Ex curationibus observationes quibus videre ets [sic] morbos…. Paul de RENEAULME.
Ex curationibus observationes quibus videre ets [sic] morbos…
Ex curationibus observationes quibus videre ets [sic] morbos…
Ex curationibus observationes quibus videre ets [sic] morbos…
A Physician Takes a Stand against Apothecaries in Early 17th-Century France
The Rise of Medical Case-Studies as “A Template for Scientific Communication” (Pomata)
Paris, Adrianus Beys, 1606.

Ex curationibus observationes quibus videre ets [sic] morbos….

8vo [16.7 x 10.4 cm], (16) ff., 152 pp., (3) ff., with woodcut device on title, woodcut headpieces and initials. Bound in contemporary vellum, spine gold-tooled with rinceaux, gold-stamped morocco lettering-piece laid to spine, double-ruled gilt borders to upper and lower covers, all edges gilt, bookplate of doctor and poet François Moutier (1881-1961) inside upper cover. Minor rubbing, staining and edge wear to spine and boards, only occasional very minor internal spotting and staining, numerous contemporary annotations, cancel slip on verso of p.l. (16).

Very rare first and only edition of an early important collection of 201 medical case-studies, or observationes, by the physician and botanist Paul de Reneaulme (1560-1624), a native of Blois, who is best remembered for his finely illustrated work on plants, the Specimen historiae plantarum (1611). The present work, notable for its bold position on pharmaceutical practice, is of a more controversial nature for its assertion of the physician’s prerogative to invent and prepare his own drugs against the prevailing hegemony of apothecaries. Sometimes known as the scourge of apothecaries, “Reneaulme published a book [the present title] in which he advanced these opinions and recorded the cures which he had effected by his unorthodox practice in Blois. In February of 1607 the [Paris medical] faculty rounded on him. It denounced him as a most ‘impudent man,’ and required him to swear that he would never use the remedies set out in his printed book but would follow the rules of Hippocrates and Galen and the forms publicly approved by the faculty” (H. Trevor-Roper, p. 113). Intriguingly, the present volume, whose typographical errors are heavily corrected in a precise contemporary hand, carries an inscription stating that it was the gift “of the author’s son,” and so perhaps should be connected with Reneaulme himself, as he “is described as the best Greek scholar of his time after Casaubon” (H. Trevor-Roper, p. 113).

In the Ex curationibus observationes – a heterodox work at the intersection of the Galenic and Hippocratic models, with an emphasis on the practical medicinal ideas of Paracelsus – Reneaulme discusses a wide variety of ailments (fevers, venereal disease, pulmonary complaints, rabies, plague, toothache) that he encountered in male and female patients of all ages and social classes (many of whom are named, including members of the region’s most prominent families as well as members of his immediate family: wife, son, etc.) and the rather unorthodox (largely botanical) medicines he prepared and prescribed, including apparently the first internal use of hemlock (see M. A. Dupré, pp. 473-5) and other substances then generally considered poisonous.

His work ranks among the first two dozen published examples of the observationes genre (collections of medical histories) in medical writing, a form which reported “empirical knowledge with no justification in doctrine, only in practice,” and which soon was taken as “a template for scientific communication” in other fields (G. Pomata, pp. 205, 215, 232-33). Originating in the second half of the sixteenth century, and developing rapidly over the course of the seventeenth, it “had become a primary form of medical writing by the eighteenth century. The genre developed initially as a form of self-advertisement by court and town physicians, who stressed success in practice, over and above academic learning, as a core element of their professional identity. This unprecedented emphasis on practice as a source of knowledge remained a key feature of the observationes in its subsequent development. As the genre evolved, the original emphasis on therapeutic success gave way to a new focus on the descriptive knowledge of disease through detailed observation. The authorial identity projected by the writers of observationes was increasingly that of the learned and experienced observer, bent on comparing notes and sharing his cases with the fellow members of the res publica medica” (Pomata, p. 193).

The present volume carries inside its lower cover an inscription dated 1712 which records that the book was the gift of the author’s son (“Donum filii auctoris 1712”). It is unclear if the date here refers simply to the year that the inscription was written or to the year that the book was gifted. Paul de Reneaulme’s only son, Michel (1600-47), as well as his only grandson (also named ‘Michel’ [d. 1678]), were dead by 1712.  However, the inscription may refer to or have been written by Michel-Louis Reneaulme de la Garenne (b. 1675-1739), a great-grandson of Paul, who was a member of the Faculté de médecine de Paris from 1698. Considering Paul de Reneaulme’s renown as a Greek scholar, it is intriguing that the volume’s (many) typographical errors in both Latin and Greek passages have been meticulously corrected, perhaps suggesting that the book once belonged to the author himself. It also should be noted that among these annotations is a correction to the spelling of the name of the author’s son, “Michael” (p. 31).

The Ex curationibus observationes is rare, with OCLC and KVK locating only 2 North American copies, one of which is incomplete: National Library of Medicine (incomplete) and University of Toronto.


* NLM 2403033R; H. Trevor-Roper, Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne; G. Pomata, “Sharing Cases: The Observationes in Early Modern Medicine,” Early Science and Medicine, vol. 15, no. 3 (2010), pp. 193-236; M. A. Dupré, “Essais biopgraphiques sur quelques médecins blésois,” Mémoires de la Société des Sciences et des Lettres de la ville de Blois, vol. 5, pp. 469-83; D. Kahn, Alchimie et Paracelsisme en France à la fin de la Renaissance (1567-1625); “Reneaulme, Paul,” Biographie universelle ancienne et modern, vol. 37 (1824), pp. 348-52; N. F. J. Eloy, Dictionnaire historique de la médecine ancienne et moderne, vol. 4, p. 53-4; S. Kinser, The Works of Jacques-Auguste de Thou.


Price: $2,450.00

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