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Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal


Volume 3: No. 2, April 2006

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Cover of the April 2006 issue

Robert Burton’s influential The Anatomy of Melancholy attributed overall physical and mental health to the balance of the four humours, fluids believed to permeate the body. Burton’s concept of the four humours dates back to Hippocrates, whose precept of the rule of harmony included his theory that an imbalance among the humours — blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile — resulted in pain and disease, an idea that formed the basis of medicine through the Renaissance. Galen, a Greek physician of the second century, introduced four temperaments corresponding to each humour, which were adopted and expanded in Elizabethan and Renaissance art and medicine. Blood equated to a sanguine temperament characterized as optimistic and passionate; phlegm to a phlegmatic temperament that was unemotional or dull; yellow bile to a choleric temperament characterized as quick-tempered and willful; and black bile to a melancholic temperament of depression and despondency. The cover art for this issue is a treatment of these four types based on an illustration from Le grant kalendrier et compost des bergiers avecq leur astrologie et plusieurs aultres choses, or The Shepherd’s Calendar, printed by Nicolas Le Rouge in the late 15th century.

Cover artist: Kristen Immoor
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