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News from the Leon Levy Dental Medicine Library: News from the Levy Dental Medicine Library

Crowd Source Translation Project: The Oldest Dental Textbook

by Carly Schanock on 2018-12-05T12:38:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

Help us perform an extraction on the world’s oldest dental book!

The full title Die Arzney Buchlein wider allerlei kranckeyten und gebrechen der tzeen translates to “booklet of remedies against all sorts of diseases and infirmities of the teeth.”  A mere 44 pages long, Die Zene Arzney is the first printed work specifically on dentistry. And as if that isn’t grand enough, it also bears on its title page the first dental woodcut depicting a timeless self-explanatory image, a tooth extraction.[1]

The goal of this project is to translate this book into English. And to review the text that is thought to be unchanged from one edition to the next. Just as recently as 1924, researchers were unaware of some editions, new transcribers may discover new text and meaning.

To facilitate the translation process, we have posted a link to a translation of the 1541 edition:;page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=image

The book is divided into the following 13 sections:

Section I: When and how many teeth grow in man
Section II. By what causes the teeth are ruined
Section III. How to assist children that their teeth may erupt easily
Section IV. Of toothache
Section V. Of hollow and decayed teeth
Section VI. Of teeth on edge
Section VII. Of yellow and black teeth
Section VIII. Of depressed (impacted) teeth
Section IX. Of loose teeth
Section X. Of worms in the mouth
Section XI. Ulceration, bad smells, and diseased gums
Section XII. How to extract bad teeth
Section XIII. How to retain good teeth


The edition we have uploaded for translation was printed in 1532 by Gustav Budjuhn. Preceding the original text of Die Zene Arzney is a new forward added by Budjuhn.

The University of Pennsylvania special collections holds the oldest edition of Die Zene Arznei, published in 1530. It is on display for a limited time each year in the Leon Levy Dental Medicine Library of the University of Pennsylvania.


To aid you in your work are some papers about the different editions of the book and its artwork:

This paper outlines some of the differences between the editions.
Weinberger, B. W. (1924). Dental Literature: Its Origin and Development. Journal of Dental Research, 6(4), 305–388.

Proskaur, Curt.. “The Two Earliest Dentistry Woodcuts.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1, (1), 1946, 71–86. JSTOR,

Searchable version[2]

A complete Fraktur (old German cursive script) chart


To visit the project site, follow this link 



[1] •Friedländer, Max J.: Der Holzschnitt. Berlin 1926

[2] Budjuhn, G. (1921). Die Zene Arznei: 1530 : Faksimiledruck mit einer quellenkritischen Untersuchung über die Geschichte des ältesten zahnheilkundlichen Druckes. Berlin: H. Meusser.  1532


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