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les Enluminures

RUSIO, LORENZO, Hippiatria sive Marescalia [Book on the Health of Horses], in the Italian translation of Antonio Dapera

In Italian and Latin, illustrated manuscript on paper
[Northern Italy (perhaps Ferrara), 1434]

TM 235

70 leaves, plus a blank flyleaf at the beginning and eleven added leaves at the end (five of them blank), complete (collation i-xx24, xxi22), on paper (watermark of three mountains, resembling Briquet, 11730-11731 and 11900; Vicenza, 1429-1451, etc.), written in dark brown ink in a large cursive gothic bookhand on double columns of up to thirty-five lines, catchwords in decorative cartouches (e.g., f. 21), headings and paragraphs marks in red, capitals touched in red and yellow, large painted initials in red throughout (up to three lines high, f. 65), a large divided initial in red and brown on f. i with penwork in both colors, five marginal drawings in red or in brown with yellow wash (ff. 31, 32, 33, 34v, and 62), additions at the end in various contemporary hands. Contemporary binding of limp vellum with spine sewn in account-book style, rear cover extensively repaired, a few other repairs to binding, in a cloth clamshell case (some minor wear and browning, preliminary blank leaf repaired, small marginal repair to f. 1, not affecting text, blank f. 70 partly cut away, a few small stains, overall in excellent intact condition). Dimensions 283 x 217 mm.

Signed and dated manuscript of the Italian translation of one of the principal treatises on veterinary medicine for horses, most likely made for the actual use of the ducal farrier at the court of Niccolo III d’Este in Ferrara. Manuscripts made as practical manuals are rare, and although printed in the sixteenth century, the present text does not appear in a modern edition. The original wallet-style binding and the charming watercolor wash drawings enhance the manuscript’s interest.


1. The manuscript is dated 1434 in red in the margin of f. 33r. The colophon on f. 69v records that it was copied by the scribe Guido de Santo Angelo for the farrier Chalavereso, in honor of St. Allo, or Eligius, patron saint of farriers (“Guidus de sancto angelo scripsit, Chalavereso mereschalco si la fato scrivere al honore del beato sancto allo…”). The scribe appears to be unrecorded, but he may well have been related to Donato de Santo Angelo, author of another late fifteenth-century Italian treatise on farriery, now London, British Library, Sloane MS 3026. The list of proverbs at the end (f. 75v) is signed by the scribe Giovanni Antonio Cadamosto. He is probably the same Giovanni Cadamosto, author and donor of the great illustrated Herbal given in 1471 to Borso d’Este, marquis of Ferrara (1450-1471), now Paris, BnF, MS it. 1108 (see Le muse e ii principe, Arte di corte nel Rinascimento padano, II, 1991, no. 54, pp. 209-210). The principle text here is virtually identical to that of a manuscript made for Niccolo d’Este (see below). Taken together, it seems quite likely that Chalavereso was the ducal farrier in the Este court of Ferrara.

2. Private Collection, USA


ff. 1-1v, [Dedication to the Cardinal Orsini, in Latin], incipit, “Describitur liber meneschalcie compositus a maistro laurencio dicto rucio meneschalcho de roma familiare reverendo in christo patris et domini neapolionis dei gratia tituli santi adriani diaconi cardinalis de epistula...Reverendo in christo patri et domino suo domino neapolioni dei gratia tituli santi adriani diacono cardinali laurencius dictus rucius...”;

ff. 1v-2v, [Table of Contents, in Italian, listing 144 [142] chapters], “Questi son li capituli delo libro de generatione guida infirmitade [...] de cavalli. In prima, .i. Como e in que modo el cavalo se purga...”; “.cxxxxiiii. Cosse notabille et da avir in memoria”;

ff. 3-65, Chapters 1 to 142 [erroneously numbered 144 in the table of contents], heading chapter 1, Como e quando e in que modo lo cavalo se purga; incipit chapter 1, “Che intra tuti li cosi...”; rubric, chapter 142, Cossi notabilli .cxxxxii.; incipit chapter 142, “Mitiremo nel ultimo alcuni cossi...”; explicit, “[...] como la luna amancha et cressi, Deo gratias, Amen.” [the first forty chapters of the original text on the breeding, the breaking in, and the keeping of horses are omitted; in the present manuscript, the 144 [142] chapters announced in the table of contents are all accounted for];

ff. 65-69v, [A sequence of additional chapters Dapera added to Rusio’s text], incipit, “Dele venne, Facta in primo la sanguin”; and explicit, “[…] ligargello ale conie dal puto Vergene. Deo gratia Amen. Guidus de Sancto Angelo scripsit. Chalavereso mereschalcho si la fato scrivere al honore del beato sancto allo...”;

ff. 71, Additions including other medicaments for horses and toothache, and proverbs in Latin.

