da Varignana’s commentary on the Oeconomica, a pseudo-Aristotelian treatise, and provides a transcription of the text. Fioravanti’s chapter, like Tabarroni’s discusses medical sermones, and gives an edition of two previously unpublished examplars by Maino de’ Maineri, which were delivered at the University of Paris in the early fourteenth century.
The three essays in the second section focus on the transmission of medical learning in the Middle Ages, using texts and genres referenced by Crisciani as starting points. Danielle Jacquart’s contribution, “Hippocrate: Le maître lointain et absolu des universitaires médiévaux,” surveys the medieval interest in the central yet hazy figure of Hippocrates, and finds him represented as a model of honesty in commentaries of the Aphorisms between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. In the second piece, “Ps. Galenus, De medicinis expertis: Per un état des lieux,” Iolanda Ventura probes the origins, sources, contents, and manuscript history of De medicinis expertis, a short collection of recipes falsely ascribed to Galen that traveled in collections of several lesser-known texts by Rhazes; Ventura also questions the attribution of the Latin translation to Faraj ibn Salim. Finally, in “Alla ricerca degli autori cosiddetti ‘Minori’: Un percorso nella tradizione manoscritta del consilium,” Marilyn Nicoud reassesses the value of the “minor” medical genre of consilia (medical advice) written by Italian physicians between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The third and largest thematic section contains seven papers that continue Crisciani's explorations of the presence and influence of scholastic scientific theories in medieval debates on natural philosophy and theology. Massimo Prodi studies the meaning of a compendium in the Metalogicon of John of Salisbury in “Un percorso tra esperienza e cultura in Giovanni di Salisbury.” In “Seme e generazione umana nelle opere teologiche di Alberto Magno,” Luciano Cova focuses on the Dominican scholastic philosopher Albertus Magnus and considers Albertus’s knowledge of Aristotelian discussions about semen, human generation, and embryology in the thirteenth century and the influence of those discussions on his theological ideas regarding the role of Mary in the generation of Jesus. Silvana Vecchio’s chapter, “Passioni umane e passioni animali nel pensiero medievale,” explores discussions of the passions in the work of another Dominican scholastic, Thomas Aquinas; whereas most other medieval authors viewed the passions—pleasure, fear, hate, and desire—as animal-like and contrary to true human nature, Vecchio says that Aquinas’s treatment is much more complicated. Also studying Aquinas, Carla Casagrande identifies a specifically Thomistic ethics of honor across several of the theologian’s works, relying on, but also distinct from, Aristotelian definitions in her chapter, “Tommaso D’Aquino: onore e virtù.” Alessandro Ghisalberti’s study, “Il metodo dialogico nella Disputatio fidei et intellectus di Raimondo Lullo (1303),” challenges prevailing interpretations of the Ars of Ramon Llull (ca. 1232-ca. 1315) which could recast the way scholars interpret Llull’s other works. In his essay, “Engelbert of Admont and the Longevity of the Antediluvians, ca. 1300,” Joseph Ziegler discusses a little-known text on longevity before the Flood titled Tractatus de causis longaevitatis hominum ante diluvium by Engelbert of Admont. Ziegler argues that the biblical stories of people with extraordinarily long lives before the Flood played a significant role in “triggering thought about long life and the potential and limits for the actual prolongation of life,” as evidenced in Engelbert’s tract (p. 313). Finally, in “Ex fructibus eorum cognoscentes eos: John Fortescue alle origini del comparativismo costituzionale e giuridico,” Stefano Simonetta studies the political philosophy of John Fortescue (ca. 1394-1479) and shows how Fortescue incorporated his own experiences of the political structures of England and France into the definition of dominium politicum et regale (royal and political lordship, p. 338) as found in his works.
The fourth and final section contains five papers that treat medical, philosophical, and alchemical materials from the early modern period up to the nineteenth century. In “‘Vives igitur, beatissime pater, ni fallor, diutissime': La prolongevità dei Papi nel De vita hominis ultra CXX annos protrahenda di Tommaso Giannotti Rangoni (1493-1577),” Agostino Paravicini Bagliani analyzes a treatise by Tommaso Giannotti Rangoni (1493-1577), a text written specifically for the early modern popes Julius III (1550, 1553) and Pius IV (1560) on how to prolong life. Bagliani sees Rangoni's work as innovative in that it included a historical section that surveyed the practical historical and medical obstacles that popes faced by virtue of their office. Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio’s study, “Il genio si racconta: Il De vita propria di Cardano e alcuni suoi celebri interpreti,” examines the autobiography of the medical doctor and philosopher Gerolamo Cardano (1501-76), looking at Cardano’s elaboration of a theory of genius and its reception in the centuries afterward. Franco Bacchelli, in “Una lettera inedita di Paolo Giovio a Gian Matteo Giberti,” provides a very brief study and edition of a letter by the Italian physician and prelate Paolo Giovio drawn from the miscellaneous MS Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria 400, along with several short associated texts. In “From the Old World to the New: The Circulation of the Blood,” Michael McVaugh and Nancy Siraisi collaborate on a study of the transmission of physician William Harvey’s influential theories of the circulation of the blood from Europe to New England in the mid-seventeenth century through an analysis of book ownership and distribution in the early colonial period. In the last essay, “Vital Experiment: Alchimia, Filosofia e Medicina nel XIX Secolo, una divagazione,” Michela Pereira focuses on the nineteenth-century historian of alchemy Mary Ann Atwood and offers a new interpretation of Atwood’s work.
As expected in a Festschrift, most of the essays are engaged in a direct conversation with Crisciani’s works, especially regarding the role of the experiential in relating knowledge and practice, as well as in questioning the old divisions between Latin academic thought and vernacular knowledge; however, the individual essays only fitfully engage in a conversation with each other. That is not to say that there were no opportunities. There are a number of instances where a reference to the discussion in another essay could have tied the book together as a more cohesive volume.
The book and its subject matter are certainly not intended for general or undergraduate readers; its language (eighteen of the twenty essays are printed in languages other than English) and long untranslated Latin passages may be daunting for all but the most expert in the field, although abstracts in English at the end of each chapter are helpful. Still, the essays gathered here should find an interested readership among specialists and advanced graduate students. Considering its wide coverage, this volume is certainly a fitting tribute to Crisciani’s long and productive career. And much in the spirit of Crisciani’s own oeuvre, the book provides a model and starting point for many further conversations that may yet be held between historians of medieval and early modern medicine, philosophy, and alchemy.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-sci-med-tech.
Jeff Doolittle. Review of Zuccolin, Gabriella, Summa doctrina et certa experientia: Studi su medicina e filosofia per Chiara Crisciani.
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