The Salerno Book Of Health

The Salerno Book of Health. Images from History of the School of Salernum by Sir John Harington. 1920.

With Introduction by Dr. Ian Carr.

The earliest Italian medical school opened in Salerno in the ninth century AD, and as the place where the streams of classical, Arab and Jewish medicine flowed together was the predecessor of the medical renaissance. A number of medical texts have survived from the Salerno school on various aspects of medicine. The best known is the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, the Salerno Book of Health. The book is filled with practical suggestions for maintaining health, at a time when medicine was largely ineffective in curing sickness. It was translated by Sir John Harington, who is also credited with the invention of that most useful, and comforting of devices, the water closet, the seat of civilization. The Salerno Book of Health is the lineal ancestor of "Wellness".

Dr. Ian Carr, Professor of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba



Title Page

The English Version

by Sir John Harington

History of the School of Salernum by

Francis R. Packard, M.D.

And a note on the prehistory of the

regimen sanitatis by

Fielding H. Garrison, M.D.

New York

Paul B. Hoeber


Schoole (p. 75)

The Salerne Schoole doth by thefe lines


All health to Englands King, and doth aduife

From care his head to keepe, from wrath his


Drinke not much wine, fuz light, and foone arife,

When meate is gone, long fitting breedeth


And after-noone ftill waking keepe your eyes.

When mou'd you find your felfe to

Natures Needs,

Forbeare them not, for that much dan-

ger breeds,

Vfe three Phyficions ftill; firft Doctor Quiet,

Next Doctor Merry-man, and Doctor Dyet.

The Medieval Physician in His Office (pp. 76 & 77)

Rise earely in the morne, and ftraight


With water cold to wafh your hands and eyees,

In gentle fafhion retching euery member,

An to refrefh your braine when as you rife,

In heat, in colde, in Iuly and December,

Both comb your head, and rub your

teeth likewife:

If blead you haue, keep coole, if bath'

keepe warme:

If din'd, to ftand or walke will do no harme

Three things preferue the fight, Graffe,

Glaffe, & foutains,

At Eue'n fprings, at morning vifit mountains.

Text from p. 84, images from pp. 83 and 85

White Muskadell, and Candie wine, and


Do make men's wits and bodies groffe and fat;

Red wine doth make the voyce oft-time

to feeke,

An hath a binding qualitie to that;

Canarie, and Madera, both are like

To make one leane indeed: (but wot you what)

Who fay they make one leane, would

make one laffe

They meane, they make on leane vpon

a staffe.

Wine, women, Baths, by Art or Nature warme,

Vs'd or abus'd do men much good or harme.

Humors (pp. 132 and 133)

Foure humors raigne within our bodies


And thefe compared to foure Elements,

The Sanguine, Choller, Flegme, and Melancholy,

The latter two are heauie, dull of fence,

Th' other two are mor Iouiall, quicke and


And may be likened thus without offence,

Like ayre both warme and moift, is Sanguine


Like fire doth Choler hot and drie appeare.

Like water cold and moift is Flegmatique,

The Melancholy cold, drie earth is like.

Sanguine (pp. 134 and 135)

Complexions cannot vertue breed

or vice,

Yet may they vnto both giue inclination,

The Sanguine game-fome is, and nothing nice,

Loue Wine, and Women, and all recreation,

Likes pleafant tales, and news, playes, cards

& dice,

Fit for all company, and euery fafhion:

Though bold, not apt to take offence,

not irefull,


But bountifull, and kinde, and looking cheere-

Inclining to be fat, and prone to laughter,

Loues mirth, & Mufick, cares not what

comes after.

Flegmatique (pp. 138 and 139)

The Flegmatique are moft of no great


Inclining to be rather fat and fquare:

Giuen much vnto their eafe, to reft and floth,

Content in knowledge to take little fhare,

To put themfelues to any paine moft loth.

So dead their fpirits, fo dull their fences are:

Still either fitting, like to folke that


Or elft ftill fpitting, to auoid the flegme:

One qualitie doth yet thefe harmes reparie,

That for the moft part Flegmatique are faire.

Melancholly (pp. 140 and 141)

The Melancholly from the reft doe varie,

Both fport and eafe, and company


Exceeding ftudious, euer folitary,

Inclining penfiue ftill to be, and mufing,

A fecret hate to others apt to carry:

Moft conftant in his choife, tho long a chufing,

Extreme in loue fomtime, yet feldom


Sufpitious in his nature, and miftruftfull,

A wary wit, a hand much guien to fparing,

A heauy looke, a fpirit little daring.

Bleeding (p.150)

But yet thofe daies I grant, and all the reft,

Haue in fome cafes iuft impediment:

As firft, if nature be with cold oppreft,

Or if the Region, Ile, or Continent

Do fcorch or freize, if ftomacke meate


If Baths or Venus late you did frequent,

Nor old, nor yong, nor drinkers great are fit,

Not in long fickeneffe, nor in raging fit,

Or in this cafe if you will venture bleeding,

The quantity muft then be moft exceeding.

Finis (p. 156)

The Heart and Liuer, Spring & Summers


The Fall and Winter, hand and foot doth


One veine cut in the hand, doth help ex-


Vnto the fpleene, voyce, breft, and intrailes


And fwages griefes that in the heart are


But here the Salerne Schoole doth make an end:

And here I ceafe to write, but will not ceafe

To wift you liue in health, and die in peace:

And ye our Phyficke rules that friendly read,

God grant that Phyficke you may neuer need.