Aulus Cornelius Celsus (1st century AD)
De Medicina. Florence: Nicolaus [Laurentii], 1478.
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Title page(s)


Celsus De medicina, Florence 1478.

“The editio princeps of Celsus was printed in roman type in Florence, just a quarter of a century after the appearance of the first printed books, in what was then a style of type less than a decade old. The type of the 1478 Celsus is easily legible more than 500 years after the sheets left the press for all that, in some aspects of its design and execution, it shows both the youth of its type design and the execution of its printing by a printer who – though manifestly entirely competent – was not, perhaps, among the very best practitioners of his age (Donaldson 2014a).

The printer was Nicolaus Laurentii who often has Almanus after his name and, indeed, in Italian he was known as Nicolò Tedesco (or Todesco or Todescho) – ‘Nicolò the German’. It seems that he was one of those craftsmen trained in Germany who moved to Italy in the wake of his countrymen who had brought the new craft of printing south across the Alps in the early 1460s (Donaldson 2014b).

The text shows some features typical of its time but which may be unfamiliar to the modern reader. Examples of these have been marked in red. See ‘Other material’ below.

Greek words are transliterated into the Roman alphabet. The first complete type-face to print Greek characters was cut only a couple of years before this edition of Celsus was printed so it is not surprising that the printer did not have a Greek face and so had to transliterate Greek words into roman characters.

The text is not divided into paragraphs and it uses the virgula / where a comma would now be expected. Colons are used to divide phrases but this text, unlike some other contemporary editions, does use periods (full stops) to end sentences.

As is practically universal during the first century and more of printing, some words are abbreviated but, in this edition, abbreviations are quite sparingly used. A few are indicated on the marked page.

The pages of this, the first printed edition of De medicina, are not numbered and so they must be referred to by signature. The first key passage is on sig. a3 r, the second on sig. a2 r and the third on sig. a2 v. The content of these pages is now placed in the Prooemium (Preface) but, in the 1478 edition, was treated simply as the first part of Book I (Liber Primus).”

Donaldson, IML (2014a) Celsus: De medicina, Florence 1478. Part 1 J R Coll Physicians Edinb 44: 252–4.
Donaldson, IML (2014b) Celsus: De medicina, Florence 1478. Part 2 J R Coll Physicians Edinb 44: 344–6.

Key passage(s)

sig. a3 r


Translation, Key passage 1


sig. a2 r


Translation, Key passage 2


sig. a2 v


Translation, Key passage 3


Translations by:

Celsus, Aulus Cornelius and Spencer, W.G. (1935). De medicina Celsus; with an English translation by W.G. Spencer; London; Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Donaldson, IML (2016) Some thoughts on the translation of passages from Celsus. James Lind Library

Other material(s)