De Balneis Puteolanis

De Balneis Puteolanis Facsimile Edition

Naples (Italy) — Ca. 1250

Originally dedicated to Emperor Frederick II and the oldest surviving copy of a medieval guide to spas: Pietro da Eboli's treatise concerning the healing properties of hot springs with 18 beautiful Trecento miniatures

  1. This work describes 35 natural hot springs around Pozzouli on the Gulf of Naples and their medicinal curative effects

  2. It is the oldest specimen of the now-lost original by Pietro da Eboli (active 1196–1220) and probably originated ca. 1250

  3. The work was originally dedicated to Emperor Frederick II (1194–1250), who bathed regularly in hot springs himself

De Balneis Puteolanis

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
De Balneis Puteolanis

This important copy of the famous writing "De Balneis Puteolanis" by Pietro da Eboli on the healing properties of the baths of Pozzuoli is the oldest surviving copy of the lost original by the physician and poet. The luxurious codex was written in Naples only a few years after the autograph in the mid-13th century and is a fascinating document of the beginnings of scientific medicine. The informative and entertaining didactic poem by the Italian poet is complemented here by 18 full-page and colourful miniatures, which are a unique testimony to southern Italian book illumination of the Duecento and combine the most diverse stylistic influences into small works of art. This rarity of medieval book illumination is today housed in the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome under the shelfmark Ms. 1474.

De Balneis Puteolanis

In the years 1211–21, Pietro da Eboli composed his magnum opus, both scientific and literary, with the title De Balneis Puteolanis. In doing so, he hit the nerve of his time and created a work that was widely disseminated thereafter. Thus, the work was widespread in numerous manuscripts up to the 15th century and was further disseminated upon appearing in numerous print editions thereafter. The luxurious manuscript from the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome is considered to be the oldest specimen of the now-lost original. Its style indicates that is was made in Naples in the 1250’s.

A Medically Entertaining Treatise

The treatise or didactic poem On the Baths of Pozzouli by Pietro da Eboli is an exciting and valuable testimonial to the beginnings of scientific medicine. The text is a description of 35 springs around Pozzouli on the Gulf of Naples and their medicinal curative effects and attests to the therapeutic importance of the healing baths, which have been used since antiquity as thermal baths and healing springs for medical use. In doing so, Pietro da Eboli stands in the tradition of famous ancient doctors such as Galen, Avicenna, or Hippocrates. De Balneis Puteolanis is dedicated to the Sol MundiEmperor Frederick II – who was himself a regular user and believer in the therapeutic powers of hot springs. Therefore, the work by Pietro da Eboli is simultaneously considered to be a reminder of therapeutic baths in 13th century Italy and a testimonial to the enthusiasm for scholarship and cultivated beauty at the imperial court.

A Luxury Manuscript with Useful Content

The precious manuscript of the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome with the shelf mark Ms. 1474 presents this work in a gorgeous setting: 18 full-page, large-format miniature pages – consistent with the 18 epigrams of the didactic poem – accompany the text. The high-quality miniatures originate from a single miniaturist and are presented in bright frames and on a gold background. These small works of art make the manuscript a significant testimonial to the south Italian illumination of the Duecento: Byzantine elements are integrated here in the realistic depictions, Roman architecture merged with oriental domed roofs and the depiction of the human body is clearly and wholly classically influence.


Alternative Titles
De Balneis Puteoli
Size / Format
42 pages / 18.3 × 13.0 cm
Ca. 1250
Gothic Textura
18 full-page miniatures
Poem describing the thermal baths of the Phlegraean Fields
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
De Balneis Puteolanis – Ms. 1474 – Biblioteca Angelica (Rome, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 2000
Limited Edition: 1200 copies
Detail Picture

De Balneis Puteolanis

Sauna at Agnano

Saunas are valued today for their health benefits and having a good sweat in the heat of a sauna is also supposed to help with inflammation and has other health benefits. Here we see a man exiting the sauna to receive some water from a river, which has frogs and snakes swimming around it. Inside the sauna, a group of nude men is assembled around an iron cauldron, which is probably filled with heated rocks that the water from the river will be poured on.

De Balneis Puteolanis
Single Page

De Balneis Puteolanis

Bathing in a Cave

Of the 35 hot springs around Pozzouli on the Gulf of Naples detailed by Pietro da Eboli, some were located in caves, such as the Balneum Culmae (pictured here). This scene shows a cave full of people enjoying the hot, healing waters bubbling up from deep in the ground – such fissures in the earth’s crust can often be found in caves, which would be usable year round.

The large number of healing thermal baths in southern Italy created a large medieval tourist industry with local rivalries arising to compete for this lucrative business. Perhaps the figures rowing by on a boat outside of the cave are tourists. Aside from the gold leaf walls of the cave, which have flaked and peeled off, the rest of the miniature is in excellent condition.

De Balneis Puteolanis
Facsimile Editions

#1 De Balneis Puteolanis

Publisher: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 2000
Limited Edition: 1200 copies
Binding: Parchment binding
Commentary: 1 volume by Silvia Maddalo
Language: Italian
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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