Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Vol. 101,Suppl. II, October ,2006, pp.147-150
Ancient medical texts, modern reading problems
Maria Carlota Rosa
de Lingüística e Filologia, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade
Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Cidade Universitária, Ilha do
Fundão, 21941-590 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil
20 July 2006
Code Number: oc06241
The word tradition has a very specific meaning in linguistics: the passing down of a text, which may have been completed or corrected by different copyists at different times, when the concept of authorship was not the same as it is today. When reading an ancient text the word tradition must be in the reader's mind. To discuss one of the problems an ancient text poses to its modern readers, this work deals with one of the first printed medical texts in Portuguese, the Regimento proueytoso contra ha pestenença, and draws a parallel between it and two related texts, A moche profitable treatise against the pestilence, and the Recopilaçam das cousas que conuem guardar se no modo de preseruar à Cidade de Lixboa E os sãos, & curar os que esteuerem enfermos de Peste. The problems which arise out of the textual structure of those books show how difficult is to establish a tradition of another type, the medical tradition. The linguistic study of the innumerable medieval plague treatises may throw light on the continuities and on the disruptions of the so-called hippocratic-galenical medical tradition.
Key words: plague treatises - Jacobi-Kamintus's treatise - textual transmission - textual tradition - early printing - textual modernization
In this paper I will try to show that the attested differences among copies of an ancient text was due in part to distinct needs and expectations of the intended audience, and are not, as commonly stated, a necessary result from a poor work in a printing house. For this, I will focus on one of the first known medical works printed in Portuguese, the Regimento proueytoso contra ha pestenença (1496?). Regimento parallels other medical works, and this paper turns its attention to two of them, A Moche profitable treatise against the Pestilence (1534), and Recopilaçam das cousas que conuem guardar se no modo de preseruar à Cidade de Lixboa E os sãos, & curar os que esteuerem enfermos de Peste (1580). The first two treatises are unequivocally part of the same textual tradition, but the same is not true to the third of them, in spite of the fact that Recopilaçam had some of the versions of Regimento as part of its sources.
The next section outlines some characteristics of the three treatises. A discussion follows the comparison.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Nowadays the Portuguese Regimento survives in two copies of the same edition, printed in Lisbon at the end of the XV century by Valentim Fernandes, a German printer who worked in Portugal from 1495 to 1518 (Rosa 1994). One of the copies stands in the Public Library at Évora, and the other, in the library of the ducal palace at Vila Viçosa, both in Portugal.
According to Roque (1979), the prime source for the Portuguese Regimento would be the medieval work De pestilentia, written by Johannes Jacobi, a doctor who lived in Montpellier by the XIV century. However, the Portuguese edition, as many others, presents the bishop of Arus, Raminto (or Ramitte, Canuto, Kanutus, Kamitus, Kamiutus, Kanunti) as the author. Still according to Roque (1979), Raminto would have established a "syncretical text", the Tractatus de regimine pestilentico, a work in which he added some parts of Jacobi's work, and omitted others.
The Regimento proueytoso contra ha pestenença is a translation from Latin, and a translation for a layman distant about a century from Jacobi. Friar Luiz de Raz ( 1521?), the translator, occupied the Chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Lisbon, and was a lecturer of Theology at the same University. It is difficult to imagine him as someone whose Latin knowledge was poor, as sometimes has been supported (see Roque 1979).
Two translations into Middle English and six printings antedated the English version by Thomas Paynell of A Moche profitable treatise against the Pestilence, extant in the British Lybrary. Paynell, a canon at Merton Abbey who translated other medical writings, worked the English translation from a French issue (Keiser 2003).
Recopilaçam das cousas que conuem guardar se no modo de preseruar à Cidade de Lixboa. E os sãos, & curar os que esteuerem enfermos de Peste was written by the Spanish doctors Tomás Álvares (fl. 15-) and Garcia Salcedo y Colonel (? - 1651). I refer to the 1580 edition extant in the National Library in Rio de Janeiro.
Regimento has five chapters in the following order: the prognosis of pestilence, its causes, the remedies against it, the fortifiers (or confortations) of the heart and other organs, and the last chapter, on bloodletting. The English edition has the five chapters present in the Portuguese edition, although the fifth chapter is not numbered and precedes three other parts not numbered, absent from the Portuguese edition: To knowe urine, A remedy for the frenche pockes, and a codicil entitled To the reder.
