Mesuè il Giovane
Pseudo Mesuè

Si è fatta parecchia confusione tra due Mesuè:

Mesuè il Vecchio, il vero Mesuè, detto anche Giovanni da Damasco, Yuhanna  ibn Masawaih, medico arabo-siro (777-857) di origine cristiana poi convertito all’islamismo.

Mesuè il Giovane, medico cristiano giacobita morto al Cairo nel 1015. I giacobiti erano gli appartenenti alla Chiesa monofisita di Siria, costituita nel sec. VI da Jacob Baradeo, vescovo di Edessa. Si diffusero in diverse regioni dell'Oriente: nel 1442 si unirono alla Chiesa romana i giacobiti di Egitto e di Etiopia e nel 1444 quelli di Mesopotamia, mentre attualmente ne sopravvive un modesto numero in Siria e in Turchia.

Come si può agevolmente dedurre dal sito francese www.oldcook.com, Mesuè il Giovane altri non era che un medico italiano che aveva assunto il nome Mesuè, ma senza farlo sapere e generando così grande confusione. Un altro medico aveva assunto uno pseudonimo, non di propria volontà, e di cui tutti erano a conoscenza. Fu Brasavola Antonio (Ferrara 1500-1555): venne denominato Musa Antonio, da non confondere con l’omonimo Musa Antonio, illustre medico romano che guarì Augusto da una grave malattia reumatica ricevendone in compenso ricchezze e onori, e del cui cognome il nostro Brasavola fu paludato da Francesco I di Francia in quanto la sua opera di medico fu richiesta oltre che da lui, anche da Carlo V, da Enrico VIII d’Inghilterra e da tre Papi.

Insomma, Mesuè l'italiano era un gran furbacchione. Ecco due note esplicative personali nonché a proposito del suo Antidotarium.

Antidotarium Mesuae

Livre de médecine contenant de nombreuses recettes de confitures et confiseries, écrit en latin probablement entre le 11e et le 12e siècle. Son auteur est un médecin italien ayant pris (pour des raisons publicitaires?) le pseudonyme de Mesué, la transcription latine du nom d'un célèbre médecin arabe du 9e siècle: Yuhanna Masawaih Damasqui. C'et pourquoi on l'appelle Pseudo-Mesué.

Les plus anciens manuscrits de l'Antidotarium datent du 13e siècle. Ce livre de médecine a eu de l'influence dans toute l'Europe jusqu'au 18e siècle. Ses principales sources médicales sont d'origine arabe, en particulier: Avicenne (médecin perse du début du 10e siècle qui a écrit le Canon de la médecine), Rhazès (médecin perse du 9e siècle) et Abulcasis (médecin de Cordoue au 10e siècle).

Nous avons vu dans le sucre médicament les liens entre la médecine et la confiserie. Pseudo-Mesué en est un bon exemple. Liliane Plouvier estime "que Pseudo-Mesué peut, sans hésiter, être considéré comme le père de la confiserie moderne".

Ses recettes sont réparties dans 4 chapitres:

- De electariis delectabilis au chapitre I : recettes de confitures au sucre, appelées ensuite en ancien français électuaires (auparavant elles étaient faites avec du miel).

- De conditis au chapitre IV : recettes de fleurs, épices et fruits, confits (coing, pomme, poire, pêche, écorce de citron, gingembre, violette, rose).

- De speciebus loch au chapitre V : le loch est traduit de l'arabe la'uq et désigne des confiseries, héritage des grecs puis des arabes (nougats, massepains, variétés de bonbons de type berlingot et loukoums).

- De syrupis et robub au chapitre VI : recettes de sirops de pommes, de poires, de coings, de prunes, de menthe, de grenadine (médicaments et désaltérants) et recettes de robs (de l'arabe rubb : suc). Liliane Plouvier dit qu'il s'agit de jus de fruits acides concentrés donnant un sirop acidulé. Le rob andalou qui a donné arop en catalan peut être aussi du moût de raisin ou du jus de fruit cuit et concentré appelé en italien le saba ou sapa et en français le raisiné, dont l'ancêtre latin est le defrutum.


Ed ecco una recensione della traduzione dei Canones di Mesuè il Giovane grazie alle fatiche di Sieglinde Lieberknecht.

Sieglinde Lieberknecht, Die Canones des Pseudo-Mesue: Eine mittelalterliche Purgantien-Lehre, Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Pharmazie, Band 71, Stuttgart, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1995, pp. x, 278, DM 48.00 (3-8047-1382-3).

According to Galenic humoral doctrine, the balance of four body fluids, called humours - blood, bile, black bile and phlegm - is responsible for good health whereas excess of a particular humour, or corrupt humours, leads to disease. Corrupt humours which cannot be improved or an excess of a humour have to be eliminated from the body. Therefore purging, like bloodletting, was an important method of treatment in the tradition of Galen.

