Libro de maschancia. Manuscript on paper. Italy, 1st quarter of the 16th century

Autore: RUFFO, Giordano (ca. 1200-1256)


Dati tipografici:


212x140 mm. The volume is divided into two parts and has overall 179 leaves only partially numbered in the top right corner as follows: [24], 71; [4], 76, [4]. Collation: v + I14(+1) II-V16 VI14(-3); VII12(-1) VIII-XII10 XIII12 XIV8 + iii. Quire I has an additional bifolium inserted between ll. I13 and I14, the first of whose leaves is a stub. The last three leaves of quire VI and leaf VII9 are also stubs. Quire XIV is inserted between ll. XIII11 and XIII12. Complete. No catchwords, but the quires are numbered in the lower left corner. The watermark, uniform throughout the volume, shows two crossed arrows (close to Briquet 6280: Florence, 1506-10), while the watermark on the front and back flyleaves is a hand (or glove) with a flower (close to Briquet 11159: Genua or Piedmont, end of 15th - beginning of 16th century). Written in a single neat hand in brown ink with additions by different hands on the front and back flyleaves. Calligraphic and penwork initials. Large drawing of a horse pasted at the bottom of l. VI11v at the end of part 1. Text block: 155 x 103 mm, one column, 23 lines. Ruled throughout in pencil. On the front pastedown there is the pressmark “2.N.3.” Contemporary blind-stamped calf, spine with three raised bands, compartments decorated with geometrical patterns, paper label with ink title pasted along the spine, panels with a large geometrical border within concentric frames and at the center two larger arabesque ornaments and five smaller phytomorphic decorations, inked title on bottom edge (traces of ties, spine, joints and back panel slightly rubbed and worn). Stain to the lower outer corner in the first half of the volume, some scattered marginal foxing, first leaves slightly soiled, but all in all very genuine and well preserved in its original binding.


-the front endleaves contains riddles and remedies in Latin and Italian to cure the horse;

-Incipit of part 1 (l. I1r): “Libro de maschancia. Sopre attucti li altri animali che mai fureno dallo sumo fatore delle chose per luso deluso della umana generacione per lui subietta e nulo animal se trova piu nobile chel cavallo […]”;

-part 1 is divided into six books dealing with the birth, taming, training, beauty of the body, accidental diseases and relative cures of the horse (the last two books form as a matter of fact one single book, by far the longest one of part 1, comprising 67 chapters);

-Explicit of part 1 (l. VI11v): “ […] e quando sera frido dicto unguento ongierai li piedi de cavallo che aveva tristi piedi doi volte lodi lo voi ongniere che li fara fare boni piedi. Finis”;

-Incipit of part 2 (l. VII1r); “Libro sequondo de meschencia. Questo presente volume si tratta delle malatie che vengano al cavallo naturalmente […]”;

-Part 2 is divided into 159 chapters and deals with the natural diseases of the horse and their remedies, repeating some of the issues treated at the end of part 1;

-Explicit of part 2 (l. XIV8r): “E tutte queste cose siano bene anchor porate insiemi [sic] e fatta unguento de bono e optimo. Finis el presente volume laus Deo semper”;

-the back endleaves contains riddles and remedies in Latin and Italian to cure the horse and preserve its health.

AN EARLY SIXTEENTH-CENTURY EXTREMELY GENUINE MANUSCRIPT, in Italian vernacular, of the first treatise of medieval veterinary medicine, the De medicina equorum.

The Calabria nobleman Giordano Ruffo composed the De medicina equorum at the court of Emperor Frederick II between 1250 (the year of death of the emperor) and 1256 (the year of death of the author). The text, originally written in Latin, was translated and reworked in various other languages; moreover, it can be considered as a sort of ancestor, not always explicitly mentioned, for other works on the same subject by different authors, and its influence lasted well into the seventeenth century. The fortune of the De medicina equorum, a real bestseller of the late middle ages and early modern time, is testified by the number of surviving manuscripts (173) and early printed editions (16) in 8 different languages: Latin, Italian, French, Occitan, Catalan, Galician, Hebrew, and German.

The De medicina equorum is presented by Ruffo as the result of his personal experience with the horses at the court of Frederick II, as well as of the advices and suggestions given, as the author informs us, by the emperor himself, to whose ‘sacred memory' the work is dedicated.

The De medicina equorum comprises six sections, whose order has been respected in the present manuscript: “primo de creatione et nativitate equi; secundo de captione et domatione ipsius; tertio de custodia et doctrina; quarto de cognitione pulcritudinis corporis, membrorum et factionum illius; quinto de infirmitatibus ejusdem tam naturalibus quam accidentalibus; sexto de medicinis ac remediis contra infirmitates praedictas valentibus”.

The original Latin version distinguishes itself for the absence of magical remedies and superstitious practices, which are instead significantly present in the vernacular tradition. These later popular additions (well represented also in the present manuscript) characterize Ruffo's text as a work open to receiving the successive cultural experiences of translators and epitomists, and reflect the penetration of the treatise into different social environments and the increasing use of the horse by the lower classes not for military use but mostly for daily practical activities.

The recorded surviving manuscripts of the De medicina equorum are 173, of which 57 are in Latin, 94 in one of the Italian main dialects, 8 in French, 1 in Occitan, 2 in Catalan, 1 in Galician, 1 in Hebrew, 6 in German, and 3 in two languages (1 Latin-French and 2 Latin-Italian). Of the 94 manuscripts bearing a version of the text in one of the Italian vernaculars, only 2 survives from the 13th century, the rest is distributed as follows: 14th century 20, 15th century 54, 16th century 12, 17th century 6.

Despite the complications caused by the extremely high number and variety of surviving manuscripts and by the lack of a critical edition of the Latin text, the analysis of the manuscript tradition has made it possible to identify most of structural and textual variants that characterize the multiple versions of the treatise. The position and possible internal subdivision into chapters of its six sections, especially of sections 5 and 6, can vary greatly from manuscript to manuscript. In the present copy, for example, there is no trace at the beginning of the dedication to Frederick II. Also, the division into two main parts and the subdivision of the last part into many short chapters seems quite peculiar. It is possible, and this should be subject to further investigation, that the second part represents a separate work yet to be identified.

Cf. A. Montinaro, La tradizione del ‘De medicina equorum' di Giordano Ruffo. Con un censimento dei testimoni manoscritti e a stampa, Milan, 2015.

The book cannot be exported as it has been declared of national interest.