The Portuguese version has no section on urine; besides, it shows a comment on the misleading diagnosis the observation of urine may cause1. According to A Moche Profitable Treatise, the careful examination of the urine may lead the doctor to diagnose movement of air ("ventosities") in the guts, phlegm humor, pain in the reins, in the knees, and also the virginity of a maiden or pregnancy.
The section on the French pox is also absent from the Portuguese edition. This absence in the Portuguese translation is not surprising, since Regimento was probably printed in 1496 or even as early as 14912, and the disease came into attention and was named in Italy soon after 1494, when it was associated with the French troops (Grafton 1995). Paynell's translation dates the emergence of French pox according to a conjunction of Saturn and Mars happened in 6 January 1496. The English translation by Paynell attributes the cause of syphilis to a conjunction of higher rank planets, Saturn, Mars and also Jupiter. Their rare conjunctions were seen as a warning of future radical changes (vide Carolino 2002).
For about 20 years syphilis would be described as a contagious and frequently fatal sickness. That scenario would be altered by the middle of the XVI century (Grafton 1995). Near the end of the XVI century, for instance, William Clowes (1544-1604) attested to have treated more than one thousand patients with French pox during five years at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London (Grafton 1995) , where he worked from 1576 to 15843 . French pox was then widespread in Europe, but its victims were no longer segregated from other patients in the hospitals.
The last part in the English version, To the reder, presents guaiacum ("ligno guaiaco") as a remedy superior to any other ("I thynke it is nothing nowe comparable to that that Hutten wrytheth de ligno guaiaco"). The reference to the work by von Hutten, translated by Paynell earlier (Keiser 2004), is explicit. As the doctor from Montpellier had done about his formulas, the German scholar attested his experience with the sickness and with the remedies against the French pox, and the benefits from guaiacum4.
Although very similar along the five chapters in common, the Portuguese and the English editions are different in minor aspects. For instance where the Portuguese text presents the great doctor David5, a representation of Christ (Di Berardino 2002), the English version presents Jeremy6 . Both issues the Regimento proueytoso and A Moche Profitable Treatise refer to ancient authoritative texts, a shelter for whoever wanted to write on any of all the important truths until the beginning of Modern Times (Grafton 1995). The treatises mention Hippocrates' Aphorisms (ca. 400 BC), Aristotle's Meteorology (ca. 350 BC), and Avicenna's Canon of Medicine (ca. 1100 AD). Galen of Pergamum (ca. 2nd century AD) is not mentioned, but both treatises have the same structure of another plague treatise, this one written in Spanish and published in 1507 in Salamanca, the Tratado util & muy prouechoso contra toda pestilencia & ayre corrupto (in Silva s.d.), in which Galen is explicitly referred7. The Moche Profitable Treatise adds to the ancient authors the humanist scholar Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523), who wrote a treatise on syphilis, De morbo gallico, in the 1520s.
One may say Raz and Paynell translated the same work, but they had different sources, and had different audiences in mind. Jacobi-Raminto's work was still profitable in the 1530s, since epidemics of plague were still recurrent8, but from the first half of the 1500s on the crises were violent but more and more spaced out. At the end of XVI century plague was no more the main cause of mortality in Europe (Rodrigues 1990).The beginning of the XVI century would have other diseases, and among them a new type of pestilence, the French pox, was so widespread and fatal that deserved special attention.
In 1569, during one of the epidemics of plague in Portugal along the XVI century, the doctors Tomás Álvares and Garcia Salcedo y Colonel were called from Seville to Lisbon by King Sebastian (1556-1578). Their prime task was to improve the treatments to plague in use by the Portuguese doctors9. Their knowledge must present answers to the questions they had heard from different Portuguese doctors10. Both professionals compiled everything they could11. Their work would be reprinted in 1580 and in 1598, years of new epidemics of plague. When reading their compilation, it is possible to recognize parts that are similar to some in the Regimento. However the Recopilaçam seems nearer to the modern reader than the Regimento. Punctuation had gained new principles, and new punctuation signs were introduced in written Portuguese; acute and grave accents on the vowels were introduced to show stress or vowel quality and crasis; the tilde is basically the only abbreviation; the font was no more the gothic. Portuguese as a language is also different, although some ancient forms are still present12. It is possible that the readers living about ninety years after the edition by Fernandes of Jacobi-Ramintus' work could not understand it any more. In this sense a comment by Friar Manuel do Sepulcro (1742) on the great linguistic changes Portuguese had undergone from 1495 to 1515 may support that hypothesis13..
