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[tmr-l@wmich.edu: TMR 04.09.07 Guardo (ed), Los pronosticos medicos (Dangler)]

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  • Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise
    A review of a book in Spanish that might be useful to someone, if they can read it... Guardo, Alberto Alfonso, ed. Los pronosticos medicos en la medicina
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 25, 2005
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      A review of a book in Spanish that might be useful to someone, if they
      can read it...


      Guardo, Alberto Alfonso, ed. <i>Los pronosticos medicos en la medicina
      medieval: el Tractatus de crisi et de diebus creticis de Bernardo de
      Gordonio</i>. Pp. 514. (pb). ISBN: 84-8448-233-2.

      Reviewed by Jean Dangler
      Tulane University
      jdangler@...

      Medieval Iberian healing is one of the richest areas of investigation
      in medieval studies, due in part to the numerous medical treatises
      composed on the peninsula, as well as to the far-reaching effects of
      medicine and healing in, for instance, the legal realm, the domestic
      sphere, and economics. Medieval medicine and healing have become
      increasingly popular topics during the last ten to fifteen years, as
      evidenced by the numerous articles and books on subjects as diverse as
      the Black Death, women's cosmetics, and Muslim and Jewish contributions
      to peninsular medical practice, by scholars such as Jon Arrizabalaga,
      Montserrat Cabre i Pairet, Luis Garcia Ballester, and Michael McVaugh.
      In addition, researchers including Maria Teresa Herrera of the
      University of Salamanca and Enrique Montero Cartelle of the University
      of Valladolid have coordinated and composed a vast array of editions of
      medieval medical treatises. Also, numerous editions of treatises in
      Arabic, along with their translation into Castilian have been produced
      under the auspices of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
      Cientificas (CSIC). These medical treatises are available to modern
      scholars in three formats: transcriptions on microfiche or CD-ROM,
      Castilian translations, and at times English translations. Such
      formats make these works increasingly accessible to researchers without
      a specialty in Arabic, Latin, or Iberian studies.

      Alberto Alonso Guardo's edition of Bernard of Gordon's late
      thirteenth-century Latin treatise on prognosis, <i>Tractatus de crisi
      et diebus creticis</i>, is a fine addition to this expanding corpus of
      medical works. The edition consists of the Latin treatise, as well as
      Alonso Guardo's translation into Castilian, which he hopes will make it
      more available to a broad audience of historians of medicine,
      historians of science, and other medievalists (9). Alonso Guardo
      divides the edition into six main sections: 1. "El autor y su entorno
      cultural" [The Author and His Cultural Milieu]; 2. "El <i>Tractatus de
      crisi et de diebus creticis</i>: una obra cientifico-didactica" [The
      <i>Tractatus de crisi et de diebus creticis</i>: A Scientific-Didactic
      Work]; 3. "Tradicion textual" [Textual Tradition]; 4. "Edicion critica,
      traduccion y notas" [Critical Edition, Translation, and Notes]; 5.
      "Glosario e indices" [Glossary and Indexes]; and, 6. "Bibliografia"
      [Bibliography].

      The critical edition is well organized, with one minor flaw. Since
      Iberomedievalists in general are not apt to be familiar with the <i>De
      crisi</i> (they probably know Gordon's wide-ranging treatise on health
      called the <i>Lilium medicinae</i> [Lilio de medicina]), I wish that
      Alonso Guardo had included early on a brief narrative about what the
      treatise entails. Waiting until page 32 of the second section for a
      general overview made it somewhat difficult to contextualize Alonso
      Guardo's introduction in section one. I would have liked to have known,
      for instance, that the aim of the <i>De crisi</i> was to teach
      physicians how to make correct prognoses of bodily illness.
      Additionally, it would have been useful to know the division of the
      treatise in five parts: 1. prognosis according to different diseases;
      2. prognosis according to the seasons of the year, customs, age,
      region, winds, and complexion; 3. prognosis according to paroxysms (a
      severe attack or an increase in violence of a disease); 4. prognosis
      according to symptoms; and, 5. definition and types of crisis, as well
      as critical days. Alonso Guardo could have briefly presented a
      definition of critical days earlier in the edition, especially since he
      avers that the concept is crucial to understanding prognosis in the
      medieval world, which he ably explains in the second section (51-56).
      He defines critical days as those that generate a crisis of the disease
      with a positive result, such as days 4, 7, 11, and 14 of an illness
      (51).

