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From Translation to Teaching

By the middle of the 12th century, a wealth of texts of many origins—Greek, Latin, Arabic, and local practice—were combined in different ways, each creating a unique corpus of knowledge. At Salerno, where Constantine, the well-known translator had started his activity, a school dedicated to the teaching of medicine was flourishing. According to legend, it was created by four doctors—one Jewish, one Greek, one Arabic, and one Christian—illustrating the diversity of sources of knowledge found in Salerno. Combining both translating and teaching, Salerno became a center of knowledge in Medieval Europe. In the 13th century, the medical texts of Salerno gradually found their way into the medical curriculum of universities.

The Formation and Development of a Corpus

The Articella was the most popular textbook of the late Middle Ages. It is a collection of works by Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, Hippocrates, Galen, Theophilos, and Philaretos in Latin translation. Traditionally attributed to Salerno, it has been claimed recently to be of Parisian origin.

Ff. 1 recto from Manuscript E 2 by Avicenna. A hand written manuscript page with an illuminated blue O in a field of gold at the start of the page. In the bottom right corner the number 21 is stamped in blue ink. Ff. 21 recto from Manuscript E 2 by Avicenna. A hand written manuscript page with an illuminated blue V in a field of gold at the start of the page. In the bottom right corner the number 1 is stamped in blue ink. In the center of the bottom of the page is a circular stamp in blue in with the words Surgeon General's Library.
Ibn Sînâ (980-1037), Qanûn.

The encyclopedia of medicine by Ibn Sînâ was added to the Articella by assembling manuscripts over time, a practice not infrequent in medieval medical literature.

Manuscript E 2, ff. 1 recto, 21 recto


The Practice of Medicine

At first, the distinctive characteristic of the Salernitan milieu was translation. Later, it became practical ability in medical treatment. Physicians wrote personal works of a new kind, notebooks called Practica, similar in approach to Hippocratic medicine.

F. 1 recto from Manuscript E 36 by Roger of Salerno. A hand written manuscript page with the beginning letters of the two paragraphs done in red ink. The right side of the page has sustained damage and makes legibility difficult. In the bottom right corner of the page is the Surgeon General's Office Library stamp with 127943 written in pencil in the center.
Roger of Salerno (ca. 1170), Practica (Practice).

The Practica, such as that by Roger, were collections of treatments, very often based on the daily experience of physicians.

Manuscript E 36, f. 1 recto.


University Commentaries

Commentary became the major form of teaching: a master read a canonical text and explained it according to a pattern of questions. The page layout was adapted to this method, juxtaposing the commentary and the text commented upon, also distinguishing them with different sizes or types or writing.

F. 46 recto from Manuscript E 23 by Giovanni da Pergola. A hand written manuscript page with annotations in the margins. In the upper right corner written in pencil is the number 46.
Giovanni da Pergola, Practica.

The page containing the chapter Cura vomitus (Cure for vomiting) is a clear example of the layout for a reader's comments: "I have experience with this entire prescription (Hoc totum expertus sum)."

Manuscript E 23, f. 46 recto.


F. 1 recto from Manuscript E 14 by Taddeo Alderotti. A two column hand written manuscript page. the first letter in the upper left corner is illuminated withe brown, white, blue and red ink.
Taddeo Alderotti (1223–1295), Expositiones super librum Tegni Galeni. Johannitii Isagogen, Prognosticorum Hippocratis librum, Regiminis acutorum morborum Hippocratis librum, Aphorismorum Hippocratis librum (Commentary on Galen "Medical art", Johannitius "Introduction", Hippocrates "Prognostic", Hippocrates "Regimen in acute diseases", Hippocrates "Aphorisms").

At Bologna, Taddeo Alderotti was among the very first teachers of the newly founded university. During his classes, he commented on texts translated by Salernitan masters.

Manuscript E 14, f. 1 recto.