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Ricettario Fiorentino

. Pharmacopoeia, Anonymous [Florence, 1623]
Ricettario Fiorentino, di Nuovo Illustrato Folio. (5) ff. incl. engr. title, blank, 296, (48) pp. (including one blank) with 3 woodcuts in text. Bound in early limp vellum, partially recovered at an early date, title in ink on spine, somewhat scuffed and wormed. Ex libris on inner front cover, library stamp on engr. title, inscription "Ranieri Navacchi" on verso of title and on verso of end fly leaf, three signatures on [Ee6]. Engraved title somewhat spotted, waterstained and dog-eared. Waterstaining in initial and final leaves, a few leaves toned, light spotting throughout. A wide-margined copy with extensive early annotations.


Rare, 17th-century edition of what is generally regarded as the first European pharmacopoeia, introducing the concept of standardized drugs and prescriptions, thus marking a turning point in medical history. The “Florentine Pharmacopoeia” was an important step in improving medical care of the population, and represents “a renowned early attempt… by the Florentine guild of physicians and pharmacists” in “the genesis of a special class of literature to unify the specifications for drugs” (Sonnedecker, p. 66). First published in 1499 (Krivatsy says 1498) as Nuovo receptario, the work continued to be in use for the next 200 years: DNLM, which has multiple seventeenth century editions of this work beginning with 1623, records an imprint dated as late as 1696.

The arte dei medici e speziali, the Florentine guild of physicians and pharmacists first regulated in the 14th century, was the first organization to attempt to supervise and standardize the drugs and prescriptions administered by its members. (The guild’s emblem depicting a mother and child is featured on the Ricettario’s engraved title-page.) First issued in 1498/99 under the title Nuovo receptario, the pharmacopoeia was regularly edited and reprinted to keep up with advances in medicine. Each practicing apothecary was required to possess a Ricettario and to comply with its standards (although whether these standards were legally enforced is not known). Other city-states followed Florence’s lead, issuing their own drug standards. The Ricettario draws heavily on Arabic drug therapy.

The first section identifies various drugs and medicinal substances, and contains instructions for preparing a wide range of remedies. Then follows a comprehensive section of recipes for pills, syrups, and other treatments. The majority of these recipes are annotated in Latin by an early owner, evidently providing additional details about the administration of each prescription. Also included are three large woodcuts of distillation apparatus.

The 1623 edition was reprinted from Cecconcelli’s 1597 edition. OCLC records copies at LC, U.Chicago, U.Texas-Austin and Wellcome.

NLM 9610; Wellcome 2319; Sonnedecker, History of Pharmacy, Duveen, p. 507; see Ferguson, Bibliotheca Chemica II: 269 & Durling 3872-3876; Axel Helmstädter, Pharmaziegeschichte, GOVI, 1999; “Il ‘ricettario fiorentino’ è la più antica farmacopea ufficiale, come l'intendiamo oggi... fu compilato dal collegio medico della città di Firenze, ad istanza dei consoli dell’ arte [de’ medici e degli speziali].” - R. Ciasca. L'Arte dei medici e speziali nella storia e nel commercio fiorentino dal secolo XII al XV, 1927, p. 337-338; Alfons Lutz, “Studien über die pharmazeutische Inkunabel ‘Nuovo Receptario’ von Florenz”, Bd. 13 NS, Internatl. Gesellsch für Geschichte der Pharmazie, Stuttgart, 1958.

Product: Ricettario Fiorentino. Pharmacopoeia, Anonymous [Florence, 1623]
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