The surgical handbook known as Feldtbuch der Wundarzney by the Strasburgian field surgeon Johannes (Hans) von Gersdorff is one of the first medical texts printed in the High German language area. During the Early Modern Age this text enjoyed great popularity as witnessed by the high number of editions which followed the first one (Strasburg, Schott, 1517): four in quarto (Strasburg 1524 and 1540) and two in folio (Strasburg 1542 and Frankfurt am Main 1551). In addition to these, the Feldtbuch was also translated both into Latin (Strasburg 1542 and Frankfurt 1551) and into Dutch (Amsterdam 1593, 1622 and 1651). The printed tradition of the text has been repeatedly taken into considerations by scholars such as Haller 1776, Choulant 1858, Schmidt 1963 etc. None of them has, however, paid attention to the manuscript tradition of the text. Fragments of the surgical field manual can, in fact, be found in late manuscript collections of medical and surgical texts, such as Copenhagen GKS 1663 4°, Copenhagen Thott 253 8° and Luzern, Pp 27 4°. Particularly interesting for the study of the text tradition and diffusion in Europe is Copenhagen 1663 4°, which, according to Borchling contains on leaves 15r- 63r a large portion of a Low German version of the surgical handbook. If this were true and the language of the text were really Low German and not Middle Dutch (the two languages are often erroneously identified in the late 19th – early 20th century sources), we were in front of an unique witness of the diffusion of von Gersdorff’s work in the northern part of Germany as well as in the Netherlands. The aim of this study is, therefore, to examine Copenhagen 1663 4° in order to establish, 1) if, on the basis of a linguistic, paleographic and codicological analysis, it can really be considered representative of an up-to-now unknown Low German branch of the tradition of the text or if, on the other hand, it should be ascribed to the Middle Dutch one, 2) if, on the basis of a comparison with the High German, Dutch and Latin printed versions of the Feldtbuch, it is possible to identify the source of the portion of text contained in the manuscript, 3) if the fragment of the Feldtbuch is in some way linked to the other works transmitted in the same manuscript and 4) if they could be considered part of a single, large medical-didactic program, which brought to the manuscript production.
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