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  • Commentum in quasdam parabolas et alias aphorismorum series: Aphorismi particulares, aphorismi de memoria, aphorismi extravagantes
  • Walton O. Schalick III
Arnald of Villanova. Commentum in quasdam parabolas et alias aphorismorum series: Aphorismi particulares, aphorismi de memoria, aphorismi extravagantes. Edited with introductions by Juan A. Paniagua and Pedro Gil-Sotres and additions by L. García-Ballester and Eduard Feliu. Seminarium Historiae Scientiae Barchinone (C.S.I.C.), Arnaldi de Villanova Opera Medica Omnia VI.2 Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 1993. 460 pp. $45.00; Ptas. 5,000 (paperbound).

“Vita brevis; ars longa”: so states the first Hippocratic aphorism. In the Middle Ages, the growing volume of medical information, distilled from ancient, Arabic, and contemporary authors, made the life-to-art ratio even smaller. A need emerged for mechanisms of data manipulation, so that medical knowledge could be better remembered. While some authors espoused new techniques such as the medical concordance, the age-old aphorism provided a popular means of “fixing in memory” medical information. Arnald of Villanova (d. 1311), physician to popes and kings and a teacher at the University of Montpellier, noted that it is good to write briefly and usefully in aphorisms for the sake of memory. Arnald was quite comfortable with this form, using it in one of his most scholastic works, Aphorismi de gradibus, and several of his more clinically focused works. His Medicationis parabole (Parables of healing) contains some 340 aphorisms representing the quintessence of clinical material, distilled for recollection (the editors note variations in the total number within the ten manuscripts on which they have [End Page 127] based their edition, from 334 to 345 “paraboles”; here they have chosen 342). Interestingly, it seems from asides in the textual tradition that Medicationis parabole was probably written by Arnald c. 1300, at or soon after the time he fled Paris, following the exposition of his heretical notions regarding the end of the world. In his flight he was aided by the court of King Philip IV, and it is to Philip that several of the manuscripts are dedicated.

This book is the second part of the sixth volume of an anticipated twenty-volume edition of the collected medical works of Arnald. Under the seasoned guidance of series editors Luis García-Ballester, Juan A. Paniagua, and Michael R. McVaugh, another six volumes are currently in preparation. In addition, volume II (Aphorismi de gradibus, ed. M. R. McVaugh), has been issued in a second edition (1992) with new indices. 1

The present volume adheres to the pattern of previous volumes in presenting each text with an excellent apparatus criticus and a pathbreaking introduction on the theoretical or practical material dealt with in the text. However, owing to the size of the principal text, Medicationis paraboles, the editors chose to publish the edition, along with a Hebrew translation (c. 1280s by Abraham Abigdor), in Part 1 (volume VI.1, published in 1990), while the introductions to both the main text and the Hebrew translation, along with four other aphoristic texts and their introductions (Arnald’s Commentum super quadam parabolas, Aphorismi particulares, Aphorismi de memoria, and Aphorismi extravagantes), are published here in Part 2. Furthermore, following an editorial decision made in this volume, this and all subsequent editions contain the introductory materials both in the language of their composition and in Catalan. Here pages 13–236 are in Spanish with the Latin texts, while pages 237–388 contain a Catalan translation of the introductions only. The editors also include indices of names, words, and manuscripts cited in the two volumes. Finally, summary Hebrew-Latin and Latin-Hebrew glossaries, reflecting the tradition of the Medicationis parabole, are provided at the end.

The introductions display the breadth and depth of the editors’ knowledge, further exemplified in Paniagua’s recently published collection of articles on Arnald. 2 The texts are carefully prepared, and in their combination of scholastic commentary (Commentum super quasdam parabolas) and practical pearls (“If a palpebral wrinkle is cut in the middle, it will cease to cause pain” [p. 190]) they offer a range of examples of the medieval scholastic practitioner. As with the rest of the series, this volume opens wide our palpebral fissure into medieval...

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