Von Ursprung und Herkommen der Pest und ihrer Kur
Printing History, Manuscripts. First printed in 1589 in Huser’s edition together with all the authentic treatises on the plague. Both De pestilitate and the plague treatise addressed by Paracelsus to the city of Sterzingen were taken, according to Huser, “ex manuscripto D. Johan. Montani et aliorum” (“from the manuscript of Johannes Montanus and other people”). Thus, contrarily to Sudhoff’s statement, the text of De pestilitate does not necessarily stem from a Montanus manuscript. No known manuscripts.
Editions. Edited by Huser, 3 (1589): 24–107. Edited by Sudhoff in Paracelsus, Sämtliche Werke, I/14: 597–660.
Relationship between different versions. Only one known version of the original text. – De pestilitate was summarized by Bartholomäus Scultetus in December 1578 in a so-called Tabula physica, astronomica et medica de pestilitate, a broadsheet published in 1579 and again in 1586. – Two similar tabular summaries of different texts, probably also prepared by Bartholomäus Scultetus, are found in a Lübeck manuscript (Ms. math. 4° 9).
Structure, genre/form, perspective, style. De pestilitate consists of four parts (“tractatus”). The sections in part one are not numbered in Huser’s edition. Scultetus however, in his Tabula, refers to numbered chapters, the last one being “cap. 13.” His quotation corresponds with a sentence in the last section of the first part. Both the first and the second part are written in the first person and directed to the reader. The third and fourth part are rather short and consist of one single chapter (part 3) and three chapters (part 4). The four parts are quite different both in style and content.
Relationship to other texts. According to Gunnoe, “the plague theory of De pestilitate is generally consistent with the genuine works of Paracelsus,” especially the Nördlingen treatise (Zwey Bücher von der Pestilentz) and De peste libri tres, despite obvious differences. The author also knew the doctrine of the “fünf Entien” presented in the Volumen medicinæ Paramirum, a work published for the first time in 1575. Other authentic works used in De pestilitate include De matrice and De meteoris. Spurious texts were equally known to the author, like the Liber Principiorum (§ 5.18), De natura rerum (§ 2.2), book 1 – if it can be confirmed that he borrowed his notion of the basilisk from this latter source – and the Philosophia ad Athenienses (§ 2.6).
Authenticity, authorship. Huser did not have the slightest doubt about the authenticity of the text (see Huser, 3: 108). However, mentions of the anima mundi, references taken from the spurious Liber Principiorum (§ 5.18), or far-fetched mentions of alleged manuscripts in various libraries (including so-called autographs of Galen and Avicenna) are only some of the evidence pointing to an entire forgery.
Time of writing. The first part was written allegedly “after the year 1538” according to Scultetus. However, the whole text was written or composed rather in the 1570s.
Manuscripts: no manuscripts known
First printed: not printed before Huser (1589)
- 1579 (broadsheet; tabular summary: Tabula Physica, Astronomica & Medica De pestilitate: In eine kurtze Summ vnd Inhalt/ ausz des Aur. Ph. Th. Par. Buche/ welchs er nach dem Jahr 1538. von dieser Kranckheit gestellet/ vnd jetzund erst nw an tag komen/ gezogen. An. 1578, ed. Bartholomäus Scultetus (Görlitz: Ambrosius Fritsch, 1579); not in VD16; not in Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica)
- 1589 (in Huser, 3)
Essential bibliography: Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 381; Sudhoff, “Vorwort,” in Paracelsus, Sämtliche Werke, I/14: XXXIII; CP 2: 726–727; CP 3: 814–815.
Further bibliographical references:
Ernst von Frisch, “Hans Baumann, der erste Buchdrucker, in Salzburg 1550–1557”, in Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1927, 68–71, on 70
Edwin Scheidegger, “Paracelsus und Rademacher,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 6 (1952), 34–46, on 40.
Peuckert, Pansophie (1956), 457.
Will-Erich Peuckert, “Paracelsische Zauberei,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 8 (1957), 71–94, on 76.
Johannes Steudel, “Paracelsisches Gut bei Goethe,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 8 (1957), 95–101, on 100.
Felix F. Strauss, “Herzog Ernst von Bayern und Hofbuchdrucker Hans Baumann”, in Salzburger Museum Carolino Augusteum, Jahresschrift 5 (1959), 193–203, on 201
Peuckert, Gabalia (1967), 131, 175, 350, 362, 463–465, 479, 486.
Pagel, “The Paracelsian Elias Artista,” 8.
Goldammer, Der göttliche Magier (1991), 106.
Jürgen Strein and Joachim Telle, “Deutsche Pseudoparacelsica über die Pest: Ein ‘Begriff’ zur Pestdiagnose (1553) und die ‘Tabula de pestilitate’ von Bartholomäus Scultetus (1578),” in Dominik Groß and Monika Reininger, eds., Medizin in Geschichte, Philologie und Ethnologie: Festschrift für Gundolf Keil (Würzburg, 2003), 349–370.
Maximiliam Bergengruen, Nachfolge Christi – Nachahmung der Natur. Himmlische und natürliche Magie bei Paracelsus, im Paracelsismus und in der Barockliteratur (Scheffler, Zesen, Grimmelshausen) (Hamburg, 2007), 153, 162, 168
Joachim Telle, “Theophrastus von Hohenheim – Irrlehrer oder Leitgestalt einer Alternativmedizin des 21. Jahrhunderts?,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 24/25 (2010–2011), 17–62, on 41.
Charles D. Gunnoe, Jr., “Paracelsus, the Plague, and De Pestilitate,” Early Science and Medicine, 24 (2019), 504–526.
Didier Kahn, “De Pestilitate and Paracelsian Cosmology,” Daphnis, 48 (2020), 65–86.
William R. Newman, “Bad Chemistry: Basilisks and Women in Paracelsus and pseudo-Paracelsus,” Ambix, 67 (2020), 30–46.