Author: agostino2013

Early printed books at Johns Hopkins: a time traveller’s capsule?

Johns Hopkins university, Baltimore, Maryland. Prematurely summery weather and vegetation, mellow green grass and thousands of birds, far, far away from the timid London Spring. As I finished my talk on Galen and popular medicine last Tuesday, my hosts at the History of Medicine institute rewarded me with fresh food and drink (well deserved); then it was time for a visit to their special collections in the history of medicine. A batch of carefully lined-up volumes lay on the large table for me to browse and examine. Christine, the curator, was welcoming and chatty about some of them: the bizarre...

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The real stuff: Galen and the Middle East

What did a Greek doctor like Galen know about ancient Arabia, and how did this affect his practice? While the debt of Islamic physicians to Galen is often put forward, representations of the East in his works are scarcely investigated. Yet in his lifelong quest for “the real stuff” of drugs in a world where fraud was rife, Galen used a remarkable range of Eastern substances, some fairly rare and used only as medication. The history of pre-Islamic Arabia and the surrounding countries is best known through ancient Greek and Latin sources. Texts by the likes of Pliny the Elder,...

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