Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander – M. Moleiro Editor – Supplément grec 247 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)

Paris (France) — 10th century

The text on which even the personal physicians of Emperor Nero and Trajan relied: ancient medicine and Greek mythology in the only surviving illuminated copy of the work of the famous Nicander of Colophon

  1. This is the only surviving illuminated transcript of the work by the Greek physician, poet, and grammarian Nicander of Colophon (d. ca. 133 BC)

  2. The personal physicians of the Roman Emperors Nero (37–68) and Trajan (53–117) already relied on his texts

  3. The work is a mixture of medical knowledge and ancient Greek mythology, which later came into the possession of the Swedish poet Karl August Nicander (1799–1839)

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

Facsimile Copy Available!
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

This codex of the Theriaka and Alexipharmaka is an illuminated manuscript that combines the two didactic poems about medicine and the treatment of poisoning by the Greek doctor Nicander of Colophon. The texts originate from the 2nd century B.C. and are the only works that are still surviving intact by the doctor and poet. The codex is furnished with vivid, sometimes mythological miniatures.

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

Nicander of Colophon was a Greek doctor, poet, and grammarian. He lived in the 2nd century B.C. and composed numerous didactic poems, of which only two have survived to today. One of them is the collection Theriaka, in which the treatment of stings and bites from poisonous animals such as snakes and scorpions is dealt with. The second surviving work is the Alexipharmaka, which deals with floral and faunal poisons for the treatment of various sicknesses. Both didactic poems were bound together in a comprehensive and breathtakingly beautifully decorated codex, which today gives us an indication of the knowledge of the great Greek scholar.

Memorable and Forceful

Nicander deliberately recorded his findings about the substances of nature in rhymed verses. Through the use of verse form he made the scientific facts memorable so that they could be easily memorized and applied in an emergency. His works are clearly structured. Each clinical picture that he knew has a passage devoted to it, in which the symptoms and the specific causes and remedies for it are portrayed. The personal physicians of the Roman Emperors Trajan and Nero were guided by the insights of Nicander in the treatment of their most important patients and spread his floral and faunal forms of treatment through the use of opium and other pain-relieving and stimulating substances.

The Only Illustrated Edition

A particular characteristic of this codex of the Theriaka and Alexipharmaka is its vivid illustration. This edition is the only illuminated manuscript of the didactic poems. 40 of the 48 total pages of the work preserve outstanding miniatures from the zoological and botanical realm. The pictures illustrate the portrayal of the didactic poem, they show the dangerous poisonous animals, which one should be vigilant against, and clarify treatments of illnesses with the help of various natural substances. In doing so, some of the depictions play with influences from mythology and thus mix scientific findings with great Greek legends. The codex is a true feast of the senses for every booklover. Today the valuable original of the work finds itself in the French National Library in Paris.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Theriaka y Alexipharmaka de Nicandro
Theriaka und Alexipharmaka von Nikandros
Theriaka e Alexipharmaka, di Nicandro
Thêriaka et Alexipharmaka, de Nicandre
Theriaka e Alexipharmaka, de Nicandro
Theriaka and Alexipharmaka by Nicander
Size / Format
96 pages / 16.0 × 12.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
10th century
Language
Illustrations
41 miniatures
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Karl August Nicander (1799–1839)

Available facsimile editions:
Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander – M. Moleiro Editor – Supplément grec 247 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1997
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Detail Picture

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

Author Portrait

Walking casually with his lagobolon (a throwing cudgel for hunting rabbits and snakes) on his shoulder, this miniature shows Nicander in a garden that has been freed of snakes. Various light brushstrokes create an idealized scene and an illusionist treatment reminiscent of art from Late Antiquity. It was created during the 10th century, a time when the Byzantines reasserted themselves as the dominant power in the East, restoring much of their empire and inspiring a Renaissance of classical art.

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander – M. Moleiro Editor – Supplément grec 247 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Single Page

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander

Orion, Scorpio, and a Molting Viper

Although ostensibly a medicinal text concerning the treatment of venomous bites and stings, ancient medicine was heavily influence by mythology. Two zodiac signs are pictured above the text: a muscular Orion and Scorpio, just as they appear in the sky. At the bottom, a viper appears in mid-molt, with the upper half of its body emerging from the old dead skin.

Continuing from the previous page, the text describes the creation of Scorpio by Artemis to punish Orion for his lust for meat. The classical composition of the page is remarkable for its realism and reveals a conscious decision to establish a connection between Orion and Scorpio – the drawing of the lagobolon, a cudgel used for hunting, is repeated in the curvature of Scorpio’s stinger.

Theriaca and Alexipharmaca by Nicander – M. Moleiro Editor – Supplément grec 247 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Theriaka y Alexipharmaka de Nicandro

M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1997

Publisher: M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1997
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Binding: Brown leather (marble design) with red spine. In leather case.
Commentary: 1 volume (372 pages) by Alain Touwaide, Jean Pierre Angremy, Christian Förstel and Grégoire Aslanoff
Language: Spanish
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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