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BENEDICTUS OLAI (ca 1520–1583)

Een Nyttigh Läkere Book ther uthinnen man finner rådh, hielp och Läkedom til allehanda menniskiornes siwkdomar bådhe inwertes och uthwertes. Serdeles ock een underwisning och rättelse, huru swaghe och siwklighe quinnor sigh uthi alla förefallende siwkdomar hielpa kunna. Item emoot the kranckheter som små spädh barn lätteligha henda kunna. Item een underwisning och ingång til Chirurgiam. Tilsamman draghen genom migh Benedictum Olaui S. Medicinæ Doctorem.
Stocholm, aff Anders Torstenson, 1578.

First edition of the first Swedish medical book written by a Swedish-born physician (educated abroad), preceded only by Wilhelm Lemnius’ plague tractate (1572) and Johann Copp’s Empiricus sueces, a medical work in Latin of which no copy has survived. Benedictus Olai [Bengt Olofsson] was born in Örebro. He studied abroad at various universities in Germany, most of the time in Wittenberg but also in Rome where he studied anatomy under Realdo Colombo, Vesalius’ successor at Padua. It is not known when or where he obtained his medical doctor’s degree, but he is generally considered as the first Swede to graduate as a medical doctor. In 1561 he was appointed physician-in-ordinary to King Erik XIV, whom he also assisted in astrological experiments. When in 1569 Erik XIV was removed from the throne even ”Doctor Bengt” was imprisoned for some years but was released in 1571, and served the rest of his life as court physician to King Johan III. Benedictus Olai’s Läkere Book is mainly a compilation from various foreign books, i.a. Henrik Smid’s Lægebog in Danish and Christopher Wirsung’s Artzney Buch. The section on women’s and children’s diseases is taken from Rueff’s Hebammen Buch. The book remained for a long time the only comprehensive medical manual in Sweden. ”Doctor Bengt” also served as librarian to Erik XIV and in collaboration with Rasmus Ludvigsson he wrote a catalogue of the king’s library. He had a great library himself of which there is a catalogue (E. Koch, ’En svensk boksamling från 1500-talet’ in NTBB, VII (1920) pp 146-55; O. Walde, ’Några böcker ur Benedictus Olais bibliotek’ in NTBB, XX (1933), pp 205-13).

Collation: Ff (6), I-CXCIX, (3). Woodcut on A6 verso of the Swedish national coat of arms. Sign.: A-Z8 a-c8.

Binding: In its original binding. Panelled calf over wooden boards with two brass clasps, three raised bands. Richly blind tooled, outer border with the Evangelists and their symbols, inner border with small portraits. Red edges. The stamps were used by the Stockholm bookbinders of the period.

Provenance: Unidentified signature dated 1652 inside front cover, early hand written recipes inside back cover.

References: Collijn, I. Sveriges Bibliografi intill år 1600, II, 486-90; Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon III, 176-81; Lindroth, Sten, Sveriges Lärdomshistoria I, 338; Hult, Vilhelmus Lemnius och Benedictus Olai. Ett bidrag till svensk Läkarhistoria under Vasatiden (1918). Waller 6971.

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