The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

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A Critical Edition of the Latin Text with English Translation and Commentary by Nicholas Everett
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2012
World Rights
480 Pages 8 Images
ISBN 9780802095503
Published May 2012
Online discount: 15%
 $42.95    $36.51
ISBN 9780802098122
Published May 2012
Online discount: 25%
 $100.00    $75.00

The Alphabet of Galen is a critical edition and English translation of a text describing, in alphabetical order, nearly three hundred natural products - including metals, aromatics, animal materials, and herbs - and their medicinal uses. A Latin translation of earlier Greek writings on pharmacy that have not survived, it circulated among collections of 'authorities' on medicine, including Hippocrates, Galen of Pergamun, Soranus, and Ps. Apuleius.

This work presents interesting linguistic features, including otherwise unattested Greek and Latin technical terms and unique pharmacological descriptions. Nicholas Everett provides a window onto the medieval translation of ancient science and medieval conceptions of pharmacy. With a comprehensive scholarly apparatus and a contextual introduction, The Alphabet of Galen is a major resource for understanding the richness and diversity of medical history.

Nicholas Everett is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

List of Plates.
The identification of plants.

Chapter I. Introduction to the Alphabet of Galen.

A. Introduction.
B. Character of the AG and its date of composition.
C. The (recorded) history of the AG.
D. The prologue and epilogue.
E. The Liber de dynamidiis.
F. A road through Ravenna?
G. Self-medicating in Late Antiquity.
H. Evaluating the AG's pharmacy.
I. Evaluating the AG's botany.
J. Conclusion.

Chapter II. Pharmacology.

A. Introduction.
B. Natural products and pharmacy.
C. Sensory perception.
D. Drug properties.
E. Four main properties and Greek cosmology.
F. Uis vs. uirtus.
G. Humour, bile and phlegm.
H. Explicit theorising in the AG.
I. Doctrine of signatures and the absence of magic.
J. Non-medical uses.
K. Conclusion.

Chapter III. Sources compared and lost.

A. Introduction
B. Dioscorides
C. Pliny
D. Sextius Niger: the possibility
E. Other lost sources B.C. to A.D.
F. Two linguistic echoes: the Diaeta Theodori and Ps. Apuleius
G. Conclusion
H. The Comparanda


Chapter IV. Language, Latinity and Translation.

A. Introduction. Language and dating the AG.
B. Grammar.
C. Vocabulary.
D. Uiscidus and uiscide.
E. The -aster / -astrum suffix.
F. Greek in the AG.
G. Conclusion.
H. Difficulties of terminology and translation.
I. Neologisms and rare words.

Chapter V. Manuscripts.

A. Overview and editorial principles.
B. Variants.
C. Manuscripts.
D. The Editio princeps (J).

Alphabetum Galieni (Latin Text) / The Alphabet of Galen (English translation).


A. Ancient and Medieval Sources.
B. Modern Studies.


A. Plants and plant products.
B. Minerals and mineral products.
C. Animals and animal products.
D. Place-names.
E. Medical.
F. General.
G. Interesting or rare words (see also ch. IV.I).
H. Materia medica (general).