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Reference MS.MSL.136
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Level Item
Extent 98 folios, on vellum
Title A Collection of Remedies
Date Mid 15th century
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A collection of remedies written by the same scribe throughout.


1. ff. 1r-95v A collection of 1073 prescriptions or recipes for the treatment of diseases and injuries, and for the making of plasters, ointments, electuaries, etc. in English.

2. ff. 96r-97v A Medico-Botanical Glossary. A short and incomplete glossary of the names of plants with their synonyms and properties, in alphabetical order. This glossary closely resembles that known as Alphita, of which the principal manuscripts are in the Bodleian, the British Museum, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. It is very incomplete and ends with the letter F, but the entries per letter are much fewer than those of Alphita or of the somewhat similar Sinonomia Bartholomei contained in a manuscript at Pembroke College, Oxford. (The Oxford manuscripts of both the glossaries have been published by J. L. G. Mowat, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Vol. i, part i (1882); part ii (1887).) The text is in Latin, but the Scribe has written the English names of the herbs in the margin.

3. ff.98r-v Recipes, in English.

Access Status Open
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Language English
Language Latin
Physical Description 4to. 18.5 14 cm. Modern binding of white pigskin.

On palaeographical and philological grounds, Warren Dawson in his catalogue of MSL manuscripts assigns the manuscript to the middle of the fifteenth century. John Beaufort [first] Duke of Somerset is mentioned on folio 94 in circumstances that suggest that he was still or lately living. He died in 1444, and this circumstance supports the opinion that the manuscript is of mid-fifteenth century date.

The general arrangement is alphabetical, but it is quite arbitrary, for the method often results in separating closely allied remedies. Thus some of the diseases of the ear, for instance, are entered under the letter A (aches, etc.); others under D (deafness), and under the names of the appropriate drugs. Both pharmaceutical and pathological terms as well as organs and parts of the body appear thus alphabetically grouped.

The prescriptions are divided from one another by paragraph marks, alternately red and blue, but these are often incorrectly placed. The text was written first and the paragraph marks inserted afterwards. In very many places the scribe omitted to insert the marks where they should have been placed, and almost as often he has wrongly inserted them in the middle of a prescription. There are many textual mistakes. Dittographies are frequent, and words are often omitted. Some of the longer passages are corrupt and the copyist often did not appear to understand what he was writing.

Each letter of the alphabet begins with an elaborately illuminated capital. There is no title, but the introductory paragraph reads as follows:- "Here begynne pe gode medycyns for al manr yvellis that eny man hath that gode lechys have drawen owt off pe bokys that men clepe Archippus & ypocras ffor thes ware pe best lechis off the world in heyr tyme and prfor who so will do as thys boke tech hyme he may be sekyr to have help off all yvellys and woundys and opr desesys and sekness both wt in and eke Wyth owt."

The folios are numbered with Saxon numerals, but they were inserted after the book was finished, for there is no interruption in their sequence between fo. 6 and 7 where a leaf has been cut out. A large piece has been torn out of fo. 26, but otherwise the text is perfect.

Finding Aids Catalogue description modified in 2014. For original description, see Warren R. Dawson, Manuscripta medica. A descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of the Medical Society of London (London, 1932).
Related Material The manuscript is akin to others of its class, such as the British Museum manuscripts Sloane, 405, 610, 2584, 3153; Harleian 1600, and others. There are some passages which are duplicates of passages in the British Museum manuscripts. On item 2, see also MS.MSL.131.
Relevant Publications


A leechbook or collection of medical recipes of the fifteenth century : the text of ms. no. 136 of the Medical society of London, together with a transcript into modern spelling / transcribed and edited with an introduction, notes and appendix by Warren R. Dawson (London : Macmillan and co., limited, 1934).

Tavormina, M. Teresa. Uroscopy in Middle English: a Guide to the Texts and Manuscripts, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, ser. 3, no. 11 (University of Michigan, 2014), p. 87.

Subject Drug Prescriptions
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. f33c3c4a-a619-46cb-a8e6-f803b466be31