The remarkable case of young Margaretha Weiss [1529-?], a girl from the village of Rode outside of Speyer, who, for three years following her tenth birthday, reportedly neither ate nor drank, yet seemed to grow more or less normally, play with her friends, talk, laugh, and persist in a normal life. However, according to her personal physician, Gerardus Bucoldianus, Margaretha never passed urine or feces during those years, her four limbs contracted, and she suffered greatly from pains in the head and abdomen.1 Margaretha was examined minutely not only by physicians, but by the Church and by agents of the king, all of whom regarded her as nothing short of a miracle. Bucoldianus reported in his 1542 pamphlet on the case, "Whence comes the animal heat, since she neither eats nor drinks, and why does the body grow when nothing goes into it?"2 Porzio, who heard of the case and decided to examine Margaretha for himself, argued that her condition could be explained by natural, as opposed to mystical, heretical, or maleficious causes, and focused his arguments through an Aristotelian lens in seven chapters in the present book, which he composed the same year as Bucoldinus's case study, but which he did not publish until 1549. Because Margaretha Weiss was examined by several doctors, she is considered the first medically substantiated case of anorexia, predating that of Mary Queen of Scots by 14 years. It was also the most widely reported case, being variously recorded in books and pamphlets in several languages through the second half of the sixteenth century, then remembered anew in the nineteenth. Our edition was translated from Porzio's c1549 Latin original into the Florentine dialect by Giambattista Gelli,3 a close associate and colleague of Porzio, probably in 1551.
Florence: Lorenzo Torrentino, 1551.
Octavo, 162 x 110 x 8 mm (binding); 159 x 101 x 5 mm (text block). A-C8, D4; 52 pp plus two blank leaves (D3-4). Bound in modern buckram, Bradel-style, titled on spine on skiver lettering piece, DISPVTA | DI M.S. PORTIO. Label chipped, covers a bit tired, with cloth coming unstuck from lower board. Interior: Title stained, and blank tail margin torn away (mended); finger-soiling and pale foxing; stain to page 47.
NLM 2752288R; BMC Italian p 537 (which postulates 1551 as publication date).
1Bucoldianus, Gerardus. Von dem Meydlin welchs on essen vnnd trincken lebt/ eyn kurtze erzelung/ durch Gerardum Bucoldianum K[oe]niglichen Maiestat Artzt im Latein außgangen. Yetzunder gůtter meynung verte[ue]tscht. Durch Heinrich Vogtherren. Getrůckt zů Speir Jn verleg Heinrich Vogtherren vnd Hans Schiesser von Worms M.D.XLII.Jar. (And numerous other editions in Latin and German the same year between March and May.)
2Translation: Hammond, William Alexander, Fasting Girls, Their Physiology and Pathology, New York: Putnam, 1879, pp 6-7.
3For bios of Porzio and Gelli, see Treccani.it.