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les Enluminures

LUCAS MAIORIUS, Commentary on the Ars parva of Galen

In Latin with a few words in Greek, manuscript on paper
Italy, Rome? or Naples? c. 1480-1500 (probably closer to 1500)

TM 488


27 ff., preceded and followed by 2 paper flyleaves, in quires of 8 (collation: i8, ii8, iii10+1), on paper, with watermarks close to (1) Briquet, “Sirène”, no. 13880 (Naples, 1480-1497) or no. 13884 (Rome, 1501) [fol. 1, 2, 3, ]; (2) Briquet, close to no. 12202, “Oiseau,” Rome, 1479-1480 [fol. 12], written in a cursive mercantesca humanistic script, by two hands (hand A, ff. 1-26) and hand B, ff. 27-27v), in light brown ink, on up to 49 long lines (justification: 250 x 150 mm), some some vertical catchwords (one error in catchword [“Dottrina est” on fol. 8v, with first word on fol. 9 being “Medecina est...”]), beginning of each section starts with an underlined quote from Galen’s text, immediately followed by the commentary, two diagrams (ff. 25v and 26) traced in brown ink, a few words in Greek on fol. 1. Bound in modern vellum over thin pasteboards, smooth spine (Some stains to binding; paper frayed at times; tear to paper on fol. 15, with loss of text). Dimensions 298 x 222 mm.

Unrecorded and unpublished humanist commentary on Galen’s Ars parva, perhaps an autograph, attributed in the heading and colophon to an unknown proponent of medical humanism, Lucas Maioreus or Maiorius. The author is referred to as “philosophus” in another manuscript, reaffirming the interesting ties between medicine and philosophy during this period of Galenic revival. This commentary, with two diagrams at the end, deserves to be further studied.


1. Copied in Italy, based on script and watermarks. A possible origin in Central or Southern Italy is suggested but cannot be confirmed before more research is conducted on this little known author, unknown down to his dates of birth and death. The present manuscript might be an autograph, but in the absence of comparative documents, there are no certitudes.

2. European Private Collection.


ff. 1-26v, Lucas Maiorius, Commentary on the Ars parva [Ars medica] of Galen, heading reads: In librum primum micro tegni galieni rescriptum domini luce [eo tempore] principis medicorum et philosophorum; incipit, “T[r]es sunt omnes doctrine que ordine habentur. Si querendam a vobis quoniam non est quod galieni in hoc libro incepit dicendo tres sunt doctrine...”; explicit, “[...] sibi est saniens pro [...] egrimonie (?)”; colophon, “Finit interpretatio domini luce maiorei super primum librum micro tegni Galenii” (fol. 25);

ff. 25v-26, Two diagrams, “Ex generatione naturalia...Gradus sanitatis [Gradation of Health];” “Latitudo egretudinis secundum Genti. ali. et Jaco.” [Gentilis da Foligno? Jacopo da Forlì?]; followed by a long note, heading, De prasi quod sit per dominum Lucam [What is praxis according to Master Lucas], incipit, “Propria diffinitio prasis habentur in prologo primi sententiarum doctoris sustilis...” [the “doctor subtilis” is John Duns Scotus];

f. 26v, blank;

ff. 27, Added notes on Galen’s treatise on pulses (De differentiis pulsuum?), by a certain Pietro de Feltro [Pietro de [Monte]feltro?], dated 1514, heading, Proportiones quas habuimus [de] domino petro de feltro in lectura tractatus pulsium 1514;

f. 27v, Added notes, by the same hand as fol. 27, offering a classification of flegma, sanguis, colera, colera nigra.

This manuscript contains a hitherto unrecorded and unpublished commentary on the Ars parva of Galen, by a little known humanist author Lucas Maiorius or Maioreus, as per the colophon found on f. 25: “Finit interpretatio domini luce maiorei super primum librum micro tegni Galenii” [Here finishes the commentary of Master Lucas Maiorius on the first book the of the small Tegni [Ars parva] of Galen]. To the best of our knowledge, this author is recorded in a single instance as the author of a poem found in Harvard, University Library, MS Lat 358 (former Philipps 7491), Collection of Latin Poems, p. 303: “Lucas Maiorius philosophus” (see Kristeller, V, 230a). This treatise might well be an autograph: the handwriting is highly abridged, written in a cursive humanistic script with elements of mercantesca. There are similar incipits that are recorded in Thondike and Kibre, including one effectively beginning “Tres sunt omnes doctrine que ordine habentur,” listed as Galen, with commentary by Hali Rodhan (Thorndike and Kibre, 1963, col. 1585). This work is clearly not the present commentary. What we have instead is one of the numerous humanistic commentaries testifying to the Galenic revival of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (see a partial census of commentaries on Ars parva in J. Niedling, 1924; see also P.-G. Ottosson, 1984). Galen’s works constituted the basis of formal medicine in the west and were a formal part of the curricula of university faculties of medicine from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. Centuries after Galen’s time, his ideas had turned into Galenism, somewhat far-removed from the ideas of the individual author (for instance anatomical dissection stressed by Galen, vanished almost entirely, only to be progressively restored in the Renaissance).

