Leona Baumgartner Collection of Fracastoro’s Syphilis

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Leona Baumgartner Collection of Fracastoro’s Syphilis


In addition to her work in public health administration, Dr. Leona Baumgartner (1901-1991) was a noted scholar, bibliophile, and book collector, publishing historical studies on Leonardo, Harvey Cushing, and prison reformer John Howard (1726-1790). In the 1930s, while at Yale, Dr. Baumgartner worked with John Farquhar Fulton, M.D., to produce an annotated bibliography of editions of the poem Syphilis by Girolamo Fracastoro.

Fracastoro (1478-1553), a Veronese physician and philosopher, is best remembered for his composition of Syphilis, sive morbus Gallicus, first printed in 1530. The poem, some 1,300 lines of Latin hexameter, describes the origins, symptoms, and cure of the venereal disease to which the poem’s hero, the shepherd, Sifilo, gives his name. In their 1935 biobibliography, Baumgartner and Fulton identified and described the different Latin editions and translations of the Fracastoro poem into Italian, English, French, German—one hundred entries in all. The Boston Medical Library collection here in the Countway has thirty-six different specimens of the poem, including a copy of the first printing from Verona in 1530. Many of these were formerly in the personal collections of John Farquhar Fulton or Leona Baumgartner.

Collection Items

De puerorum morbis
This work by Austrius from the Leona Baumgartner collection is one of the earliest texts devoted to the diseases of children and draws heavily on the writings of Cornelis Roelans in the 15th century and the 7th century Greek physician, Paul of…

Syphilis, ou, Le mal venerien
This facing-page Latin and French edition of the Syphilis poem was presented to Leona Baumgartner from John Farquhar Fulton; it is the first French translation. The text has been recently digitized and made available through the Medical Heritage…
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