Die Canones des Pseudo-Mesue deals with a very influential medieval Latin text about purgatives, published under the name of Johannes Mesue of Damascus. While she could not trace the author of this work, Sieglinde Lieberknecht comes to the conclusion that the main writer may have been an Arabic author, probably not Mesue himself (Yuhanna ibn Masawaih, AD 777-859(?)). The text found its final form between AD 1260 and 1290, when a Latin-speaking scholar had it translated from Arabic. Then he extended and supplemented the translation, arranging the contents according to the Canon of Avicenna (Ibn Sina, AD 980-1037). Possibly even some of the text under examination was written in Latin with the help of Arabic sources.

The Canones themselves consist of two parts.

The first part, Canones universales or De consolatione medicinarum, translated into German by Sieglinde Lieberknecht, deals with the rules of treatment in general.

The second part, De simplicibus, is about the properties of various drugs.

In order to make comprehension of this very specialized text easier, Lieberknecht starts with a short description of the authors mentioned or quoted, shows parallels to the Canon of Avicenna and presents her research on the authorship of the Canones.

Then she proceeds to the fundamental theoretical concepts of this work, theories about natural philosophy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology, especially the effects of cathartics.

Two alphabetical lists of the drugs which are mentioned in the translated text show the difficulties in identifying Arabic drug names; species and even genus sometimes remain uncertain.

For the main part of her work, the translation of the Latin text into German, Lieberknecht has used the Valgrisius edition (Venice 1561) which incorporates a commentary of Mondinus (1275-1326) and an interpretation of Sylvius (Jacques Dubois, 1478-1555). In cases of uncertainty she compares this edition with the Venice and Padua (?) incunabula of 1471, a selection of eleven manuscripts and commentaries. The appendix gives the Latin text, which makes a comparison of her translation possible. The text itself consists of four main sections.

The first one stresses the importance of the rules of treatment and shows the criteria for judging whether a drug is suitable for use. Touch, smell and taste are of particular importance in order to determine the characteristics of a drug, but colour, age, durability and location of a herb give additional information. Certain drugs specifically act on different humours and on different organs.

In the second section instructions are given on how to improve drugs that are too weak or too strong, avoid harmful side effects and direct the drugs to the organ intended. This is done by adding certain substances to the drug itself. The second strategy is to change some of the characteristics of the drug by skilled preparation, especially cooking, washing, soaking or grinding.

The third section describes the circumstances under which cathartics can harm the body, and gives recommendations for treatment. The first condition is when a purgative only stirs up a humour but does not eliminate it from the body, the second is when other humours than intended are purged or painful purgation, and the third is excessive purgation.

The fourth section deals with the treatment of harmful conditions after purgation, such as fever, headache, vertigo, loss of eyesight, loss of stomach function, thirst, hiccups, stomach pain, bowel lesions, loss of blood, necessity of defecation, weakness and convulsions.

The large number of manuscripts, above all in Latin, but also in Italian and Hebrew, and the early (and expensive) printings show the importance of the Canones down to the seventeenth century. According to various comments of doctors and apothecaries, the Canones were very useful for them. The need for further investigation is evident throughout the book, not only on the authorship of the Canones. A comparison with the Arabic sources, if available, would show the ways in which the transition of medical knowledge from Arabic to the Latin-speaking world, with all its translations, interpretations and commentaries, changed the understanding of the subjects concerned. The Latin text exemplifies the observation that, if detached from the Arabic sources, only a partial comprehension of the Arabic original can be provided. It is the merit of Sieglinde Lieberknecht that the Canones are now accessible in a modem language as a stimulus to further research.

Christoph Schweikardt, Leiden University
Medical History 1997 July; 41(3): 409–410.



La confusione bibliografica generata dal nostro connazionale si riflette nei titoli delle sue opere commentate da illustri medici italiani. Talora nel titolo compare Damascenus, che evidentemente appartiene solo a Mesuè il Vecchio. Nome che compare sulle edizioni dello Pseudo Mesuè: Mesue; Ioannes Mesue; Ioan. Mesue; Jo Mesue; Gio. Mesue; Mesua; Ioannes Mesua; Ioannes Mesues; Joannes filius Mesue.