      Aside from this small structural lack, Alonso Guardo's initial studies
      and analyses are excellent. The first section on Bernard of Gordon
      provides a good introduction to his work in medicine at the medical
      faculty of the University of Montpellier from the end of the thirteenth
      century to the beginning of the fourteenth. It also clarifies the
      author's origins as likely from a French town, and not an English
      village (20). Alonso Guardo emphasizes the practical quality of
      Gordon's early treatises, which include the <i>De crisi</i> (21-23),
      but illuminates the notable differences between Gordon's early and
      later works, such as the tendency of the latter to be long,
      speculative, and poorly organized (27-28).

      The second section examines the treatise itself, which was completed on
      January 25, 1295. Alonso Guardo details why the treatise would have
      been important to medieval medical students and physicians, citing
      Gordon's four reasons from the prologue of the <i>De crisi</i>. Aside
      from protecting a patient from future risks, a correct prognosis
      secured the patient's confidence in the physician, caused the doctor to
      build his reputation, and allowed him to apply the necessary
      treatments. Alonso Guardo further points out that the medical professor
      who taught ably the way to arrive at correct prognoses increased his
      own fame and attracted new students (33). Alonso Guardo rightly gives
      the reader a brief description of the medieval concept of disease
      (34-36), and lists the various ways that physicians made prognoses
      (36-37). His description and explanation of the contents of the
      treatise are admirable, and indeed serve to illuminate certain aspects
      that might otherwise appear odd to the modern reader, such as the fact
      that Gordon devotes the majority of the first part of his treatise to
      prognosis and fevers. Alonso Guardo explains the fixation on fevers
      with the importance of heat in medieval medical theories of the body;
      innate heat was charged with maintaining corporeal functions (41).
      Indeed, this point cannot be overstated, since scholars such as
      Katharine Park have suggested that in the Middle Ages heat constituted
      the main element that differentiated human bodies from one another;
      hence the physician's interest in fevers and corporeal imbalance.

      Alonso Guardo explains that the <i>De crisi</i> derived from works on
      the same topic by Hippocrates and Galen, which were part of the
      curriculum at Montpellier (56-59). The last part of this second section
      is devoted to an analysis of Gordon's didactic style, and of linguistic
      concerns (59-72).

      The third section on the textual tradition discusses manuscripts and
      editions. Alonso Guardo provides a useful list of the manuscripts he
      used in composing his critical edition, those he consulted, and those
      he did not use at all, totaling fifty-nine in all. He also describes
      the ten printed Latin editions of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and
      seventeenth centuries, and declares that the <i>De crisi</i> was
      translated into various languages, including Castilian (75-94).
      Medical scholars and philologists alike will find Alonso Guardo's
      discussion provocative of the division between two "families" of
      manuscripts and their variants. A noteworthy observation involves the
      concentration of variants in the second part of the manuscript (on
      prognoses according to seasons of the year, habits or customs, age,
      regions, winds, and complexion), which Alonso Guardo attributes to the
      non-technical character of natural philosophy. He believes that the
      second section of the <i>De crisi</i> was more susceptible to change
      because scribes who were untrained in medicine nevertheless were
      empowered to correct and amend material related to natural philosophy
      (95-96). While the explanation is intriguing, I wonder how it holds up
      in the face of the occasional overlap in the Middle Ages of medicine
      and natural philosophy. Alonso Guardo ends the third section with notes
      on the criteria used in creating the critical edition.

      The fourth part of the book contains the treatise and its parallel
      translation. Alonso Guardo provides many Latin variants at the bottom
      of each page, and useful notes regarding sources and other concerns
      related to the Castilian translation. The book's fifth section consists
      of the helpful glossary on medication and medicinal substances, such as
      resins, plants, and breads, and of the word index for access to
      specific lexicon in the treatise. The bibliography constitutes the
      book's sixth and final part.

      This critical edition is a fine contribution to the burgeoning field of
      medieval Iberian medicine and healing. Alsonso Guardo demonstrates
      that Bernard of Gordon's <i>De crisi</i> is fundamental to
      understanding medieval medical practice, and that it demands future
      scholarly attention. Gordon's work illustrates the complex ways in
      which disease, prognosis, and the body were formulated in the medieval
      period. His attention to the various factors associated with prognosis,
      that is, fevers, the non-naturals (forces that affected the body and
      caused corporeal imbalance, such as customs, habits, and geographical
      placement), paroxysms, symptoms, and critical days shows the breadth of
      medieval medicine's scope, and the range of knowledge that a late
      medieval physician was expected to possess.

      ----- End forwarded message -----

      --
      -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne@...
      "Information wants to be a Socialist... not a Communist or a
      Republican." - Karen Schneider
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