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Collections of Arabic and Greek texts, along with new teaching methods, attracted students from all over Europe to Italy. Once graduated, doctors returned to their home with texts they had studied, and teaching methods they had learned. From Oxford, England in the 13th century to Germany in the 15th, this heritage was assimilated in different ways.

Medical Works at Oxford

The core texts of Salernitan teaching that students brought back to Oxford reflected the cultural diversity of southern Italy. They included classical Greek treatises, introductions to medicine, Byzantine diagnostic booklets, as well as later additions to these major reference works. The following pages from Manuscript 8 of the National Library of Medicine's collection show the diversity of texts included in one book.

F. 168 recto from Manuscript E 8, Quid pro quo (Products of substitution) credited to Galen. A two column hand written manuscript page. The left column is in an index list with the first letters in red ink with remainder of the letters in black ink. The right column begins with red ink and continues in black ink. Written in pencil upper right corner and stamped in blue ink in the bottom right corner is 168.
Pseudo-Galen, Quid pro quo (Products of substitution).

Substitution was a pharmaceutical procedure that allowed a doctor to substitute a drug that they lacked with another with similar therapeutic effects.

Manuscript E 8, f. 168 recto

F. 78 recto from Manuscript E 8, a collection of remedies attributed to Alexander of Tralles. A hand written manuscript page written in black ink with letters in red ink at the beginning of the paragraphs.Written in pencil upper right corner and stamped in blue ink in the bottom right corner is 78.
Alexander of Tralles (525–605), Collection of remedies.

The author of this therapeutic collection has been identified (without conclusive proof) as the Byzantine physician Alexander of Tralles (525–605).

Manuscript E 8, f. 78 recto

F. 132 verso from Manuscript E 8. De phlebotomia (On the section of veins [to bleed patients]), credited to Galen. A hand written manuscript page, the beginning letter of both paragraphs is a calligraphy letter written in red ink.
Pseudo-Galen, De phlebotomia (On the section of veins [to bleed patients]).

Bleeding, which was thought to evacuate pathological matter, was a common method of therapy in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Galen was credited with many treatises on the topic.

Manuscript E 8, f. 132 verso.

Natural History at Oxford

Oxford teaching integrated the Salernitan medical material with texts by Aristotle. Besides philosophical treatises, Aristotle had written works about natural history, which were called historiai and were collections of data resulting from previous research. Scholars submitted this data to critical analysis, and served as a basis for further work.

F. title from Manuscript E 3. De analibus (On animals) by Aristotle. A two column hand written manuscript page. The beginning of first paragraph is written in alternating red and blue ink using calligraphy letters. In the center at the bottom of the page is the Army Medical Library, Washington, DC., U.S.A. in red ink.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), De animalibus (On animals).

Aristotle's most important natural history treatise was the Historia animalium (Research on animals), shown here in Latin translation.

Manuscript E 3, f. title.

A Method of Teaching

The Oxford teaching method was based on careful scrutiny of texts aimed at distinguishing from one another all cases discussed in the works under analysis. As a result, textual data was organized so as to form hierarchical trees formalized in books, according to an analytical method perhaps rooted in the Arabic tradition.

F. 99 recto from Manuscript E 78. Distinctiones super iohannicium (Distinctions on Johannitius [that is, on the Articella]). A hand written manuscript featuring tabular presentation of the points to be discussed in expounding the Articella.
Master Ri[chard], Distinctiones super iohannicium (Distinctions on Johannitius [that is, on the Articella]).

The Master Ri[chard] to whom this work is attributed has been uncertainly identified as Richard Anglicus (or: de Wendover) (d. 1252 A.D.).

Manuscript E 78, f. 99 recto.


In Germany, texts of different origins were grouped. The gynecological booklet ascribed to Cleopatra appeared together with works by such Arabic scientists as Mesue, Albucasis, and Rhazes, and with a more recent treatise by the Italian Marsilio de Santa Sofia (d. 1405), as well as with contemporary anonymous tracts on plague and leprosy, and a lexicon of plant names.

F. 35 recto from Manuscript E 33, Syonima [herbarum] (Plant names). A hand written two column lexicon.
Anonymous, Synonima [herbarum] (Plant names).

This lexicon contains Latin phytonyms with their German translation. This suggests that learned medicine was integrated into the daily practice of German-speaking doctors.

Manuscript E 33, f. 35 recto.