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The Tacuinum Sanitatis
A fascinating Venetian health book
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. Vindob. 2396, Vienna, around 1490

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXXVIII

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The Codex Vindobonensis 2396 is categorised as a Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscript, a book on health arranged in tabular form. This book form goes back to the so-called Taqwin As-Sihha, a medicinal work written by the Arab physician Ibn Bôtlan who lived and worked in the mid-11th century in Baghdad. The Arabic original version was later translated into Latin, probably on the request of King Manfred of Sicily (r. 1258–1266).

294 stunning miniatures

Our Tacuinum Sanitatis is the most extensive and neatly arranged collection of recipes for domestic use. Each of its 82 pages displays 4 miniatures which accompany and illustrate the text. In addition to some highly interesting methods of curing that are still in use today, the reader will also find extremely amusing passages of text.
Based on the classical wisdom of Plato and Aristotle, the matter was thought to consist of four elements, the equivalent of the states of aggregation we talk about in physics today. These four elements were assigned different qualities: earth, water, air and fire. This theory evolved into the theory of the four humours according to which an illness was assumed to be the result of a disturbance in the fluids of the body, and the curing methods aimed at re-establishing the humoral balance in order to restore health.

As up-to-date as ever

The modern reader will encounter means and methods for leading a healthy life that are still in use today and whose origins in the writings of the old ”meysters” have long been forgotten.

   
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