The present Census is a checklist of the Greek medical manuscripts currently known in collections worldwide. It is both an amended and updated index of Diels’ catalogue, and a list of the items missed or overlooked in Diels, or located since. Although it does not supersede Diels’ catalogue, it is the indispensable instrument for a New Diels, and will be the reference for years to come for any new critical edition and medico-historical research based on manuscripts, besides providing the basis for a broad range of other historical inquiries, from codicology to the history of medicine and science, including Byzantine intellectual history, Renaissance studies and humanism, history of the book and early printing, and the history of medical philology and learning.
Commissioned in the late fourteenth century by the prince of Padua, Francesco II ‘il Novello’ da Carrara (r. 1390–1405), the Carrara Herbal attests to the growing presence of Arabic medicine both inside and outside of the University. Its contents speak to the Carrara family’s historic role as patrons and protectors of the Studium, yet its form – a luxury book in Paduan dialect adorned with family heraldry and stylistically diverse representations of plants – locates it in court culture. In particular, the manuscript’s form connects Serapion’s treatise to patterns of book collection and rhetorics of self-making encouraged by humanists and practiced by Francesco’s ancestors.
Beginning with Petrarch (1304–74) and continuing with Pier Paolo Vergerio (ca. 1369–1444), humanists held privileged positions in the Carrara court, and humanist culture vied with the University’s successes for leading roles in Carrara self-promotion. With the other illustrated books in the prince’s collection, the Herbal negotiated these traditional arenas of family patronage and brought them into confluence, promoting Francesco as an ideal ‘physician prince’ capable of ensuring the moral and physical health of Padua. Considered in this way, the Carrara Herbal is the product of an intersection between the Pan-Mediterranean transmission of medical knowledge and the rise of humanism in the Italian courts, an intersection typically attributed to the later Renaissance.