Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung

Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung

Heidelberg (Germany) — 1568

Splendidly bound and presented to the prince-electors of the Palatinate in 1571: the invaluable work of the gifted doctor and pharmacist Christoph Wirsung

  1. The surprisingly modern medical text by Christoph Wirsung (1500–71) was printed in Heidelberg by Johann Mayer in 1568

  2. Magnificently bound in 1571 by Guillaume Plunions, it was presented to Frederick III, Prince-Elector Palatine (1515–76)

  3. Wirsung’s intention in creating the book was to help both the rich and poor, rural and urban

Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung

This 450-year-old German medical text is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and stood out among the other remedy books of the time: the 1568 Artzney Book by Christoph Wirsung (1500–71), printed in Heidelberg by Johann Mayer. More than merely a textbook of remedies, it was intended for a wide audience – rich and poor, urban and rural – as a general source of material on good health, taking into consideration such factors as environment, thus favoring what we would call a holistic approach to treatment. It was presented to Frederick III, Prince-Elector Palatine Frederick III (1515–76), the prominent Calvinist and pillar of the Reformation in Germany. The codex’s 933 pages contain more than 15,000 remedies and is written in German so as to make it accessible to everyone. It is a wonderful testimony to the burgeoning medical knowledge unleashed by the Renaissance.

Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung

The cultural flowering of the Renaissance was also reflected in burgeoning medical knowledge, which was depicted in increasingly modern medical treatises. The 1568 Artzney Book by Christoph Wirsung (1500–71) is undoubtedly one of the finest specimens of this genre and was printed in Heidelberg by Johann Mayer. A gilded, brightly colored, and completely innovative binding was added to the work in 1571 by Guillaume Plunions, a French Huguenot, before it was presented to Frederick III, Prince-Elector Palatine Frederick III (1515–76), the prominent Calvinist and pillar of the Reformation in Germany who supposedly made use of the book himself. The book is thus a testament to the early intellectual efforts of Protestant Europeans.

A Guide for Self-Treatment

Wirsung’s intention in creating the book was to help both the rich and poor, rural and urban, by offering a resource filled with simple remedies accessible to all. The book reflects Wirsung’s 25+ years of experience as a pharmacist and is based on a collection of texts originally written in Latin that the author then translated into German for publication to a lay audience. A distrust of doctors in the Middle Ages made practical texts like these, focused on self-treatment, extremely popular and many of their remedies are still effective today. This German medical text far exceeds the standards of the time and goes beyond being a simple textbook, constituting general reading for those who wished to have a better understanding of their own health.

15,000+ Remedies

Born in Augsburg, Christoph Wirsung spent much of his youth in Italy acquiring a humanist education as well as a mastery of the Italian language. Upon returning to Augsburg, he worked for the next 25+ years as a pharmacist, collecting over 15,000 remedies from both domestic and foreign sources. All of this was recorded in a large printed work comprising 933 pages. Rather than being organized alphabetically, the work follows a classical capite ad calcem (head to foot) formation, dividing the body into various areas like the head, chest, abdomen, etc. Although many of the remedies are no longer valid, and some are even dangerous, many more are proven to be efficacious. Modified versions of some of these remedies are still in use today. Going beyond the immediate goal of finding remedies, the book took a holistic approach and considered other factors such as the environment in which one lived, something which modern medicine is only recently learning to take into account once more.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Das Heidelberger Artzney-Buch 1568 des Christoph Wirsung
Size / Format
933 pages / 33.0 × 21.0 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1568
Language
Content
Recipe collection of about 15,000 formulas for medicines
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Heidelberger Artzney-Buch 1568 des Christoph Wirsung: Naturheilkunde in der Frühen Neuzeit

Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung – Ms. Stamp. Pal. II. 491 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Artzney Book of Christoph Wirsung – Ms. Stamp. Pal. II. 491 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Bibliotheca Palatina Faksimile Verlag – Knittingen, 2011
Commentary: 1 volume by Ulrike Schofer and Kathrin Pfister
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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