The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages : a Critical Edition of the Latin Text with English Translation and Commentary

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University of Toronto Press, 2012 - Health & Fitness - 445 pages
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The Alphabet of Galen is a critical edition and English translation of a text describing, in alphabetical order, nearly three hundred natural products - including metals, aromatics, animal materials, and herbs - and their medicinal uses. A Latin translation of earlier Greek writings on pharmacy that have not survived, it circulated among collections of 'authorities' on medicine, including Hippocrates, Galen of Pergamun, Soranus, and Ps. Apuleius.

This work presents interesting linguistic features, including otherwise unattested Greek and Latin technical terms and unique pharmacological descriptions. Nicholas Everett provides a window onto the medieval translation of ancient science and medieval conceptions of pharmacy. With a comprehensive scholarly apparatus and a contextual introduction, The Alphabet of Galen is a major resource for understanding the richness and diversity of medical history.


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Massively useful, and especially on Google Books. I came to it, following a mysterious reference to "Galen" "de simplicibus medicaminibus" - and behold, I found everything I needed to know. I am very grateful.

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Fascinating read! The Latin text and introductory may be for more specialist audiences, but the individual entries on different plants/drugs can be read on their own, much as a doctor would have done in the Middle Ages. You can look up your favorite herbs and read very sensible things about them, amazingly similar to what you find in a modern herbal today. None of the usual medieval wackiness here: this is ancient science at its best. This text only survived because people thought it was Galen, but it dates before him. This book is a steal at $40! 

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About the author (2012)

Nicholas Everett is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

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