MERCURIALE, Girolamo.. Artis gymnasticae apud antiquos celeberrimae, nostris temporibusignoratae, libri sex.

Venice, apud Iuntas., 1569

Quarto (218 x 156 mm.), [20], 120 leaves, one folding plate with the Gymnasium, woodcut printer's device on title and lsat page. A very good copy in contemporary limp vellum with ties.Very rare first edition of this famous treatise in six books on gymnastics in the ancient Classical world, “the first complete treatise on medical gymnastics” (Ongaro), which would later have met several reprintings added with many excellent wood-block illustrations of sports, mainly drawn by Pirro Ligorio. Girolamo Mercuriale (1530-1606) was a famous professor of Medicine, at Padua, Bologna and Pisa, and also a humanist and a philologist: thanks to his knowledge of Greek and Latin, he published acritical exegesis of many controversial passages of Greek and Latin medical literature (1571), realized the fifth Giunta edition of Galen's works (1576), made studies on the authenticity of the Hippocratic corpus (1583), and published the Greek text with Latin translation of many Hippocraticworks (1587). He was also author of several works of practical medicine but is nowadays mostly famous for this original treatise on ancient gymnastics, first printed in 1569 without illustrations.The De arte gymnastica (so the definitive title of the work, adopted starting from the second edition of 1573) is the result of almost seven years of studies and researches Mercuriale conducted in the museums and libraries of Rome, during his stay in the city under the patronage of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (to whom the work in dedicated). “It was the first complete text on gymnastics and stresses the importance that all forms of exercise have in maintaining good health. Relying heavily on ancient practices, this work is an excellent compendium of the physical therapy of earlier times. Mercuriale describes ancient gymnasia and baths and discusses mild exercises, such as dancing, as well as more strenuous pursuits such as wrestling and boxing. He also gives full consideration to the health benefits of proper exercise and concludes the book with a section of therapeutic exercises” (Heirs of Hippocrates, 354). In this work, “gymnastics is examined from a point of view which is, together, historical, truly medical, and, more generally, hygienical” (Ongaro). Mercuriale links ancient gymnastics to modern, so he could be considered forerunner of modern gymnastics; indeed, defending the importance of gymnastics as a therapy. it would not be wrong to say that Mercuriale marks the beginning of modern sports medicine.References: 100 Books Famous in Medicine, 1495; Brunet III, 1646; Durling 3087; Heirs of Hippocrates 354; Morton 1986.1; Osler 3387; Wellcome 4223; G. Ongaro, DBI 73 (2009).


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