Guillaume Rondelet - De ponderibus sive de iusta quantitate & proportione medicamentorum, liber - 1560
Octavo (16 x 10 cm): , 168, 26, 5 pages (including errata). An excellent copy, complete, with minimal scattered browning. A portrait of the author appears on the verso of the title page. 'De ponderibus' ends with a four-page letter by Joubert. A very faint library stamp appears on the title page.
FIRST edition. A second issue was published by Plantin in 1561; later impressions appeared in 1563 and 1564, and a 'second edition' was printed as late as 1621.
The first edition of this important book is exceptionally rare. The 550 year old book has fresh endpapers and has been professionally restored. (See photos for condition).
Rondelet (1507-66) was Regius professor at the university of Montpellier and from 1543 to 1556 personal physician to Cardinal François de Tournon (a high-ranking French archbishop, diplomat, courtier, and cardinal). In 1556, he was elected head of the medical faculty at Montpellier and, at his initiative, the university set up its first anatomy theatre.
Rondelet established an enormous European-wide network of disciples and correspondents. He was a close friend of François Rabelais (1483-1553), whose fictional character Rondibilis in Patangruel (1546) is said to be based on Rondelet. Among his many distinguished students (at a time when Montpellier could claim to be Europe’s top medical teaching centre) were Rabelais himself, Leonard Fuchs (1501-1566), Jacques Dalechamps (1513-1588), Conrad Gesner (1516-1565), Pierre Belon (1517-1560), Charles de L’Eluse (1526-1609), Mathias De Lobel/L’Obel (1538-1616), Leonard Rauwolf (1535-1596), Felix Platter (1536-1614), Jean Bauhin (1541-1612), and Gaspard Bauhin (1560-1624). To which one can add another of his claims to fame: he expelled the charlatan Nostradamus from the university for slandering physicians!
'De ponderibus' deals with the mundane but critical problem of establishing 'de iusta quantitate et proportione' (the right quantity and proportion) of the different types of drugs to be used. Rondelet considered the work important enough to merit publication and it is certainly a well-organised and well-written manual. It also addresses which factors must be taken into consideration in preparing and dispensing medication. It is worth noting that Rondelet’s comments on pharmacology and medical botany are well informed: he gave the first ever lessons in France on botany (from 1550) and made sure that medical students were aware of the need to be familiar with medicinal herbs (he also established the first herb garden within the university).
Rondelet first describes the difficulties of the task of preparing the proper medicines, the reasons that can influence the effectiveness of the remedies depending on the quantity administered, the physical situation of the patient and a variety of external factors. He also enquires about how the physician should decide to reduce or increase doses, and then describes several remedies. For each, he suggests how to calculate the correct dose to obtain the desired result. One of the reasons why bloodletting was so popular is that it was almost harmless, whereas the administration of drugs was fraught with difficulty. What to give, to whom, why and when? These are the questions addressed in this interesting book.
The work ends with a 26-page index with about 35 entries per page, listing both herbs and medicines.