Wellcome Apocalypse

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ff. 1-2r blank.

The first leaf, otherwise blank, contains a rough pen-drawing of a Lady in late 16th century costume sitting on a chair; facing her is a small dog to whom she is beckoning

Section I. ff. 2v-28v Apocalyspe of St. John, with the Vita Antichristi interpolated, and the Vita Sancti Johannis appended

1. ff. 2v-10v and 13v-27r Apocalypse of St. John

f. 2v Apokalyppsis ihesu christi quem dedit illi dedit illi [sic] palam fatere seruis suis que oportet fieri cito ... f. 13v [Apocalypse continued, Ch. XI, 15.] Et VIIus angelus tuba cecinit et facte sunt voces magne in celo... f. 27r, line 8 ...Gratia domini nostri ihesu cristi cum omnibus uobis Amen.

2. ff. 10v-13r Vita Antichristi, interpolated within the Apocalypse text

f. 10v Antichristus nascetur in Babulonia secundum autenticos ... f. 13r ... nec legis peritus predixit nec scire possit nisi solus deus.

3. f. 27r-28v line 23 Vita S. Johannis

f. 27r Conuersi ab ydolis per predicacionem beati iohannis drusiana et ceteri ... f. 28v In sepulcro eius nichil nisi manna inventum est quod usque hodie scaturire cernitur.

Illustrations This section contains 121 drawings, many of large size, the text occupying only a small proportion of the page. The relation of certain of these drawings, together with those in the 'Ars Moriendi' section to the illustrations in the Apocalypse and 'Ars Moriendi' block-books of which they are precursors, and to similar illustrations in 13th century MSS., is discussed by Gertrud Bing in 'The Apocalypse block-books and their manuscript models' Journal of the Warburg Institute 5 (1942), pp. 148-158.

Section II. ff. 29r-33r Ars moriendi, with other texts on death

4. f. 29r-30v Ars moriendi

f. 29r Cum de presentis exilii miseria mortis transitur propter moriendi impericiam multis non solum laycis ... f. 30v, col. 2, line 8 ... Vnde vnicuique bene et secure mori volenti super omnia est necesse et prius quam mors occupet mori discat. Et hec est conclusio suprascriptorum.

5. f. 30v col. 1, line 11 Two staves of musical notes, and two lines of verse beginning 'Ad mortem festiuam': these are followed by 27 lines of verse-extracts from different poems on Death.

6. f. 30v, col. 2 Below the illustration of 'Rota vitae', 8 lines of verse (written in four lines) beginning 'Ceca fortuna quia non est omnibus vna'.

7. f. 31r Verse-extracts from poems on Death, including 'Vado mori', 'Mors fera mors', etc.

8. ff. 31v-32r Visions and prophecies including the 'Dictum Sibille' 'SALKVM'.

ff. 32v-33r blank.

Illustrations: the first two leaves leaves contain the eleven drawings of the 'Ars Moriendi' proper. Such forerunners of the 'Ars Moriendi' block-book illustrations are known in only a very few examples.

The remainder of this Section contains 15 allegorical and symbolic drawings, including a Wheel of Life, a skeleton in a coffin, surrounded by figures representing the various classes of Mankind, Death and the Pilgrim, etc., which have affinities with the 'Marcabre' group of late medieval illustrations, of which the best known example is the famous 'Dance of Death' series, first depicted in Paris in 1424

Section III. ff. 34r-45v Medical and anatomical texts and drawings

9. ff. 34r-35v Wound man, text and diagram

f. 34r Vor fliegen stosz germar und vermut wol zesamen ... f. 34v, col. 2 ...nym meiden wache honig und essig diriszen temper daz und leg es doruber ... 35v, col. 1 Wen du wilt den puls greiffen ... f. 35v col. 2 ... dis bedutet ein gesunden menschen

f. 35r contains the wound man diagram

10. ff. 35r-36r Vein man, text and diagram

f. 36r, line 12 Hec est historia arteriarum...

11. f. 36v-37r Pseudo-Galen, Figure incisionis

f. 36v In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Incipit figura incisionis sicut Galienus incidit peritissimus medicorum ... f. 37r, col. 2 ... et in talonibus adiuuant eas in omni motione sua quandocunque.

Accompanied by anatomical diagrams

12. f. 37v Muscle-man. Matrix. Foetus; with legends.

13. f. 38r Foetus. Disease woman. Gynaceological receipts, etc.

14. f. 38v Quomodo mulieres volentes concipere se debeant habere. Videat mulier...

With gynaecological notes and receipts, etc.; and the four figures of women, the first showing a Caesarean section.

15. f. 39r, col. 1, line 60 De 4 complexionibus, etc. With figure of Disease-man (col. 2).

16. f. 39v, col. 1, line 54 De 4 regionibus. With figure.

f. 39v col. 2 Pathological notes, and figure of Disease-man

17. f. 40r, col. 2, line 26 Hec sunt signa mortis inventa per ipocratem ... f. 40v, col. 1, line 32 ... Desiderium dulcium rerum cum desiderio vehementi.

f. 40v, col. 1, line 33 Incipit compendium siue summa manifestum et expertum de fleubotomia per Iohannem de burno diocesis ruthenie aggregatum a diuersis autoribus magistris antiquis a Galieno Avicenna et Rasaio...

f. 41v, col. 2 ...si autem supra natauerit viuet etc. De urinis: with circular figure of urine-glasses.

