Opera Omnia Medico-Chemico-Chirurgica, tribus voluminibus comprehensa. Editio novissima et emendatissima ad Germanica & Latina exemplaria accuratissime collata.

Geneva: Sumptibus Joan. Antonii, & Samuelis De Tournes. 1658.

First Tournes edition, “the best and most complete edition of Paracelsus’ collected works” (Neville), complete with the often-missing portrait after Tintoretto. “According to Sudhoff, bibliographer of Paracelsus’ works, this compendium of the works of Paracelsus, edited by Friedrich Bitiskius, is the most complete of the Latin collected editions. It contains virtually all of Paracelsus’ medical and philosophical writings, as well as Tintoretto’s beautiful portrait of Paracelsus, which is often missing” (Heirs of Hippocrates). “It is difficult to overrate the effect of Paracelsus’ achievement on the development of medicine and chemistry” (DSB X: 311). Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who wrote under the pen name Paracelsus, was a Renaissance pioneer of medicine, as well as an astronomer and alchemist. A native of Switzerland, he was educated in Basel, Vienna, and Ferrara, and traveled extensively throughout Europe during his life as an itinerant physician. He is credited with establishing the role of chemistry in medicine, and is sometimes referred to as the "father of toxicology." He recorded the first clinical descriptions of syphilis and epilepsy, and advocated the humane treatment of the mentally ill in an era when they were believed to be possessed by demons. His controversial views alienated both publishers and other physicians, and many of the ideas he proposed were not accepted as medical orthodoxy until hundreds of years after his death. For the most part Paracelsus dictated his works, in many cases bequeathing the manuscript to friends with the request to have it printed. His name, being well known, was often misappropriated, so that later it became necessary to distinguish between authentic and unauthentic writings. The former are characterized by a simple, direct, intelligible style. The first volume of this work contains the medical writings, including pathology, occult healing arts, magnetism, etc.; the second volume has the chemical and philosophical writings, including alchemy, astrology, Kabbalistic, magic etc.; and the final volume contains his works on anatomy and surgery.

“Philippus Aureolus Theophratus Bobastus von Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsus, remains one of the most controversial and remarkable personalities of the Renaissance. He has been described as a quack, a magician, and astrologer, and alchemist, as well as a brilliant physician, prophet, and genius. Sir William Osler called him the ‘Luther of medicine,’ and Fielding Garrison lauded him as ‘the most original thinker of the sixteenth century.’ He was perhaps all of these …

“His introduction of a new concept of disease, based on the idea that each disease is due to a specific external cause, [was] to replace the ancient notion of disease as an internal idiosyncratic imbalance of humors. Paracelsus’s new idea of disease led him to new modes of therapy, using specific agents (often chemically derived) to battle against specific diseases. His followers founded the school of iatrochemistry, which flourished in Europe over the next century. Paracelsus made ether-like preparations that he used as sedatives and narcotics, and he introduced laudanum (tincture of opium) into the pharmacopeia. He advocated the use of minerals as therapeutic agents, including mercury, lead, copper sulfate, and antinomy. As a clinician, he was the first to describe congenital syphilis. He also gave the first description of cretinism, which he linked with goiter, and this in turn he connected to the mineral content of water. He studied the disease of minders and metallurgists and wrote the first monograph on an occupational disease. Forty years before Johann Weyer, he described the clinical manifestations of epilepsy, mania, and hysteria in a manner that was not improved on until Philippe Pinel and Jean-Étienne-Dominique Esquirol in the nineteenth century. In an age when the mentally ill were viewed as possessed by the devil and burned at the stake, he advocated humane treatment …

“As a surgeon, he treated wounds successfully using conservative methods, in contrast to the common practice of cauterization with boiling oil. He was the first to agree with the fourteenth-century French surgeon Henri de Mondeville that wounds must be kept clean, and Garrison described him as ‘almost the only asepsist between Mondeville and Lister.’

“Paracelsus was a voluminous writer …, but his controversial views and antagonistic personality alienated publishers, and only a few of his books appeared during his lifetime.” (Haskell F. Norman in One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine).

