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Reviewed by:
  • La Collectio Salernitana di Salvatore De Renzi
  • Fernando Salmón
Danielle Jacquart and Agostino Paravicini Bagliani. La Collectio Salernitana di Salvatore De Renzi. Edizione Nazionale: La Scuola Medica Salernitana, 3. Florence: Sismel-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2008. xvii + 262 pp. €46.00 (978-88-8450-316-9).

This collection of essays is the result of a conference held in the Università degli Studi di Salerno in 2007 aimed at revising the monumental Collectio Salernitana (CS) in the light of current research on the cultural and social history of science and medicine in Salerno and beyond. That five-volume compilation, published by Salvatore De Renzi (1799-1872) between 1852 and 1859, has long been a problematic tool for modern historical research on the Middle Ages. After reading Danielle Jacquart's introduction and the nine articles in this book, the reader is likely to conclude that the CS deserves to be considered as an important source for the history of nineteenth-century scientific production but not so much for medieval studies. In this vein, Antonio Garzya convinces us, in the article that opens the collection, of the need for a biography of the fascinating personality of De Renzi that will situate his project in the wider intellectual and political life of nineteenth-century Europe. Admiration for but frustration with the CS overlap in the rest of the articles that compose this excellent volume. Written in four different languages, all of them propose a more or less radical revision of the CS and generally of most of our thinking about Salernitan medicine. Monica Green in her contribution asks bluntly what about twelfth-century medicine was Salernitan. Based on the exploration of more than three hundred manuscripts of the period, she concludes that there was a twelfth-century Renaissance in medicine with a multifocal center that corrects the idea of Salerno as the only and main center of production of medical texts. Michael McVaugh challenges a supposedly Salernitan tradition of commentaries on surgery. His examination of the two traditionally "Salernitan" glosses on Ruggero's (and Roland's) Surgery leads him to conclude that they are basically the same and that there is no evidence to sustain their Salernitan origin. In her article, Eliza Glaze, following a survey of manuscripts of the Passionarius composed by Gariopontus in the mid-eleventh century, reevaluates the role of this practical handbook in medical pedagogy and medical practice in Salerno and southern Italy during the century that followed. Considering the glossary Alphita, Alejandro García González reflects on the specific problems that the analysis and edition of open-ended texts like glossaries pose for researchers. He points out the flaws of the De Renzi edition (reordering of the entries, poor selection of manuscripts, correction of the medieval Latin, etc.) that his own (2007) has made redundant.

The rest of the articles in the volume are less critical of De Renzi's findings. Focusing on the organs of reproduction, Romana Martorelli Vico explores the Salernitan anatomies (Anatomia porci and Demonstratio anatomica) and their possible [End Page 679] sources, oral and written. Iolanda Ventura is not so much interested in offering a critical reappraisal of De Renzi's work on Salernitan writings on materia medica as in giving us a global picture of De Renzi's views on the subject and in trying to explain the intellectual and historical reasons that justified his particular reading and selection of texts. The passion and research method of De Renzi are also present in the article by Mireille Ausécache while revisiting Magister Salernus's biography and works (Tabule, Compendium, Catholica, Quaestio, De pulsibus? and De meteoris?). Anna Belletini focuses her contribution on a discussion of the origin and date of a medical poem edited in the CS, the Carmen medicinale attributed to the deacon Crispo, and concludes that more research needs to be done on the manuscript tradition to sustain a sound conclusion. In fact, this is the overall message of this important contribution to medieval medical history: more work on the sources is needed before we can attempt to draw a reliable survey of Salernitan medicine and generally of medicine in the long twelfth century. The three volumes already published...


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