Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. ser. nov. 2644 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)

Probably Milan (Italy) — End of the 14th century

Made for an Italian noble family: 206 large miniatures accompanying the text of the famous physician Ibn Butlan with many scenes from everyday life, botany, and medicine

  1. A 14th century translation of an 11th century medical text by an Arab-Christian doctor named Ibn Butlan (ca. 1068)

  2. Made for an Italian noble family (*Tacuino* = “notebook”) with 206 colorful full-page miniatures

  3. The illustrations display an evocative image of old Italian culture and many aspects of daily life

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (3)
Description
Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina

One of the most aesthetic examples of the outstanding reputation of Arabic medicine in the Middle Ages is the Taqwim es-sihha by the physician Ibn Butlan, who wrote this genre-defining work around the middle of the 11th century in Baghdad or Antioch. The title in Arabic means "Tabular Survey of Health." Ibn Butlan compiled over 200 objects from the perspective of their influence on human health: from foods such as camel meat and melons to the seasons and music. The unillustrated Arabic text was translated into Latin at the court of Manfred of Sicily (r. 1258–1266) and the title was Latinized as Tacuinum sanitatis. In this magnificent manuscript, the images resemble panel paintings. They tell complete stories to the viewer, always making one thing clear: the context and significance of the objects for human health.

A medical housebook with 206 miniatures

The Tacuinum sanitatis in medicina (”Overview of Medicine in Tabular Form”) is among the most beautifully and richly decorated manuscripts in the Austrian National Library. This lavishly illustrated medical handbook was conceived for a lay public, more precisely for members of the high nobility or wealthy patrician families, who could afford and read such an expensive "reference work" for household management, health care and cure.
This type of book goes back to an Arab source written by the Christian physician Ibn Butlan in the 11th century, known as Taqwim es-sihha. The Arab art and practice of healing, which preserved a great amount of ancient knowledge, decisively influenced Western medicine in the Middle Ages and had a great reputation. The Latin translation, which made the text accessible to the educated of the medieval western world in the first place, was widely known judging from the large number of surviving manuscripts.
While the famous work initially consisted only of synoptic tables without any illumination, from the 14th century onwards it was richly furnished with large images, so that the texts were shortened to a few lines. One of the oldest and certainly also finest manuscripts of this kind is the Tacuinum presented here, which depicts on 206 colorful full-page miniatures everything that was connected with human health and well-being at the time the original was written.

A Testimony to Famous Oriental Cure

"Tacuinum" is the Latinized form of the Arab word "Taqwim", which remained untranslated. Since the work was widely read, especially in Italy, the word "Tacuinum" was also adopted into the Italian language: "Tacuino" in Italian today means something like "notebook".
The very well-known medieval physician Ibn Butlan († c. 1065), whose full name was Abū l-Ḥasan al-Muḫtār bin al-Ḥasan bin ʿAbdūn bin Saʿdūn bin Buṭlān, wrote the extensive Taqwim es-sihha in the 11th century, among several other medical works, and acquired great fame. In the 13th century, this work, consisting of synoptic tables without illustrations, was probably translated into Latin at the court of King Manfred of Sicily, whereupon it became increasingly widespread in Latin Europe and eventually had a long-lasting influence on Western medicine.

A Sumptuous Monument to Book Illumination

The work is not only important for historically interested physicians and pharmacists, but is also a comprehensive and fascinating object of extensive study for bibliophiles and researchers of book illumination because of its more than 200 miniatures. In addition, its depictions display an evocative image of old Italian culture as well as many aspects of daily life, making it also a rich source of cultural history.
The Tacuinum was probably commissioned by Giangaleazzo Visconti (1351–1402) at the end of the 14th century in the workshop of his favorite artist Giovannino de' Grassi (1340s–1398). The coat of arms on fol. 3v suggests that the luxurious manuscript was a political gift to a member of the Speroni family from Padua, who frequented the court of Milan after Giangaleazzo's conquest of Verona. It was made by two talented painters whose naturalism and powers of observation are particularly surprising. The chosen colors are very strong and give the miniatures a charming freshness and liveliness.