Paracelsus (1493-1541) was the only son of an impoverished German doctor and chemist. His mother died when he was very young, and shortly thereafter his father moved to Villach in southern Austria, where Paracelsus attended the Bergschule, founded by the wealthy Fugger family of merchant bankers of Augsburg, and where his father taught chemical theory and practice. The young Paracelsus learned of metals that “grow” in the earth, watched the transformations of metallic constituents in smelting vats, and perhaps wondered about the transmutation of lead into gold—a conversion believed to be possible by the alchemists of the time. In 1507 Paracelsus joined the many wandering youths who travelled throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages, seeking famous teachers at one university after another. Paracelsus is said to have attended the Universities of Basel, Tübingen, Vienna, Wittenberg, Leipzig, Heidelberg, and Cologne during the next five years but was disappointed with them all. “The universities do not teach all things,” he wrote, “so a doctor must seek out old wives, gipsies, sorcerers, wandering tribes, old robbers, and such outlaws and take lessons from them. A doctor must be a traveller … Knowledge is experience.” Paracelsus is said to have graduated from the University of Vienna with a baccalaureate in medicine in 1510. He then went to the University of Ferrara in Italy, where he was free to express his rejection of the prevailing view that the stars and the planets controlled all the parts of the human body. It is believed that he received a doctoral degree from the University of Ferrara in 1516, and he is presumed to have begun using the name “para-Celsus” (above or beyond Celsus, the renowned 1st-century Roman medical writer) at about this time. Soon after taking his degree, he set out upon many years of wandering through almost every country in Europe, including England, Ireland, and Scotland. He took part in the “Netherlandish wars” as an army surgeon. Later he went to Russia, was held captive by the Tatars, escaped into Lithuania, and went south into Hungary. In 1521 he again served as an army surgeon in Italy. His wanderings eventually took him to Egypt, Arabia, the Holy Land, and, finally, Constantinople. Everywhere he went, he sought out the most learned exponents of practical alchemy, not only to discover the most effective means of medical treatment but also—and even more important—to discover “the latent forces of Nature,” and how to use them. In 1524 Paracelsus returned to his home in Villach to find that his fame for many miraculous cures had preceded him. He was subsequently appointed town physician and lecturer in medicine at the University of Basel in Switzerland, and students from all parts of Europe went to the city to hear his lectures. Pinning a program of his forthcoming lectures to the notice board of the university on June 5, 1527, he invited not only students but anyone and everyone, recalling Luther’s posting of his ‘Theses’. Three weeks later, on June 24, 1527, in front of the university, Paracelsus reportedly burned the books of Avicenna, the Muslim “Prince of Physicians,” and those of Greek physician Galen, again recalling Luther, who in 1520 had burned a papal bull that threatened excommunication. Paracelsus seemingly remained a Catholic to his death; however, it is suspected that his books were placed on the Index. Paracelsus reached the peak of his career at Basel. In his lectures, he stressed the healing power of nature and denounced the use of methods of treating wounds, such as padding with moss or dried dung, that prevented natural draining. The wounds must drain, he insisted, for “if you prevent infection, Nature will heal the wound all by herself.” He also attacked many other medical malpractices of his time, including the use of worthless pills, salves, infusions, balsams, electuaries, fumigants, and drenches. However, by the spring of 1528 Paracelsus had fallen into disrepute with local doctors, apothecaries, and magistrates. He left Basel, heading first toward Colmar in Upper Alsace, about 50 miles north of the university. He stayed at various places with friends and continued to travel for the next eight years. During this time, he revised old manuscripts and wrote new treatises. With the publication of Der grossen Wundartzney in 1536 he restored, and even extended, the revered reputation he had earned at Basel. He became wealthy and was sought by royalty. In May 1538, at the zenith of that second period of renown, Paracelsus returned to Villach again to see his father, only to find that his father had died four years earlier. In 1541 Paracelsus himself died in mysterious circumstances at the White Horse Inn, Salzburg, where he had taken up an appointment under the prince-archbishop, Duke Ernst of Bavaria.

Dibner 124; Heirs of Hippocrates 215; Dorbon 3522 (“Edition de la plus insigne rareté”); Sotheran, Cat. 800 [1926] 11703 (“Rare”); Neville Historical Chemical Library 260; Bolton 718; Osler 528; Caillet 8283; Wellcome IV, 293; Ferguson II, 169.

3 vols. in 2, folio (354 x 212 mm), pp. [xxxvi], 828, [40]; [xxiv], 718, [34]; [xii], 212, [24]; [iv], 18 (the last volume being in two sections), titles in red and black with large vignettes, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces, woodcut text illustrations. Contemporary Dutch vellum, blind-stamped centre-pieces (some smudging to the spines and a few dark spots to the boards, probably blood, one hinge split but joints still strong). A fine and genuine copy, entirely unrestored.

Item #2753

Price: $16,000.00