A Census of Greek Medical Manuscripts: From Byzantium to the Renaissance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Census of Greek Medical Manuscripts

From Byzantium to the Renaissance, 1st Edition

By Alain Touwaide


432 pages

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pub: 2016-08-11
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Manuscripts containing Greek medical texts were inventoried by author and work at the beginning of the 20th century by a group of philologists under the direction of Hermann Diels. Useful as it was - and will continue to be – Diels’ catalogue omitted authors and works, misidentified manuscripts, and overlooked codices. Furthermore, since the publication of the catalogue, some libraries have adopted a new system of classification, manuscripts have been destroyed, items have changed location, and new ones have come to light.

The present Census is a checklist of the Greek medical manuscripts currently known in collections worldwide. It is both an amended and updated index of Diels’ catalogue, and a list of the items missed or overlooked in Diels, or located since. Although it does not supersede Diels’ catalogue, it is the indispensable instrument for a New Diels, and will be the reference for years to come for any new critical edition and medico-historical research based on manuscripts, besides providing the basis for a broad range of other historical inquiries, from codicology to the history of medicine and science, including Byzantine intellectual history, Renaissance studies and humanism, history of the book and early printing, and the history of medical philology and learning.


"Having followed for several decades - though episodically - Alain Touwaide’s painstaking and time-consuming investigation, I can witness to the perseverance with which he performed and completed his endeavor. Now having carefully and patiently read his impressive volume, I can attest to the extreme accuracy, as well as to the sheer magnitude, of his accomplishment. His work is the result of long and difficult research in the catalogues of manuscript collections and scholarly literature, completed by personal in-situ inspection of many codices. With the present volume, all the data resulting from this quest are made available to the scholarly community."

from the Foreword by Mgr Paul Canart, Biblioteca Vaticana

"The census is an inventory of all known surviving Byzantine medical manuscripts — it lists their titles and locations — and is primarily a tool for other researchers to spread knowledge of horticulture, botany, medicine and literature in the Middle Ages. It took 30 years of concerted effort, Touwaide said, and increases the number of known manuscripts from approximately 1,500 to 2,300, tracked to some 150 locations. (…) This is more than just an exercise in logging historical documents. No two manuscripts of the same text turned out quite the same, and the fascination is in how they differ."

- Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post

"Touwaide and Appetiti visited collections as famous and varied as the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Vatican Library, the British Library, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France as well as small, privately owned collections scattered across the globe in order to catalogue and identify each manuscript. Additions to Diels’ catalogue list the title, the author if known, to which collection the manuscript belongs, and a brief overview of its contents. This information provides immense value to researchers, who can look up a manuscript and know beforehand if it contains subjects relevant to their study."

- Hannah Bauman, American Botanical Council

"The work of decades for Touwaide and Appetiti serves as an invaluable resource for classical scholars around the world, in the traditions of Diels and his original catalog. As medical science draws increasingly on natural products research for new sources of drugs, perhaps the knowledge recorded by ancient Greek physicians holds the key to the next big discovery."

- Hannah Bauman, Herbalgram, Number 113, Feb - April 2017

"… profound, very meticulously prepared, and convincing … the book is the result of impressive studies conducted by its author over decades. It offers a considerable amount of important information … a most useful publication indeed."

- Marie Cronier, Isis jounal, 2018

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Introduction; Greek medicine. A census of Byzantine and Renaissance manuscripts; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Alain Touwaide, PhD, is the Scientific Director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions.

About the Series

Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean

Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean is a series devoted to all aspects of medicine in the Mediterranean area during the Middle Ages, from the 3rd/4th centuries to the 16th. Though with a focus on Greek medicine, diffused through the whole Mediterranean world and especially developed in Byzantium, it also includes the contributions of the cultures that were present or emerged in the area during the Middle Ages and after, and which interacted with Byzantium: the Latin West and early vernacular languages, the Syrian and Arabic worlds, Armenian, Georgian and Coptic groups, Jewish and Slavic cultures and Turkish peoples, particularly the Ottomans. Medicine is understood in a broad sense: not only medical theory, but also the health conditions of people, nosology and epidemiology, diet and therapy, practice and teaching, doctors and hospitals, the economy of health, and the non-conventional forms of medicine from faith to magic, that is, all the spectrum of activities dealing with human health. The series includes texts and studies. It will bring to light previously unknown, overlooked or poorly known documents interpreted with the most appropriate methods, and publish the results of cutting-edge research, so providing a wide range of scholarly and scientific fields with new data for further explorations.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Medieval
MEDICAL / History