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Hieronymi Mercurialis De Arte Gymnastica Libri Sex, In Quibus Exercitationum Omnium Vetustarum genera, loca, modi, facultates, & quidquid denique as corporis humani exercitationes pertinet, diligenter explicatur. Quarta editione correctiores, & auctiores facti. Opus non modo medicis, verum etiam omnibus antiquarum rerum cognoscendarum, & valetudinis conservandae studiosis admodum utile. Ad Maximilianum II. Imperatorem.

Girolamo Mercuriale

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

De arte gymnastica


Venetiis,: Apud Iuntas. -, M D C I.

Physical Description

[16], 1-53, 52-55, 55-56, 56-60, 65-80, 63-308, [28] p. : illus.; 234 mm. (Octavo.)

General Note

Page 74 is misnumbered as 47; pages 232, 233 misnumbered as 216, 217. The register reads, 'Registrum · * ABCDEFGHIKLMNOPQRSTVX. Omnes sunt quaterniones præter * & X qui sunt terniones, & D quinternionem.'


[T.p.] - [Dedic.(1573)] - [Poems] - Auctorum nomina, quorum fide, & testimonio hi Libri conscripti sunt - Index Eorum, quae Hac Aditione quarta sunt addita ab auctore - [Text and illus.] - [Blank leaf] - Hieronymi Mercurialis sex artis Gymnasticæ librorum elenchus, quorum primus liber continet - Index locupletissimus Rerum Omnium Memorabilium, Quae In Hoc Opere Continentur - Registrum; [colophon].

Responsibility Note

The illustrations are not signed.

The imprint (with the device incorporating the initials L A) is repeated in the colophon.

The work is dedicated by Hieronymus Mercurialis to the Emperor Maximilian II (1573).


N.G. Siraisi, 'History, antiquarianism and medicine: the case of Girolamo Mercuriale', in Journal of the History of Ideas, 64:2 (2003 Apr), p.231-51; G. Mercuriale, L'arte ginnastica [with commentary by R. Freccero] (2000); J.M. Agasse, Le De Arte Gymnastica de Girolamo Mercuriale (2000); P.C. McIntosh, 'Hieronymus Mercurialis "De Arte Gymnastica": classification and dogma in physical education in the sixteenth century', in British journal of sports history, I:1 (1984 May); J.W.F. Blundell, The muscles and their story from the earliest times including the whole text of Mercurialis (1864).

Summary Note

The work had first been published in 1568 under the title, 'Artis gymnasticae apud antiquos celeberrimae, nostri temporis ignoratae'.

The text describes various gymnastic exercises of the ancient Greeks and Romans and laments their comparative neglect in modern times. Mercuriale advocates the use of gymnastic exercises as therapy.

The first illustrations show plans of ancient exercise-grounds, strigils &c.; the rest show various exercises described by ancient authors. All are woodcuts.


A facsimile was published in 1960 (Roma: Banco di Santo Spirito) (Turin: ILTE).


[Copy 1:] The front pastedown is stamped with the initial 'G' under a coronet. The front pastedown and free endpaper are inscribed in ink with inscriptions that have been inked over.

[Copy 2:] A preliminary leaf is inscribed in pencil, 'S.A:H', i.e. S.A. Hart, librarian of the Royal Academy 1864-81. Purchased for RA Library in 1869 (see 'Library Report for the Year 1869', RA Annual Report, Appendix 6, p. 27).

Copy Note

[Copy 2:] A preliminary leaf is inscribed in ink, 'Rzym - 85 baj:'.

Binding Note

[Copy 1:] 17th-century white vellum; spine lettered 'Ars Gimnast · Mercurial', spine inscribed in ink, '69'. Bound with one other.

[Copy 2:] 17th-century white vellum, spine inscribed in ink, 'Exercitatio Medica Ieronimi Mercurialis'. The upper cover carries a white paper label inscribed in ink, '95'; the spine carries a white paper label inscribed in ink, '76'.


Gymnastics - Physical education and training - Exercise - Greece - Rome - Mediterranean Region - History
Treatises - Italy - 17th century
Pictorial works - Woodcuts - Italy - 17th century