654J pseudo Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus Secretis mulierum et Viroru(m).
[Augsburg:] Johann Froschauer. GW dates [c.1500]. dated by BSB‑Ink, printed using Froschauer’s type 6, which was not used before 1503.Imprint: $ 7,800
Quarto 24 x 14.5 cm. Collation: a–d6.4 e4 f6 g4. Bound in early vellum worm trail in the bottom margin of sig f and g not affecting the text block.
This book has been called “one of the most influential documents in the history of medieval scientific attitudes toward women” it is a culmination of Hippocratic, Galenic, and Aristotelian theories and discussions on sexuality and reproduction from both a medical and philosophical perspectives. The earliest manuscripts date from the beginning of the fourteenth century (possibly as early as c. 1300). This work exists in many manuscripts from the thirteenth century on, I’ve located about 75 copies worldwide. It was Printed first in 1481 and there exists 20 printed edition to the turn of the 15th century, all of these are rare, with the greatest part of holdings of any edition s being held by the Philadelphia college of Physicians (9) and Nation library of Medicine (9) leaving 22 copies of any edition spread across the country suggesting that this was a popular book and used to the point of scarcity and furthermore that the concepts expressed in this work were of great interest and perhaps influence.
Lynn Thorndike explored the attribution of this work to Albertus Magnus, and concludes that De Secretis and was probably composed by one of his followers during the late 13th or early 14th century. The text is interspersed with commentary also by unknown authorship, there extists two states of commentary and this is known as commentator ‘A’ . It is curious and determinative that the authors all refer to Albertus Magnus in the third person. (studies by Wickersheimer, 1923, Ferckel, 1954 and Thorndike, 1955).
This text might establish itself as scientific and philosophical treatis by the pseudo attribution to Albertus, in order to segregate itself from orther genera of ‘secret’ texts, including myth, folk lore, magic et c.
This text consists of 13 chapters;
On the Generation of the Embryo
On the Formation of the Fetus
Concerning the Influence of the Planets
On the Generation of Imperfect Animals
On the Exit of the Fetus from the Uterus
Concerning Monsters in Nature
On the Signs of Conception
On the Signs of Whether a Male or Female is in the Uterus
On the Signs of Corruption of Virginity
On the Signs of Chastity
Concerning a Defect of the Womb
Concerning Impediments to Conception
On the Generation of the Sperm
As our pseudo author of Albertus Magnus, the treatises’s “believed that the study of nature as perceived through sense experience and then analyzed in a rational manner forms a single discipline through which we come to comprehend the universe in its corporeal aspects. Human reproduction, a main subject of this treatise, is one of these aspects, that nevertheless has repercussions for our understanding of the entire cosmos” (Lemay, p. 3).
To speculate upon the community of reader addressed or the actual rader of this text has come to a point of controversy recently, Thondike suggests this was a text sort of book, while De Secretis was most likely “designed to be used within a religious community as a vehicle for instructing priests in natural philosophy, particularly as it pertains to human generation.”
“A strong subtext of the Secrets, however, is the evil nature of women and the harm they can cause to their innocent victims: young children and their male consorts. Clearly then, another purpose of this treatise is to malign the female sex, a tradition that extends back in Christianity to second-century misogynist writings” (Lemay, p. 16). Among the concepts that the text popularised were the idea that women’s menstrual blood was poisonous, that post-menopausal women (especially those who were poor) were more “venomous” because they could no longer expel the toxins, and that women were inherently lascivious beings with a physiological need to absorb the heat and life force of men. “It is these misogynistic ideas about women’s sexuality that seeded their demonization in the years that followed, as the Secrets served as a direct source for the Malleus Maleficarum. Indeed, the most famous statement from the Malleus explicitly connects witchery with ideas about women’s sexuality rooted in the medieval period: ‘All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable'”
(McLemore, “Medieval Sexuality, Medical Misogyny, and the Makings of the Modern Witch”, blog of the University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Studies Institute, October 30, 2020).