Hieronymus Brunschwig

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Hieronymus Brunschwig
Brunschwig title page Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita.jpg
the title page of Brunschwig's famous work, Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita.
Born 1450
Died 1512
Residence Strasbourg
Nationality German
Known for Liber de arte distillandi de compositis

Hieronymus Brunschwig or Hier Brunschwygk (ca. 1450 – ca. 1512), was a German physician, surgeon, chemist, and pharmacologist. He was notable for his early work on chemical techniques, as well as his methods of treatment of gunshot wounds. He authored several books, including Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita.


Brunschwig was born circa 1450 in the free imperial city of Strasbourg, which in his time was part of the Holy Roman Empire. He studied medicine at the universities of Bologna, Padua, and Paris. After practising in Alsace, Franconia, and Bavaria, he settled at Strasbourg at the end of the fifteenth century. He died in Strasbourg, circa 1512.

Early publications[edit]

Illustration from Kleines Distillierbuch (1500)

Brunschwig's early publications, all printed in Strasbourg by Johann Grüninger, included treatises on surgery and anatomy:

  • 1497: Das buch der cirurgia: hantwirckung der wundartzny
  • 1497: A most excellent and perfecte homish apothecarye or homely physick booke

Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita[edit]

A patient with his doctors, from Liber de arte distillandi de compositis, 1512
Illustration from Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita (1500)

Brunschwig's Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita (also known as the "Little Book of Distillation") was one of the earliest books ever written concerning the subjects of chemistry and pharmacology. Printed by Grüninger in 1500,[1] this book was the first to systematically describe the essential oils, their distillation and extraction from the plants which produce them, and their applications as pharmacotherapeutic agents.

The first part of the treatise describes in great detail the methods and apparati for the distillation of extracts from various plants and animals. The second part describes certain medicinal plants, and the third part contains an exhaustive list of maladies (such as marital incompatibility, poor memory, depression, nightmares and alcohol intoxication) along with a corresponding list of plant distillates and extracts recommended for their treatment. The book includes instructions on how to distill aqua vitae, aurum potabile, and artificial and natural balsams.

The last of the fifteenth-century herbals, this book is widely regarded to be an important link between the Middle Ages and modern times. Due to its in-depth description and many illustrations of distillation apparati and techniques, the book was considered to be an authoritative text well into the 16th century.

Posthumous publications[edit]


  1. ^ Bertrand Gille, Histoire des techniques (1978), ISBN 978-2-07-010881-7.

External links[edit]