A Medical Picture Book

The 206 full-page miniatures depict numerous materiae medicae, which included not only plants, animals, foods, and processed medicines, but also winds, seasons, and other environmental phenomena such as emotions and leisure activities. Their effects on the human organism are described on the basis of ancient medical teachings. So, in a few lines under each image, the benefits and harms of the respective materia medica for differently constituted humans are succinctly explained.
Thus the Tacuinum constitutes a medical picture book, which, although in the tradition of ancient herbals, belongs with its dominating miniatures to a new genre of medical codices. The special feature of the pictorial representations is that the individual materiae medicae are not depicted alone, but, as in the text, are centered on the human being. Man is alwayss shown dealing with the respective plants, animals and other things. However, the depiction did not aim at an exact recognizability or precise illustration of the advice described in the text with regard to preparation and ingestion. Rather, naturalistic genre scenes emerge, which, with their rich stock of utensils, demonstrate much of the habits and living conditions of citizens of a late medieval Italian city and presented the originally addressed aristocratic viewers an idealized image of their realm.
In addition to its great importance for the history of civilization, the Tacuinum is fascinating contemporary readers as it provides an opportunity to compare modern natural cures and healthy living practices with those used nearly 600 years ago.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Códice de Cerruti
Das Hausbuch der Cerruti
Taqwim-as-Sihha
Size / Format
214 pages / 33.2 × 23.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
End of the 14th century
Style
Language
Script
Italian Rotunda
Illustrations
206 full-page miniatures, 2 pages coat-of-arms
Patron
Probably Giangaleazzo Visconti
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Alvarotto or Pietro Speroni
George I von Liechtenstein, Bishop of Trent

Available facsimile editions:
Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. ser. nov. 2644 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1986
Limited Edition: 700 copies

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina – Salerno Editrice – Cod. Vindob. ser. nov. 2644 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Salerno Editrice – Rome, 1986
Limited Edition: 700 copies (co-edition with ADEVA)

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina – Editorial Casariego – Cod. Vindob. ser. nov. 2644 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Editorial Casariego – Madrid, 1987
Limited Edition: 335 copies (co-edition with ADEVA)
Detail Picture

Tacuinum Sanitatis - Codex Paris

The Tailor’s Shop

Bearing the caption Uestis Ianea or “Woolen Clothes” this scene shows a medieval tailor’s shop. The tailor is beautifully dressed in red, a very fashionable color in the 14th century, as he takes some final measurements on his customer’s brilliant blue coat, which he holds in place by pressing his left hand to his chest. Two young beardless apprentices sit sewing and watching their master surrounded by various works in progress as well as a pair of scissors.

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina
Single Page

Tacuinum Sanitatis

Harvesting Sour Apples

Like in the rest of the manuscript, this splendid miniature is presented in a conspicuously simple red frame that allows the beholder to focus on the great care taken by the artist in creating it. Heavy with fruit, the tree itself is extremely detailed with various shades of green employed by the artist to give it a sense of depth.

Leaves and apples are depicted in midair as a man in an embroidered blue tunic and red tights uses a pole to knock them loose. A woman in a flowing red dress and a blue blouse uses her right hand to shield her face from the falling fruit as she holds an empty basket with her left. Aside from its pastoral idealism, the image is remarkable for its near-perfect symmetry with regard to both form and color.

Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina
Facsimile Editions

#1 Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina

Limited Edition: 700 copies
Binding: Leather on wooden board with hand stamping according to contemporary pattern. All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (148 pages) by Josef Stummvoll, Franz Unterkircher, Heide Saxer and Charles H. Talbot
Language: German

The facsimile edition is accompanied by a scholarly commentary from Franz Unterkircher. It describes the outward appearance of the manuscript and its history in great detail, introduces the author and his work, and explores a number of art historical issues. The commentary is complete with a transcription of the Latin text and a German and English version (the latter being a translation by Heide Saxer and Charles H. Talbot), which makes it a helpful guide to understanding the facsimile.

Preface by J. Stummvoll, Vienna. Introduction, transcription of the latin text and translation of the captions into German by F. Unterkircher, Vienna. Translation of the captions into English by H. Saxer, Vienna, and C. H. Talbot, London. 148 pp. text and 8 plates on art print. Half leather with paper parchment.
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. All folios are cut according to the original.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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#2 Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina

Salerno Editrice – Rome, 1986

Publisher: Salerno Editrice – Rome, 1986
Limited Edition: 700 copies (co-edition with ADEVA)
Binding: Leather on wooden board with hand stamping according to contemporary pattern. All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (124 pages) by Franz Unterkircher, Josef Stummvoll, Gino Barbieri and Valerio Marucci
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!

#3 Códice de Cerruti

Editorial Casariego – Madrid, 1987

Publisher: Editorial Casariego – Madrid, 1987
Limited Edition: 335 copies (co-edition with ADEVA)
Binding: Light brown suede binding
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.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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