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PSELLOS, Michael Constantinos.

(1018 – 1078)

(Born: Nicomedia, Turkey, 1018; Died: Constantinople, Turkey, 1078) Byzantine polygraph & philosopher.

Psellos studed in Athens and Constantinople. He became the leader of the Neoplatonic revival that occurred in Constantinople during the second half of the eleventh century. He wrote a voluminous library of works on the history of his time, medical subjects, Aristotelian commentaries and various other subjects. Any critical study of Byzantine civilization and thought relies heavily upon his publications. Sometimes he is called the `Younger' to distinguish him from a philosopher of the same name who lived in c870.

Biographical references: Nouvelle Biographie Générale (Hoefer): 36, 184-6. Poggendorff: 2, col. 541. Rambaud, A., Études sur l'histoire byzantine. Paris, A. Colin, 1912. xxiii, 317, [2] p. [Contains a chapter `Michel Psellos, philosohe et homme d'état byzantin au XIe siècle.', p. 111-171.]: p. 111-171. Sarton, Introduction, 1928-52: 1, 750-1. World Who's Who in Science: p. 1381.

ΤΟΥ ΣΟΦΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΨΕΛΛΟΥ. Pselli de lapidum virtutibus libellus. P. J. Maussaci appendix ad notas suas in Harpocrationem. (Tolosæ, 1615, and other editions).
See under: Plutarch.

1. Greek & Latin, 1745.
Psellus | De | Lapidum Virtutibus | Graece Ac Latine | Cum Notis | Phil.JacMaussaci | Et | Joan. Steph. Bernard. | Accedit Fragmentum de Colore Sanguinis ex Do- | ctrina Medica Persarum nunc primum ex Codice | MS. Bibliothecae Lugduno Batavae editum. | [vignette] | Lugduni Batavorum | Apud Philippum Bonk, | MDCCXLV.

8°: *6 A-C8 Λ2; 31l.; [12], [1]-47, [5] p. Text in Greek and Latin. According to Biogr Univ, 36, 185, this edition, is "une seconde, plus correcte," supplemented by a section by John Stephen Bernard on the color of blood as explained by Persian physicians. Page size: 216 x 142 mm.

Rare. First separate edition of this work that treats the therapeutic uses of the precious stones. Previously, it had been printed in combination with a work by Plutarch. King notes that Psellus was a contemporary of Marbod, and was reputed to be "the most learned Greek of the eleventh century," and that "amongst his numerous works exists a brief tractate `On the Virtues of Stones,' describing the uses in medicine of the Diamond, Haematite, Amethyst, Carbuncle, Aeschates, Beryl, Galactites, Amber, Jasper, Idaeus-Dactylus, Crystal, Lychnites, Magnet, Onyx, Caprinus, Sardonyx, Selenites, Emerald, Hyacinthus, Chrysolithus, Chryselectrus, Chrysoprasus, Chalazius, Topazion." King further says that Psellus' notices "are not worth much as regards the natural history of the subject, of which he evidently knew nothing, and, as evidently, regarded as beneath the consideration of a philosopher." This was an attitude that did not change much over the coming centuries. He then recounts examples of the miraculous powers of stones based upon ancient myths.

Greek, 1898: A Greek version of the lapidary appears in De Mély & Ruelle's Les Lapidaires de I'Antiquiti, 3, fascile 1, 1898, p. 201-4, which was taken from a fourteenth century manuscript located in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, MS No 1630. No translation for the text is provided, although they note on page xiv that the first printed edition of Psellus lapidary appeared in 1618 and was edited by Maussac (see under Plutarch). The 1745 edition is a reprint of that issue by Etienne Bernard.

Modern Italian translation, 1980: P. Galigani, Il de lapidum virtutibus di Michele Psello. Introduction, testo critico, tradizione e commento. Firenze, CLUSF, [ s.d.]. 121 p.

Bibliographical references: Brunet: 4, 947. DSB: 9, 182. Evans, Magical Jewels, 1922: p. 32. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon, 1884-8: 4, 635. King, Natural History of Precious Stones, 1867: p. 13. Krumbacher, Geschichte Byzantinischen Litteratur, 1897. NLM 18th Century Books (Blake): p. 365. Sinkankas, Gemology Bibliography, 1993: no. 5283 [Title page reproduced]. Volk, R., Der medizinische Inhalt der Schriften des Michael Psellos. München, Institut für Byzantinistik und neugriechische Philologie der Universität, 1990. li, 502 p. [Published as: Miscellanea Byzantina Monacensia. Heft 32.].