42r, col. 1, line 1 Hi sunt colores qui continguntur...

f. 43r, col. 1, line 15 ...Si autem malum sedimentum post plures dies appareat non confirmatam sed debilitatem nature declarat.

f. 43r line 16 Notes on the four Humours, Phlebotomy, fevers, etc.: with a figure 'Situs viscerum' (col. 2).

f. 43v, col. 1 Tabula phlebotomiae cum figuris Zodiaci. Notes on medical astrology.

f. 44r-v, col. 1, lines 23 334 lines of verse in 4 columns, taken from the Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum and from Macer's De virtutibus herbarum

f. 44r Testatur sapiens quod deus omnipotens Fundauit phisicam ... f. 44v, col. 2, line 52 Eger si foueat faciem uel si bibat illam Optatum capiet nisi sit mors proxime sursum.

f. 44v Notes on diseases, receipts, etc.

f. 45r Notes on the Seasons, Months, etc.: with a circular figure of the Phases of the Moon.

f. 45r col. 1, line 25 Quomodo se regere debet unusquisque qualicunque mense que vitanda aut facienda per uersus sequentes. Poem in 173 lines from the 'Regimen', beginning: Escas per janam calidas est sumere bonum.

f. 45r col. 4, line 60 Septima dat primam sextam pede dinam.

f. 45r line 61 Item si vis scire horas minutionis.

f. 45r line 67 Contra vim mortis non est medicamentum mortis.

f. 45v, col. 1 Notes on Astronomy, geography and arithmetic.

f. 45v line 47 Verses of 50 lines written in two columns, beginning: Crescit amor mundi quantum pecunia crescit. Ends: In mundo mira faciunt nummi et ira.

f. 45v col. 2 Notes on meterology, with a circular figure of the Four Regions of the Earth, Elements, Humours, etc. Below verses on wine, drinking, dispraise of women, etc.

Illustrations: this section contains 25 drawings, and may be divided into four groups:

(a) Illustrations to the 'Figura Incisionis', with text by the Pseudo-Galen; containing eight of the usual items, viz.: Arteries, Veins, Bones, Nerves, Muscles, Genitals, Stomach, Liver and Viscera, Matrix; but without the figure of the brain and eyes.

(b) The 'Ketham' group as found in the 'Fasciculus Medicinae' (Venice, 1491); containing six drawings, viz.: Circle of urine-glasses (fol. 42), Vein-man (fol. 36), Phlebotomy with astrological connections (fol. 43v), Pregnant woman (fol. 38), Wound-man (fol. 35)-this with German text (fol. 34), and Disease-man (fol. 39v). Besides these there are two others, not in the 1491 edition: The four Regions of the Body (fol. 39v), and a Blood-letting figure with astrological signs (fol. 41).

(c) Gynaecological, etc.: a representation of Caesarean Section (fol. 38v); two small pictures of two women in conversation, in the first of which one of them is depicted naked (fol. 38v, fol. 39); a woman suspended from a kind of gallows for a suffumigation (fol. 39). There is also a figure of the Intestines (fol. 43), figures showing the position, etc. of the child in the uterus at various stages of pregnancy (fol. 37v, fol. 38), and a figure of the Signs of Death (fol. 40).

(d) Diagram of the phases of the Moon (fol. 49), and of the four Regions of the World, the four Elements, etc. (fol. 45v).

Section IV. ff. 46r-69v Moral, allegorical and symbolic extracts, exempla, etc.

f. 46r, col. 1 Figures of The Seven Deadly Sins and of Profane Love: with short prose text.

f. 46r col. 2 Figure of Worldliness. Short poem in 17 lines beginning: Bis sex credatis sunt species ebrietatis. Below: Two fools [?], with six lines of verse beginning: Sunt tres stultitie maiores omnibus audi.

f. 46v-47r 6 symbolic figures of 'Luxuria', Adulatio, etc. with illustrative text.

f. 47v Schematic diagram of the Virtues, and the Good Sciences. With 66 lines of versus relating to them.

f. 48r Parallel diagram of the Vices

ff. 48v-49r Figures of the Virtues and their attributes.

f. 49v Figure of the Vices, with 93 lines of verse and glosses beginning: Ocia si tollis periere libidinis arma.

f. 50v, col. 2, line 24 Nititur in vetitum nomen commutat honestum.

f. 50v, col. 2, line 36 Verses beginning: Ecce mundus moritur vitiis sepultus.

f. 50v, col. 3 Cum sanctis celum omnibus quemadmodum adire. Amen. (From the 'visio Philiberti'.)

f. 51r Debate between the Body and the Soul (Visio Philiberti), 312 lines. col. 1 Noctis sub silencio tempore brumali. 51v, col. 3, line 56, Et me christi manibus totum commendaui.