Claudius Galen (129-199 A.D.) composed his medical manual “par excellence” c. 193 A.D., and the work enjoyed a huge popularity, and was translated in the Latin West many times, and commented by a great many from the twelfth century onwards. Bartholemeus of Salerno in the twelfth century is considered to be the first “medieval” commentator of Galen’s Ars medica [or Ars parva] (called in the Middle Ages “Tegni” in a free transliteration of the Greek title). The work was included in the Articella which was a popular selection of basic medical texts. In Italy, a great number of Humanist commentaries saw the light (by authors such as Dino del Garbo, Pietro Torrigiano, Jacopo da Forlì): “For centuries, the rich tradition of commentary that originated in this way provided material for methodological discussions that made use not only of the tools of logic but also of the theoretical positions supplied by natural philosophy and Aristotelian epistemology. [...] Hence the commentaries on this work of Galen constituted a genuine and distinct genre, inserted into the heart of the academic institution. We still lack a complete census of commentaries” (D. Mugnai Carrara, “in Grafton, ed., 1999, pp. 251-252). In the 1450s, the arrival of Greek medical manuscripts through scholars such as John Argyropoulos and Theodore Gaza improved the access to Galenic medicine. A key emblematic figure was Niccolo Leoniceno (1428-1524) who pointed out the errors of Latin medical writings, especially the Roman Pliny, advocating a return to the Greeks. Access to the Greek text was simplified by the publication by the Aldine Press of a nearly complete Galen in 1525-1526.

The author Lucas Maioreus is referred to as “philosophus” in the Harvard Collection of poems. Indeed, there was a very tight relation between medicine and philosophy, which could account for the interest a “philosophus” had in Galen’s text (see for instance P. O. Kristeller, “Philosophy and Medicine in Medieval and Renaissance Italy,” in Organism, Medecine and Metaphysic, ed. E. F. Spicker, 1978, pp. 29-40; see also C. B. Schmitt, “Aristotle among the Physicians,” in The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century, ed. A. Wear et al., Cambridge, 1985). The discovery of this manuscript adds a hitherto unknown representative of what has been coined “medical humanism,” an author who merits further study in comparison with other commentators of his time. He is not recorded in the Schoenberg Database, where commentaries on Galen are difficult to sort out from Galenic texts per se, although the former appear to be relatively rare on the market.


Boudon, V. ed. Exhortation à l’étude de la médecine; Art médical. Galien, Paris, Belles-Lettres, 2000.

Boudon-Millot, V. and G. Cobolet, Lire les médecins grecs à la Renaissance: aux origines de l’édition médicale, Paris, 2004.

Grafton, A. and N. Siraisi, eds. Natural Particulars. Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, Boston, 1999.

Hankinson, R., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Galen, Cambridge, 2008. See in particular, V. Hutton, “The Fortunes of Galen,” pp. 355-390.

Kristeller, P. O. Iter Italicum..., Volume V, London, E. J. Brill, 1990.

Manetti, D. (ed.). Studi su Galeno: scienza, filosofia, retorica e filologia. Atti del seminario, Florence, 13 November 1998, Florence, 2000.

Niedling, J. Die mittelalterlichen und fr√ľneuzeitlichen Kommentarezur “Techne” des Galenos, Paderborn, 1924.

Ottosson, P.-G. Scholastic Medecine and Philosophy. A Study of Commentaries on Galen’s Tegni, Naples, 1984.

Palmieri, N. ed. L’Ars medica (Teni) de Galien: lectures antiques et médiévales, Saint-Etienne, 2008.

Temkin, O., Galenism. Rise and Decline of a Medical Philosophy, Ithaca, N.Y., 1973.

Thorndike, L. and P. Kibre. A Catalogue of Incipits of Medieval Scientific Writings in Latin, London, 1963.

Siraisi, N. G. Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, Chicago, 1990.

Wear, A. “Galen in the Renaissance,” in V. Nutton (ed), Galen: Problems and Prospects, London, 1981.

Online resources

On Galen

On Medical Humanists

On the Medical Curriculum, P. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance, 2002