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WIRSUNG, Christoph (1500–1571)

Artzney Buch, Darinn werden fast alle eusserliche und innerliche Glieder des Menschlichen leibs, mit jhrer gestalt, aigenschafft und würckung beschriben. Darbey auch vom Haupt an biß zun fersen verzaichnet, was jedes sonderlich oder inn gemain für Kranckheiten und gebrechen angreiffend. Letzlich wie man denselbigen inn mehrerley weiß, so wol dem armen gemainen Mann mit geringen Sachen, als dem reichen zu hülff kom[m]en möge. Zu diesem hat man im anfang ein einlaytung, die nicht allein nutzlich, sonder notwendig ist, wie man Wurtzen, Kreuter und andre fürnembste Stuck einsamlen, behalten, und das so schädlich inn ihnen ist, benemen möge. Also wie man sich im Purgieren, Aderlassen und dergleichen, halten soll. ... Mit sondrem fleiß aus den berümptesten Artzten so wol der newen als der alten geschribnen Bucher und sonderbarer Erfarung zusammen getragen.
Heidelberg, Johannes Mayer, 1568.

First edition of this popular book. Ferchl gives an edition of 1532, which must be a mistake. Wirsung’s General Practise of Physicke, the title of the English translation of 1598, was one of the most extensive and detailed medical handbooks of the time, and went through several editions. This copy was once in the library of Queen Christina. In the lower spine compartment is written a capital ”P” which was the shelf-mark used by her librarian, Isaac Vossius, for her medical books in the Royal Library in Stockholm. There are early underlinings in the text and the final blank leaves are full of early hand written notes. Wirsung was born in Augsburg and died in 1571 in Heidelberg. He was a scholarly man, who in his youth had spent some time in Italy, where he learned Italian and translated a tragedy into German. He practiced as an apothecary in both cities. Like his friend Conrad Gesner he was of an encyclopedic character and was a compiler of works from classical antiquity. Wirsung prepared for this extensive and most important work for three years and then left it to Jacob Theodor Tabernæmontanus, the famous herbalist, to read the proofs, which much contributed to improve the work. In it Wirsung gives an enormous number of recipes from the vegetable, animal and mineral kingdoms, which are not taken from classical sources but collected by himself and his contemporaries. The book starts with three huge indexes, the first of 198 pages with some 30 000 main words in three columns of ”Wurtzen, Kreuter, Blümen, Früchte, Säffte, Gewechs, Holtz, Stein, Erden, Metall, Thieren, Menschen, sampt andren sachen genommen, inn der Artzney mag gebraucht werden und wirdt”. The second index of 26 pages lists parts of the body and diseases; the third index of 12 pages gives the Latin words with the equivalent German ones. The second index of 26 pages lists parts of the body and diseases; the third index of 12 pages gives the Latin words with the equivalent German ones..“Von 1565-68 arbeitete Wirsung an seinem wohl bedeutendsten Werk ‘Ein new Artzney’ – Dieses umfangreiche Werk hatte Wirsung vor seinem Erscheinen in Jahre 1568 zunächst dem Pfälzer Hofartzt Tabernaemontanus zur Korrektur und Durchsicht überlassen. In diesem Werk führte W. unter anderem eine enorme Zahl von Rezepten aus dem Pflanzen-, Thier- und Mineralreich auf, die sich nicht auf antike Vorbilder gründeten, sondern von ihm und von seinen Zeitgenossen gesammelt wurden. Viele seiner Vorschriften zeigen, dass W. praktische pharmaz. Erfahrung besessen hat. Die Bearbeitung des Werkes durch Tabernæmontanus war besonders vortheilhaft’ (Hein/Schwarz), Deutsche Apotheker Biogr., II, 759. Wirsung’s Artzney Buch was one of the sources for Benedictus Olai's Een nyttigh läkere book (Stockholm, 1578), the first Swedish medical book.

Collation: Pp (240), 1-456, 456-691, (2) errata & colophon, and the final blank leaf (3M6).

Binding: Contemporary blind-stamped pig skin, one border with the Evangelists. One (of two) brass clasp and ditto catcher, the other missing. Spine divided into five compartments with hand written title at head.

Provenance: Once in the library of Queen Christina of Sweden. When removing the modern red label with shelf number in the lower spine compartment of the above book the letter "P" was discovered. This "P" was the marking of scientific and medical books in Queen Christina's library, catalogued by the Dutch scholar and manuscript collector Isaac Vossius, who had been invited to Stockholm by the Queen to be her royal librarian. When Christina left for Rome she brought many books with her and due to lack of money Vossius was paid in natura with a box full of books, which probably included the 6th century Gothic manuscript, Codex Argenteus. Back in Holland Vossius lent out the book to his uncle, Fransiscus Junius in Dordrecht, a pioneer in German philology, who published the first modern edition, the editio princeps (1665) of the Silver Bible. In 1662 the book was announced for sale by Vossius and Christina commissioned a man to buy back the Bible, however too late. The book was purchased by Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, and is today one of the great treasures at the Uppsala University Library.

References: Bibliotheca Palatina, Ausstellungskatalog, Textband (1986), E 5.6 (pp 227-229); Wellcome, I, 6573; Durling, NLM 4750. Waller 10361.

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