The text of Lorenzo Rusio is divided here into 142 chapters discussing the various illnesses, accidents, and diseases in horses. As is typical, the order in which the parts of the horse are treated begins with the head and ends with the feet. Particular attention is given to illness of eyes (f. 5v), mouth (f. 7v), back (f. 12v), legs (f. 31r), hoof (f. 34v), and feet (f. 43v). A very brief chapter deals with the influence of the moon on horses (f. 16v), and the treatise ends with the links between the animal body and zodiacal signs (f. 63v).

The original Latin text of the present treatise on the medicine of horses was written in Rome c. 1380-1312 for Cardinal Napoleone Orsini (d. 1312) by the farrier Lorenzo Rusio (d. 1347). The treatise is based on his personal experience with horses, and it greatly expanded the thirteenth-century treatise on horse medicine by the Calabrian author Giordano Ruffo for Emperor Frederick II. A copy of Ruffo’s text was sold at auction, 22 June 1999, lot 77, and is now in London in the Wellcome Library. In many medieval manuscripts Rusio’s text was wrongly attributed to Bonifacio di Calabria, to whom the treatise is still attributed in some library catalogues (for example, Vatican, Cod. Vat. Lat. 7228). The text was translated into Italian by two different authors, Angelo Tarantino De Liccio and the Dominican friar, Antonio Dapera. Apparently Dapera used a Greek translation of the original text and its Italian translation is datable c. 1390-1400 (cf. T. Kaeppeli, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum Medii Aevi, I, 1970, p. 117). Both translations had a wide circulation in Italy and were copied with many slight variants.

The present manuscript is in Dapera’s translation, which was particularly successful in northern Italy. It is linguistically very close to a decorated manuscript made in 1422 for Niccolo III d]Este, marquis of Ferrara 1393-1441 (now London, British Library, Add. MS 22824). Many such manuscripts were luxury copies, hardly intended for actual use. The present copy, however, was evidently prepared as a practical manual, and was owned by a farrier. Such books hardly survive. The only working copy recorded in any library outside Italy is at Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 137 (Faye and Bond, Supplement to de Ricci, 1962, p. 34; see also, P. O. Kristeller, Iter Italicum, V, 1990, p. 276). Late sixteenth-century extracts from the text occur in Miscellany V in the Wellcome Library (Moorat, Catalogue, I, 1962, p. 335).

The Latin text was first printed in 1488 and the Italian translation by Dapera was published in Venice in 1543. There is no modern edition taking into account the manuscripts of the text, which do not appear to be numerous. Pending further study of the extant manuscripts and a modern diplomatic edition, scholars still must make use of the nineteenth-century publication by del Prato and Barberi (vol. 2, pp. 7-403; see also Brunori Cianti and Cianti, pp. 230-231 and 285-325; and Schnier, 1937).


f. 31r, a peasant carrying a burden on his shoulders;

f. 32r, a dog drinking from a fountain, watched by his master;

f. 33r, a kneeling man, perhaps the owner of the manuscript;

f. 34v, a roaring lion;

f. 62r, St. Eligius, between a maid servant and a hand holding a dragon.

The five marginal illustrations contribute charming visual glosses on the text, and they deserve further study in relationship to the commentary that inspired them on individual pages (St. Eligius is patron saint of farriers, for example).


Brunori Cianti, L. and L. Cianti. La Pratica della veterinaria nei codici medievali di mascalcia. Bologna, Edagricole, 1993.

Delprato, P. Trattati di mascalcia attribuiti ad Ippocrate, tradotti dall'arabo in latino da maestro Moisè da Palermo, volgarizzati nel sec. XIII, (...), corredati di due posteriori compilazioni in latino e in toscano, e di note filologiche (...). Bologna, Romagnoli, 1865.

Delprato, P. and L Barbieri, L. La Mascalcia di Lorenzo Rusio, volgarizzamente del secolo XIV messo per la prima volta in luce; aggiuntovi il testo latino per cura de Luigi Barbieri, 2 vols., Bologna, Romagnoli, 1867-1870 (Collezione di opere inedite o rare, 1; Notizie storiche degli scrittori italiani di veterinaria, 2).

Schnier, Ludwig. Die Pferdeheilkunde des Laurentius Rusius, Berlin, Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universit├Ąt, 1937.

Online resources

World association of the history of veterinary medicine

Biblioteca Malatestiana, Cod. S.XXVI.2 (Rusio, Hippiatria sive Marescalcia)