Padua: Apud Laurentium Pasquatum, 1597.
Quarto: 20.2 x 14.6 cm. (viii), 48, (1) lvs. Collation: †4, **4, A-M4, chi1 (errata).
Bound in 20th c. drab boards (wear at corners, light surface wear.) A fine copy, with two different printer’s devices (on the title and last leaf), and two woodcut tailpieces. With a final errata leaf not recorded in other copies. Provenance: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (ink stamp on title.).
A presentation copy from the author to an unnamed recipient, inscribed and dated at the foot of the title in the year and place of publication: “Donum Authoris VII Novemb. Ao. IIIC Patavii”.
Second edition (first, 1593, under a slightly different title) of the principal treatise on venereal disease of Ercole Sassonia (1551–1607), a Paduan by birth and professor of medicine at the university of Venice and later of Padua. Sassonia’s views on the origins, nature, and treatment of syphilis are strongly influenced by the work of Gabriele Falloppio (1523-1562). The book was edited by the Paduan physician Andrighetto Andrighetti (1573-1631).
The treatise is of particular interest for its author’s focus on the public health and the social dimension of venereal disease and its transmission.
In his discussion of syphilis, which Sassonia believed to have been brought to Europe from the Americas with returning Spaniards, the author emphasized preventative measures, particularly for men who had intercourse with prostitutes. This led critics to complain that Sassonia’s promotion of prophylactic medicines gave people false confidence and thereby only endangered people and encouraged vice.
Sassonia describes various methods of the transmission of venereal disease, including transmission between newborns and wet nurses. He also claims to have successfully cured a Venetian prostitute (Nicoleta) of syphilis, allowing her to go back to work to support herself. Of the more dubious remedies, Sassonia mentions the racist belief, rumored to be effective, that having sex with an African woman will cure a man of the disease.
In his discussion of treatments, Sassonia describes guaiacum, a substance derived from the bark of the guaiacum tree, native to the Americas. The substance was imported to Europe by the Spanish. Sassonia also describes a second New World remedy, “salsa Parilla”(sarsaparilla), and “China rhizomes”(China radix), a purported cure imported from China.
In addition to syphilis, Sassonia discusses plague and gonorrhea.
“In Italy, Gabriele Falloppio's method of safeguarding against syphilis entered the mainstream of writing about the disease. Thus, Ercole Sassonia (1551-1607) reports Falloppio's ideas at length and develops them even further (chapter 16: De praeservatione), although he shows a measure of skepticism in his warning that anyone living promiscuously may not escape the disease for long (fol. 10). Also, in Sassonia there is no question that the elaborate passage instructing the reader about what lotions to use for cleansing and how to prepare the cloth that will enclose the male member after intercourse is intended for frequenters of prostitutes. Indeed the ‘index rerum et verborum’ summarizes the subject as ‘Remedies for those who use a prostitute, so that they may not be so easily infected by the disease.’ Sassonia's skepticism may be fueled also by his recognition that ‘lues venerea’, which -as infectious disease… can be transmitted by sharing cups and meals… Any attempt at an inclusive moral interpretation of the disease is checked by his knowledge that innocent people (he specifically mentions midwives [fol. 2]) can be infected.”(Schleiner, Medical Ethics in the Renaissance)
See also Winfried Schleiner, “Infection and Cure through Women: Renaissance Constructions of Syphilis.” JMRS 24 (1994): 499–517.
Adams S-535, Wellcome I, 5798