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    Alessio's Book of Medical Secrets

    [Alexis [Alessio] of Piedmont] [Girolamo Ruscelli, attributed to]. The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount: contayning excellent remedies agaynste diuers dyseases, woundes, and other accidentes, with the maner to make dystillations, parfumes, confitures, dyings, colours, fusions, and meltings. A worke wel approved, very profitable and necessay for every man. Newely corrected and amended, and also somewhat enlarged in certayne places which wanted in the first edition. Translated out of French into Englishe, by William Warde. London: Henry Bynneman for John Wight, 1568. *8,A-Q8. [Bound Together With:] ... The Second Part... London: Rouland Hall for Nicholas Englande, 1563. A2 [misbound after (2)A],(2)A-C4, D-M8,N2. [Bound Together With:] ... The Thyrde and Last Part... London: Henry Denham for John Wyght, [1566]. A-B4, C-L8, M4. London: 1563-1568.
    First published in Venice in 1556, this work ascribed to Alessio is one of the most famous recipe books. "The recipes are for the most part medical and pharmaceutical..."(Ferguson). These are later Ward editions.
    Three quarto volumes in one. [6], 117, [11]; [2], 79, [7]; [1], 15, 17-75, [9] folios. Three title pages with printer's devices, head- and tail-pieces, decorated initials. Modern antique paneled calf, four raised spine bands with gilt title and small square designs in compartments. Boards, spine ends and bands lightly rubbed; endpapers refreshed, first title page with tears and paper loss affecting text (mounted and restored), following leaf and next two leaves of the third part also with tears and paper loss (restored); frequent holograph ink writing, smudges, drawing, and pen trials affecting blank areas, last two title pages and some text; edge tears minor paper loss, smudges and soiling, dampstains; overall in good condition. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    According to the preface, Alessio decided, at age eighty-three, to put down his knowledge after he experienced the death of a prospective patient because he was reluctant to share his secrets. "...the feeling of remorse was so strong... [he] resolved to make amends by revealing all he knew for the good of mankind." (Ferguson, Secrets, III, 34.) Ferguson disputes assigning the book to Ruscelli (see his notes in Biblioteca Chemica, volume I, page 22.

    "Alessio was in fact the creation of a Venetian writer called Girolamo Ruscelli, who later revealed that Alessio's secrets were discovered by a secret Neapolitan experimental academy of which he, Ruscelli, was a member while he lived in Naples a few years before Fioravanti arrived there in 1548. Later, in Venice, the two would meet up and become fast friends. The bond between these intellectual companions, founded on a mutual love of experiment for experiment's sake, was but one link in a Europe-wide network of researchers that made up the underworld of sixteenth-century science.

    "This is the story of one of those 'professors of secrets' as told, in a fashion, by himself. In attempting to reconstruct his memory in the imaginary letter that frames this book, I rely on his writings, but when necessary I supplement his words with those of contemporaries."[The Charlatan's Tale: A Renaissance Surgeon's World by William Eamon]

    William Ward (Warde) (1534-1609), physician and translator. "Ward was translator of The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis Piemont: Containing Excellent Remedies Against Divers Diseases and other Accidents. The first edition was published in 1558 containing only the first part, and consisting of six books. Another two editions were printed in 1559 and contain a dedicatory letter by Ward to the earl of Bedford, notable for its protest against the folly of 'some curious Christians among us nowadays which most impudently despise all manner of medicines', and for its defence of the 'heavenly science' of physic. Ward mentions Christopher Plantin's edition of a French translation (Antwerp, 1557) as his original. The work became very popular as a treasury of medical and other knowledge in all the countries of Europe. The identity of Alessio of Piedmont has not been satisfactorily settled. Of this first part numerous editions were published in England. It occurs usually bound up with The Seconde Parte of the Secrets of Maister Alexis of Piemont, again translated by Ward and published in 1560 and 1563. The Thyrde and Last Parte of the Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont translated by Ward appeared first in 1562. It contains six books, like the first part. Here his work seems to have ended but in many copies of the book a fourth and fifth part are added, translated by R. Androse." (Oxford DNB).

    STC 297, 301, 306. ESTC s100482; s121373; s100485. See: Bruning 305, 322, 364. Neville I, 28-29. Ferguson, Secrets, III, 36ff. Simon, Bacchica II, 30.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    5th Wednesday
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