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MATTHAEUS SILVATICUS (c. 1280 - c. 1342)

Liber pandectarum medicine: omnia medicine simplicia continens: quem ex omnibus antiquorum libris aggregavit eximius artium: et medicine doct: Matheus silvaticus: ad serenissimum Sicilie regem Robertum.
Et ipset sum Venetijs arte et ingenio Marini Saraceni Anno d[omi]ni. M. cccclxxxviii [1488]. xiiij. kal: Junij.

Mattheus Silvaticus’ Liber pandectarum medicinæ was probably first published in 1470 by Adolph Rusch in Strassburg, although it bears no date, no place of printing or name of the printer. Klebs, Stillwell and others regard the Naples 1474 edition as the first one, the editio princeps. Nevertheless, it is “one of the first medical incunabula to be printed” (Garrison). The present edition was the last work issued from Saraceno’s printing office in Venice. At least fifteen editions are known of which eleven are printed during the incunabula period (before 1501). Mattheus Silvaticus, also called Pandectarius, was born either in Mantua or in Salerno in the latter part of the thirteenth century. He flourished in Salerno already in 1297, where he kept a botanical garden containing not only domestic but also foreign plants. His garden is one of the earliest known. The compilation of his large materia medica entitled Pandectæ (hence his nickname) was begun c. 1297 and was completed around 1317. It is dedicated to King Robert. It is a reference work for physicians on diseases and their remedies in the form of a general universal dictionary of plants of medicinal properties, their names being given in Arabic, Greek and Latin. The work is divided into 771 chapters (in this edition), and arranged in alphabetical order.

Collation: 206 leaves: (1) dedication, (2-4) index, 1-202. Sign.: a - m8, n10, 06, p - z8, a8, b10. Two columns, 73 lines to the page. Gothic type. Initials painted in alternative red and blue, some with red and blue interlock. The text starts with a large illuminated initial in gold and colours. First and last leaf mounted, first leaf, with dedication on verso, cut down without loss of text. Rebound (c. 1820) in half calf, with gilt ruled spine and marbled boards.

Binding: Rebound (c. 1820) in half calf, with gilt ruled spine and marbled boards.

Provenance: According to a note on front free endpaper the book was a gift to Karolinska Institutet from Count Johan Gyllenborg (1756–1830). “Gifven til kongl. Carolinska med. Chir: Institutet af Kammarherren och Riddaren af kongl. Nordstjerneorden Högvälborne Grefve Herr Johan Gyllenborg, 1820”. Johan Henning Gyllenborg (1756-1830).


Hain-Copinger 15200; Klebs 919.7; Meyer, Geschichte der Botanik, IV, 167-177; Sarton, Introduction, III, 816-817; Stillwell 522 and 697; Hagelin, Rare and Important Medical Books, KIB, 16-17.

Waller 143 (Venice, 1480).

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