The Tryal of Wits, by Juan Huarte
The same humoral determinism is the foundation of another late Renaissance bestseller, the Spanish physician Juan Huarte de San Juan’s Examen de ingenios para las ciencias, or (as the title of the second English translation puts it) The Tryal of Wits: Discovering the Great Difference of Wits Among Men, and What Sort of Learning Suits Best with Each Genius", the latter published in 1698.
First published in 1575, then censored and expurgated in subsequent editions, by the end of the seventeenth century its 1594 edition had been reprinted several times in Spain and variously translated into Latin, French, Italian, and English (followed by German in the eighteenth century). Huarte (1698, 92) reproduced Galen in explaining that, for the rational soul to perform its actions adequately, the brain needs a “good configuration” and “unity of parts,” its substance should “be composed of very fine and delicate Parts,” and neither should its heat exceed its coldness nor its moisture surpass its dryness.
While attention was paid to the organ’s morphology, individual dispositions were dictated by its degree of heat, moisture, and dryness, by way of correspondences between humidity and memory, dryness and the understanding, heat and the imagination. For example, “Old Men have a good Understanding, because they are very dry; and that they have no Memory, because they have no moisture” (146). Partly through their effect on brain substance, the bodily humors and their qualities were ultimately responsible for an individual’s “wits” and psychological features."