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Bartholomew who wrote a " Practica," or " Manual of the Practice of Medicine," with the sub-title, "Introductions to and Experiments in the Medical Practice of Hippocrates, Constantine, and the Greek Physicians." Bartholomew represents himself as a disciple of Constantine. This "Practica" of Bartholomew was one of the most commonly used books of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries throughout Europe. There are manuscript commentaries and translations, and abstracts from it not only in the Latin tongues, but especially in the Teutonic languages. Pagel refers to manuscripts in High and Low Dutch, and even in Danish. The Middle High Dutch manuscripts of this " Practica" of Bartholomew come mainly from the thirteenth century, and have not only a special interest because of their value in the history of philology, but because they are the main sources of all the later books on drugs which appeared in very large numbers in German. They have a very great historicoliterary interest, especially for pharmacology.
To Afflacius we owe a description of a method of reducing fever that is not only ingenious, but, in the light of our recently introduced bathing methods for fever, is a little startling. In his book on "Fevers and Urines," Afflacius suggests that when the patient's fever makes him very restless, and especially if it is warm weather, a sort of shower bath should be given to him. He thought that rain water was the best for this purpose, and he describes its best application as in rainy fashion, modo pluviali. The water should be allowed to flow down over the patient from a vessel with a number of minute perforations in the bottom. A number of the practical hints for treatment given by Afflacius have been attributed to Constantine.
Constantine's reputation has, in the opinion of some writers, been hurt by two features of his published works, as they have come to us, that we find it difficult to understand. One of these is that his translations from the Arabic were made mainly not of the books of the great leaders of Arabian medicine, but from certain of the less important writers. The other is that it does not seem always to have been made clear in the manuscripts that have come down to us, whether these writings were translations or original writings. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Constantine himself would have been quite willing to receive the credit for these writings.
As to the first of these objections, it may be said that very probably Constantine, in his travels, had come to realize that the books of the great Arabian physicians, Rhazes, Abulcasis, Avicenna, and others, already received so much attention that the best outlook for medicine was to call particular notice to the writings of such lesser lights as Ali Abbas, Isaac Judaeus, Abu Dschafer, and others of even less note. Certainly we cannot but feel that his judgment in the matter must have been directed by reasons that we may not be able to understand at present, but that must have existed, for all that we know of the man proves his character as a practical, far-sighted scholar. Besides, it seems not unlikely that but for his interest in them we would not at the present time possess the translations of these minor Arabian writers, and that would be an unfortunate gap in medical history.
The other misunderstanding with regard to Constantine refers to the fact that it is now almost impossible to decide which are his own and which are the writings of others. It has been said that he even tried to palm off some of the writings of others as his own. This seems extremely unlikely, however, knowing all that we do about his life; and the suspicion is founded entirely on manuscripts as we have them at the present time, about a thousand years after he lived. What mutilations these manuscripts underwent in the course of various copyings is hard now to estimate. Monastic copyists might very well have left out Arabian names, because they were mainly interested in the fact that they were providing for their readers works that had received the approval of Constantine, and the translation of which at least had been made under his direction. It is quite clear that he did not do all the translating himself, and that he probably must have organized a school of medical translators at Monte Cassino. Then just how the various works would be looked at is very dubious. Undoubtedly many of the translations were done after his death, or certainly finished after his time, and at last attributed to him, because he was the moving spirit and had probably selected the books that should be translated, and made suggestions with regard to them. For all of his monks he was, as masters have ever been for disciples, much more important, and rightly so, than those writers to whom he referred them.
The whole question of plagiarism in these medieval times, as I have pointed out elsewhere, is entirely different from that of the present time. Now a writer may consciously or unconsciously claim another writing as his own. We have come to a time when men think much of their individual reputations. It was no uncommon thing, however, in the Middle Ages, and even later in the Renaissance, for a writer to attribute what he had written to some distinguished literary man of the preceding time, and sign that writer's name to his own work. The idea of the later author was to secure an audience for his thoughts. He seemed to be quite indifferent whether people ever knew just who the writer was, but he wanted to influence humanity by his writings. He thought much more of this than of any possible reputation that might come to him. Of course, there was no question of money. There never has been any question of money-making whenever the things written have been really worth while. Literature that has deeply influenced mankind has never paid. Publications that have paid are insignificant works that have touched superficially a whole lot of people. To think of Constantine as a plagiarist in our modern sense of the word, as trying to take the credit for someone else's writings, is to misunderstand entirely the times in which he lived, and to ignore the real problem of plagiarism at that time.
With the accumulation of information with regard to the history of medicine in his time, Constantine's reputation has been constantly enhanced. It is not so long since he was considered scarcely more than a monkish chronicler, who happened to have taken medicine rather than history for his field of work. Gradually we have come to appreciate all that he did for the medicine of his time. Undoubtedly his extensive travels, his wide knowledge, and then his years of effort to make Oriental medicine available for the Western civilization that was springing up again among the peoples who had come to replace the Romans, set him among the great intellectual forces of the Middle Ages. Salerno owed much to him, and it must not be forgotten that Salerno was the first university of modern times, and, above all, the first medical school that raised the dignity of the medical profession, established standards of medical education, educated the public mind and the rulers of the time to the realization of the necessity for the regulation of the practice of medicine, and in many ways anticipated our modern professional life. That the better part of his life work should have been done as a Benedictine only serves to emphasize the place that the religious had in the preservation and the development of culture and of education during the Middle Ages.