Antonii Musae De herba Vettonica liber, Pseudoapulei Herbarius, Anonymi De taxone liber, Sexti Placiti Liber medicinae ex animalibus, ediderunt E. Howald et H. E. Sigerist, Leipzig-Berlin 1927 (Corpus medicorum latinorum. Vol. 4).
Howald and Sigerist have partially edited the corpus of phytotherapeutic material that transmits a short, iatromagical work entitled De taxone together with the treatise De herba vettonica, pseudo-Apuleius’ Herbarius, and Sextus Placitus’ Liber medicinae ex animalibus. Its specific dating, the identity of its author, and its production context still remain open questions.
The work reproduces the fictitious epistolary correspondence between the Egyptian king Idpartus/Partus (apparently corrupted forms of Hipparchus) and the emperor Augustus. The Lehrepistel was a highly successful form that was used for the codification and transmission of medical knowledge throughout late antiquity. In this sense, the De taxone should be placed within a branch of the tradition that was extremely strong and long-lasting.
The letter relates the iatromagical uses of different parts of the body (teeth, feet, fat, blood, brain, liver, skin, flesh, and testicles), the proper procedures for extracting these parts from animals, and the precatio that accompanies this operation. The uses of the body recommended by the short work tend primarily to have preventative functions, in the form of both remedies and amulets.
The manuscript tradition of the work is divided into two families, which Howald and Sigerist identify as α and β in their edition of the text; in practice, however, these two families represent two distinct redactions of the text, and they were consequently edited as independent works. The editors based the text of recensio α on two manuscripts (Lucca, Bibl. Stat. 296 and London, Brit. Lib., Harley 4986), while recensio β depends on three (Montecassino, Bibl. dell’Abb. V.97; Vienna, Österr. Nationalbibl. lat. 93; and Berlin, Hamilt. 307). [D. Paniagua; tr. C. L. Caterine]