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    The First Illustrated Book on Gymnastics

    Girolamo Mercuriale. De arte gymnastica libri sex. Apud Giuntas, Venice, 1601.

    Fourth edition (the first edition, without illustrations, was published in 1569). Large octavo. [xvi], 308. [28, index and colophon] pages. Pagination includes twenty-three full-page woodcut illustrations on various aspects of ancient Greek and Roman gymnastics, including wrestling, boxing, weights, discus, etc., plus two full-page woodcut pans. Decorative woodcut initials throughout. Printer's mark on title page and colophon.

    Contemporary vellum with exposed thongs and traces of original manuscript spine lettering. The Maccelsfield copy with their armorial book plate and embossed stamp (upper blank margin of first three leaves). Overall, a very clean and well-margined copy of the first illustrated book on gymnastics.

    Adams M-1320. Brunet III, 1646. Graesse IV, 495. Harvard, Italian, 302. Wellcome I, 4224.

    More Information:

    "Mercuriale [1530-1606], professor of medicine at Bologna and Pisa, is probably best known to modern students of medical history for the present work. It was the first complete text on gymnastics and stresses the importance that all forms of exercise have in maintaining good health. Relying heavily on ancient practices, this work is an excellent compendium of the physical therapy of earlier times. Mercuriale describes ancient gymnasia and baths and discusses mild exercises such as dancing as well as more strenuous pursuits such as wrestling and boxing. He also gives full consideration to the health benefits of proper exercise and concludes the book with a section of therapeutic exercises" (Heirs of Hippocrates 223, describing the 1587 third edition). The second edition, published in 1573, was the first illustrated book on gymnastics and contained twenty-four woodcuts by Cristofero Coriolano [and these plates were used in all subsequent editions as well as in the Frisius edition of 1672].

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