Documenta Ophthalmologica

, Volume 103, Issue 2, pp 119-153

First online:

The Eye Book of Master Peter of Spain – a glimpse of diagnosis and treatment of eye disease in the Middle Ages

  • Walter J. DalyAffiliated withDepartment of Ophthalmology, Indiana University School of Medicine
  • , Robert D. YeeAffiliated withSchool of Medicine, Indiana University

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Peter Hispanus, who became Pope John XXI, wrote a book about eye diseases and their treatment in the 13th century. De Oculis was not a scholarly treatise about eye diseases, but a manual intended for general physicians. Nevertheless, Latin copies were made into the 16th century, indicating its influence and importance. We present the first published English translation of De Oculis, based on a synthesis of the medieval Latin manuscripts and a German translation from the 19th century. The sources of Peter's understanding of the causes and treatment of eye diseases were the more scholarly and complete treatises by Greek and Arab writers. Many of the diseases described then cannot be correlated precisely with ophthalmic disorders known to us today because of the limited understanding of anatomy, function and pathophysiology that existed. However, De Oculis provides us with a glimpse of the practice of medicine in the Middle Ages.

history of medicine medieval medicine Peter Hispanus Pope John XXI thirteenth century