The modernization made by the Spanish doctors affected the contents too. The arabic influence of a kind of work known as lapidarius is present, and many recipes in the book had gems as ingredients14. Their recipes were very expensive, as the adjectivation to triaca suggests: triaga magna, triaga de esmeraldas. The bolus armenicus is also prescribed.
When reading an ancient text the modern reader contacts a testimony of a different time, when neither copyright nor the concept of plagiarism were concerned. As noted by Febvre and Martin (1997) the profession of author would be born with the press. Before that, nobody had a monopoly on a text, which might be copied by whoever wanted to. More than that: anyone might copy a text and change it, or add comments to it, or even suppress parts of it. So the fixity of the written text, a feature we are used to consider an inherent one, shared by all the issues of any text, took no part in that different cultural setting.
In virtue of the differences the extant copies of ancient writings may present, part of the linguistic study of the known issues of a text tries to map its tradition, or the complex of reproductions of a text, no matter if extant or disappeared. Tradition is a concept closely related to the one of transmission, the process of successive reproductions of a text (Xavier & Mateus 1990). Jacobi or Jacobi-Ramintus' work was an editorial success, since it had many editions in Latin, in French, and in English.
The way the transmission of ancient texts took place makes the modern reader deals with a broader concept of translation. Until the XVI century the Portuguese verb traduzir (`to change from one language into another') was not recorded. In its place was in use the verb tralladar, but tralladar (`to copy, to transpose, to transfer') comprised both activities the translation from one language into another and the rewriting of a text in the same language, introducing new words in place of the ones that had fallen into disuse, or introducing a different syntax, more suitable for the new readers.
Roque (1979) saw the suppressions and all other kinds of variants he met in the Valentinian edition of Regimento as evidences of the poor quality of the Portuguese edition when compared to French or Latin copies. Roque (1979) tried to provide additional support to his argument by mentioning a comment Esteves Pereira had made on the Portuguese edition of Vespasian printed by the same Valentim Fernandes in 1496. If to accept Roque's argument, this point raises an intriguing question, since in the beginning of press, many scholars began to work to printers as proof correctors, whose work was concerned with both the supervision of the quality and correctness of the text, and the decision to choose the best textual model to be the source for the new edition to come. And what is more: According to the terms of some printing contracts the printer must provide a corrector, in general, a bachelor (Atanásio Lopez 1953). In spite of his criticism on printings by Fernandes, it is easy to perceive that Esteves Pereira's edition of Vespasian (Pereira 1905) has corrected Fernandes' edition without criterion15 . On the other hand the many writings Fernandes has left are evidences of his attention to the textual models for his printings, as his prologues to Auto dos Apostolos16 and to Marco Paulo17 demonstrate.
I tried to show that the three works focused in this paper, while related, are part in different cultural settings, and must not be read as poor versions of an ancient original. The translations by Luiz de Raz and by Thomas Paynell may sound awkward to a modern reader, but a modern reader was not part in the intended audience those scholars had in mind. Missing excerpts are not necessarily a product of a forgetful printer or translator. In the case of medical writings, they may evidence different ways of carrying out medical treatments.
1 Regimento, fo. A3v: "mas ajnda tam sobejamente
se agraua ha natureza que nom sinte sy ser ferida nem emferma. &
jsto porque apareçem bõas ourinas & boõas
augoas. & bõas digestiões. empero ho enfermo vay
caminho da morte. E por tanto muytos medicos que em os enfermos
soomente esguardam as ourinas superficialmente falam. & lygeyramente
To Prof. Diana Maul de Carvalho (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) for the innumerable comments on draft versions. To Prof. George R Keiser (Kansas State University) for the copy of A Moche Profitable Treatise against the Pestilence.
Copyright 2006 Instituto Oswaldo Cruz - Fiocruz