"The Trotula: A Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine"



Edited and translated by Monica H. Green
328 pages, nine black-and-white illustrations, $55.00 cloth

“The Trotula” was the most influential compendium on women’s medicine in medieval Europe. Scholarly debate has long focused on the traditional attribution of the work to the mysterious Trotula, said to have been the first female professor of medicine in 11th- or 12th-century Salerno, then the leading center of medical learning in Europe. Yet as Monica H. Green, associate professor of history at Duke University, reveals in her introduction to this new edition, the Trotula is not a single treatise but three independent works, each by a different author.

Green analyzes the texts against the background of historical gynecological literature as well as current knowledge about women’s lives in 12th-century southern Italy. She also introduces the reader to the medical culture of medieval Salerno from which they emerged.

Among her findings is that the second of the three texts, “On the Treatments for Women,” does derive from the work of a Salernitan woman healer named Trota. However, the other two — “On the Conditions of Women” and “On Women’s Cosmetics” — are probably of male authorship, a fact indicating the complex gender relations surrounding the production and use of knowledge about the female body.

Through an exhaustive study of the extant manuscripts, Green presents a critical edition of the so-called standardized Trotula ensemble, a composite form of the texts that was produced in the mid-13th century and circulated widely in learned circles. The facing-page complete English translation makes the work accessible to a broad audience of readers interested in medieval history, women’s studies and premodern systems of medical thought and practice.

—University of Pennsylvania Press


Originally published on April 5, 2001