Avicenna in Renaissance Italy

Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The Canon and Medical Teaching in Italian Universities after 1500

Nancy G. Siraisi
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Avicenna in Renaissance Italy
    Book Description:

    The Canon of Avicenna, one of the principal texts of Arabic origin to be assimilated into the medical learning of medieval Europe, retained importance in Renaissance and early modern European medicine. After surveying the medieval reception of the book, Nancy Siraisi focuses on the Canon in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy, and especially on its role in the university teaching of philosophy of medicine and physiological theory.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5865-1
    Subjects: Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PART I The Canon as a Latin Medical Book

    • 1 Text, Commentary, and Pedagogy in Renaissance Medicine
      (pp. 3-18)

      The fortunes of theCanonof Avicenna in Renaissance and early modern medical schools provide a case study of university science and medical teaching, an enterprise that has often been contrasted unfavorably either with contemporary innovations within academia (for example, the revival of anatomy) or with burgeoning scientific activities and interests outside the academic milieu. To the extent that continued use of this medieval Islamic medical encyclopedia, in Latin translation, as a textbook or reference work in western European universities after the end of the Middle Ages has been the object of attention, such use has usually been treated as...

    • 2 The Canon of Avicenna
      (pp. 19-40)

      The encyclopedic medical work written by Avicenna (d. 1037) is far too lengthy and, as the massiveness of the Latin commentaries on short sections of it testifies, far too complex to be adequately characterized in brief. The following comments are intended only to draw the reader’s attention to certain features of the organization and content of theCanonthat seem particularly relevant to its reception in the schools of the West and the emergence of a tradition of Latin commentary and, especially, to the adoption ofCanon1.1 as a textbook for the teaching of medical theory. Beginning with a...

  6. PART II The Canon in the Schools

    • 3 The Canon in the Medieval Universities and the Humanist Attack on Avicenna
      (pp. 43-76)

      By the 1520s, when the period with which this study is principally concerned opens, theCanonin its twelfth-century Latin translation was both a venerable part of a centuries-old tradition of medical teaching and a book that had been for a generation the object of attacks ranging from reasoned criticism to vitriolic abuse. In broad outline, the history of these developments is well known. Despite the availability of the Latin translation by 1187 at latest, significant awareness of theCanonin the West seems to have begun in the second quarter of the thirteenth century. By the latter part of...

    • 4 The Canon in Italian Medical Education after 1500
      (pp. 77-132)

      When the sixteenth century opened, theCanonwas a ubiquitous feature of the medical curricula of European universities. By the middle years of the century, humanist critics of the Arabs had succeeded in either ending or limiting its use in some places. For example, the statutes of the University of Tubingen, drawn up in 1538, perhaps with the participation of Leonhart Fuchs, contain a programmatic statement critical of the study of the Arabs;¹ in the 1550s, new statutes at several German universities—Heidelberg, Ingoldstadt, and Freiburg—increased emphasis on the Greeks at the expense of the Arabs, although in the...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  7. PART III The Canon and Its Renaissance Editors, Translators, and Commentators

    • 5 Renaissance Editions
      (pp. 127-174)

      Writing in 1674, Georgjerome Welsch of Augsburg was able to look back on a century and a half of efforts to provide western Europe with a Latin version of theCanonmore satisfactory than Gerard of Cremona’s translation. The history Welsch recounted was one of projects planned but never started, or started but never completed, or completed but never published; of fresh translations of small portions of the work; of massive editions of the whole adorned with every resource of sixteenth-century scholarship save direct retranslation of the entire text from Arabic. Hence, the call for a new or emended Latin...

    • 6 Commentators and Commentaries
      (pp. 175-218)

      The output of commentary is probably the single most satisfactory measure of the actual nature, extent, and duration of the uses of theCanonin western European medical schools after 1500. While, as we have seen, the printing history of editions of theCanonin Latin also offers a good deal of information, ambitious new editions do not necessarily reflect the daily realities of teaching (even though, as noted, annotations and scholia included in some of the sixteenth-century editions discussed in the last chapter were certainly related to current pedagogic practice). University documents are, of course, an indispensable source of...

  8. PART IV Canon 1.1 and the Teaching of Medical Theory at Padua and Bologna

    • 7 Philosophy and Science in a Medical Milieu
      (pp. 221-293)

      Renaissance commentaries on theCanonconsist at least as much of general exposition of the topics covered as of detailed exegesis of Avicenna’s text. And although long-used textbooks such as theCanonacquired over the centuries a roster of traditionally discussed issues that successive commentators were likely to take up, commentators also exercised great freedom in introducing material of current interest to themselves and their contemporaries. Hence, investigation of the philosophical and scientific content of six published commentaries onCanonI . I and one onCanon1.2 written at Bologna or Padua yields a good deal of information about...

    • 8 Canon 1.1 and Renaissance Physiology
      (pp. 294-352)

      Commentators on theCanon,like other sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century physicians, confronted not only eclecticism and innovation in areas of natural philosophy of little immediate relevance to medicine, but also major currents of change within their own discipline. Despite the weight of authority of the Galenic medical system throughout the sixteenth and into the seventeenth century, substantial critiques of the content of traditional medicine began to emerge within the academic medical community well before 1550. No new information or approach was as yet powerful enough in itself to lead to any widespread abandonment in academic medical circles of the Galenic physiological...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 353-358)

    John Aubrey tells us that in 1644 he was contemplating going to study in Italy, following the time-honored practice of generations of young northern Europeans. Whether he had in mind university attendance in a specific discipline, or something more free ranging, we do not know. But before leaving, Aubrey sought out an eminent physician who, some forty-five years earlier, had traveled to Italy for medical studies, and asked his advice about appropriate preparatory reading. And William Harvey proffered the following: “he bid me goe to the fountain head, and read Aristotle, Cicero, Avicenna, and did call the neoteriques shitt-breeches.”¹


  10. APPENDICES Latin Editions of the Canon Published after 1500 and Manuscripts and Editions of Latin Commentaries on the Canon Written after 1500
    (pp. 359-376)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 377-404)
  12. Index
    (pp. 397-410)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 411-411)