Ecco un assaggio di ciò che fu pubblicato dello Pseudo Mesuè:

Mesue <m. 1015> - Canones universales divi Mesue de consolatione medicinarum et correctione operationum earundem. Grabadin eiusdem Mesue medicinarum universalium quod antidotarium nuncupatur. Liber eiusdem medicinarum - (Impressum Venetiis: per Gregorium de Gregoriis, 1513).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Divi Mesue et nova quaedam ultra ea que secum associari consueverunt Opera preclarissima ut inferius speculanti sub manus indicio demonstratur. Mundini de Lentijs Super canones eius universales exposi - (In vrbe Venetiarum : domini Luce Antonij Iunta Florentini ... sumptibus excusa, 1527 Marcij idibus).
Mesue <m. 1015> - In antidotarium Joannis filii Mesue cum declaratione simplicium medicinarum, & solutione multorum dubiorum, ... - (Venetiis: per Bartholomaeum de Zannettis Brixiensem, 1543, decimoctava mensis iulii).
Mesue <m. 1015> - I libri di Gio. Mesue de i semplici purgativi, et delle medicine composte, di molte annotationi e dichiarationi ornati, & illustrati. Con una ampia esposizione de' vocaboli men noti & oscuri. E con l - Venetiis: ex bibliotheca Aldina, 1589 (In Venetia: appresso Gio. di Gara, 1589).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Mesue cum expositione Mondini super canones universales ac etiam cum expositione Christophori de Honestis in antidotarium eiusdem. Additiones Petri Apponi. Additiones Francisci de Pedemontium. Antidot - (Venetijs impressa, 1502 die 23 Iunij).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Mesue qui Graecorum ac Arabum postremus medicinam practicam illustravit. Nam purgantium medicamentorum, tam universales regulas quàm particularia exempla descripsit compositionem etiam caelebrium medi - Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1558.
Mesue <m. 1015> - Mesuae medici clarissimi Opera, a Ioanne Costa [Costaeo]medico Laudensi nunc recognita, et aucta adnotationibus, quibus à recentiorum calumnijs divinus hic scriptor vendicatur. Accessere his varia diuersorum - Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1570 (Venetijs, in officina Iuntarum, 1568).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Ioannis Mesuae medici clarissimi Opera de medicamentorum purgantium delectu, castigatione, et vsu, libri duo. Quorum priorem Canones universales, posteriorem de simplicibus vocant. Grabadin, hoc est - Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1581.
Mesue <m. 1015> - Ioannis Mesuae Damasceni medici clarissimi Opera De medicamentorum purgantium delectu, castigatione, & usu, libri duo. Quorum priorem canones universales, posteriorem de Simplicibus vocant. Grabadin, - Venetiis: [Giunta], 1589 (Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1589).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Mesuae Graecorum, ac Arabum clarissimi medici Opera quae extant omnia ex duplici translatione, altera quidem antiqua, altera vero nova Iacobi Sylvj ... ; accesserunt his adnotationes in eundem Mesuen - Venetiis: apud Vincentium Valgrisium, 1562 (1561).
Mesue <m. 1015> - Opus quibus libet Aromatariis: necessarium. Mesue in vulgare rescripto. - [1510].
Mesue <m. 1015> - Supplementum in secundum librum compendii medicinae Ioannis Mesues medici celeberrimi. Tum Petri Apponi patavini, tum Francisci de Pedemontium medicorum illustrium. Quibus accessere, & alia consueta o - Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1581.
Mesue <m. 1015> - Supplementum in secundum librum compendii secretorum medicinae Ioannis Mesue medici ... tum Petri Apponi patavini, tum Francisci de Pedemontium medicorum ... - Venetiis: apud Iuntas, 1589.

Mesua, J. (also Yahya Ibn Masawaih)

Opera de medicamentorum purgantium delectu, castigatione, & usu, Libri duo. Quorum priorem Canones universales, posteriorem de Simplicibus vocant. Grabadin, hoc est Compendiisecretorum medicamentorum, Libri duo. Quorum prior Antidotarium, posterior de appropriatis vulgo inscribitur... His accessere Plantarum in Libro simplicium descriptarum imagines ex vivo expressae... Venetiis, apud Iuntas, 1581.

Mesuè il Giovane

Second illustrated edition, the first to include the commentary of Johannes Costaeus. Yahya ibn Masawaih or Mesue the younger is supposed to have been a Jacobite Christian living at Maradin on the Euphrates in the 10th-11th centuries. However none of his writings have ever been found in their original language and no Arabian bio- or bibliographer knows him and it is now believed that a Latin author of the early 13th century assumed the name. At any rate, these works gained soon authorative importance as the pharmacological quintessence of Arabic therapeutics, and the esteem in which they were held is shown by the fact that they belonged to the first medical books to be printed. The first book 'De Simplicibus' deals with the choice of purgatives according to their properties and actions and are divided into laxative, mild and drastic. The 'Grabadin', or apothecary's manual was the most popular compendium of drugs in medieval Europe, and was used everywhere in their preparation. It was also used in forming the first London Pharmacopeia. The book also contains a treatise on therapeutics, covering diseases of the head, chest and a fragment on hart diseases, as well as many commentaries on, additions to, the works of Mesue by other authors.

Bookplate of Edward Sandford Burgess
Horticultural Society of New York, bequest Kenneth K. Mackenzie october 1934
De Belder.
Wellcome I, 4285; Durling 3132