On Medicine


Cornelius Aulus Celsius was a first-century Roman medical writer and the author of De medicina (On medicine), considered one of the most important medical treatises of late antiquity. The work’s encyclopedic arrangement follows the tripartite division of medicine at the time as established by Hippocrates and Asclepiades—diet, pharmacology, and surgery—and exhibits a level of medical knowledge remarkable for its time. This codex, from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, changed hands a number of times. It might have belonged first to the library of Francesco Sassetti (1412−90), a member of a wealthy family of Florentine merchants and agent of the Medici. It then became part of the library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–1490) and was one of the volumes that found its way back to Florence after Corvinus’s death, the conquest of Buda by the Turks in 1541, and the dispersal of his library. The Plutei Collection consists of the approximately 3,000 manuscripts and books from the private holdings of the Medici family, which, bound in red leather with the Medici coat of arms, were arranged on the benches of the Laurenziana when the library first opened to the public in 1571. Cosimo de’ Medici (1389−1464) is known to have owned 63 books in 1417−18, which grew to 150 by the time of his death. His sons Piero (1416−69) and Giovanni (1421−63) vied with each other in commissioning illuminated manuscripts. Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449−92), son of Piero, acquired a great number of Greek codices and, starting in the 1480s, ordered copies of all texts lacking in the library with the aim of transforming the Medici library into an important center of research. Following the expulsion of the Medici from Florence in 1494, the books were taken from the family. Giovanni de’ Medici, elected Pope Leo X in 1513, restored the collection to the Medici, and another Medici pope, Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici), organized the establishment of the Laurenziana.

Last updated: March 28, 2014