f. 51r col. 4 Poem in 44 lines beginning: O vos omnes qui transitis figuram hanc inspicite. Ends: Propter meos reatus sine fine sum dampnatus etc. est finis.

f. 52r German verse-translation of the above in 47 lines written in two columns. Du alle die hie vorgan schawet dise figure. Ends: Ewerlich an ende bin ich vorlorn etc. The upper half of the leaf contains an extract from 'De contemptu mundi' with an 'Imago Vanitatis'.

f. 52v-56r Compositio de virtutibus et vitiis sibi invicem impugnantibus (Etymachia): with 16 illusrations. col. 1 Misit saul apparitores ut raperent [for 'caperent' in the printed version] david ... 56r col. 1, line 37 [End of 'Devotio'] ... et vere pudicicie habitus super summo modestus et in suo tempore modestus.

f. 52v line 39 End of volume, 'Exempla', etc. with symbolic illustrations, extracted from Robert Holkot's 'Moralitates', John Ridewall's, 'Fulgentius metaforalis', 'Gesta Romanorum', etc., with a few verses.

Illustrations: there are 120 allegorical, emblematical and symbolic drawings, in every variety, some full-page, some in the form of 'Trees'. They cover all kinds of theological, classical, moral and symbolic subjects. A large proportion of them is devoted to the virtues and their contrasting Vices. Text, etc. The first 32 leaves are written in a neat gothic book hand, the remainder in a less formal script, with many contractions, possibly by the same scribe. Initials and paragraph marks in red. The dialect of the German texts seems to be mainly Middle German with some Low German forms.

The illustrations are as under:

f. 56r Superbia. Diogenes in his tub.

f. 56v Circe and the swine-men. Ulysses and Sirens. King Cambyses.

f. 57r Superbia riding a lion. Fortuna on a wheel. Fortuna, with double face, on a wagon.

f. 57v Predestinatus and Reprobatus. Guardian Angel.

f. 58r Sun God [?]. Helen as Goddess of Love, with four wheels. -Caritas. Amor with wings.

f. 58v Amor without wings. Sapitentia carried on a litter. Sapientia as a Queen seated and suckling two old men.

f. 59r Sapientia as a Priest standing outside a Church. Prudentia. Pietas.

f. 59v Clementia. Patientia. Humilitas.

f. 60r Penitentia as a Knight in armour. Beneficentia. Penitentia as a nacked Youth with a scourage.

60v Ecclesia Christiana. Duo Fratres. Penitens cum angelis.

f. 61r Abbas et Diabolus. Bonus Monachus. Fons Virtutis.

f. 61v Predicator Virtutis. Predicator negligens.

f. 62r Sedile canonicae regularitatis. Castella Simoniae.

f. 62v Seraphim. Christus crucifixus cum statera peccatorum.

63 Cherubim. scala coeli. Arbor Penitentiae.

f. 63v Christus a Virtutibus crucifixus.

f. 64r Arbor Virtutum.

f. 64v Turris Sapientiae.

f. 65r Gradus ad Coelum.

f. 65v Arbor Virtutum.

f. 66r Arbor Vitiorum.

f. 66v Vitis baptizatorum, Gentilium et Hereticorum.

f. 67r Arbor Virtutum et Vitiorum.

67v Arbor vitae Virutis.

f. 68r Prudentia.

f. 68v Four illustrations to the life of Christ in the form of figures carried on wagons drawn by the Evangelists, and their symbolic beasts.

f. 69r Companion illustrations to the above of the Vices, borne on similar waggons drawn by horses ridden by symbolic postillions.

f. 69v Arbor Vitae humanae et Scientiarum.

Illustrated with 292 emblematic, symbolic and anatomical tinted outline drawings and figures. Pale colours only are used, mainly green, yellow, pink and red. Except perhaps for those in the Medical Section, the drawings appear to be by the same artist throughout, and are carefully and skilfully executed. No gold is used. These illustrations are of great interest and importance for the history of design, constume, architecture, etc., of the early 15th century.

Researchers are encouraged to first refer to the microfiche edition available in the Wellcome Library and the image files on the Wellcome Images website.



Physical description

1 volume 69 ll. (ff. 1 & 33 bl.). atlas folio. 40 x 30 cm. On vellum. Contemporary white doeskin binding over wooden boards, slightly defective and wormed; with stamped ornaments, the centre panels having the word 'Maria' in a scroll repeated 22 times. Both clasps are wanting, and a few leaves are slightly stained; some show signs of 16th cent. or later repairs. The binding is possibly not the original one, as seems to be shown by the position of the worm-holes; the end-papers appear to belong to the end of the 17th cent., or later. In a modern (c. 1900) red morocco case.

Acquisition note

Purchased at Sotheby's 7/12/1931, where it was Lot 3 at the Sale of the Library of I.T. Adams of Sheffield.

Biographical note

As the end-papers are at least two centuries or more later than the binding and the rest of the MS., the earliest evidence of provenance is to be found in a small paper slip, pasted inside the upper cover. This bears the inscription: "Miscellanea contenente: Apocalypsis cum glossis quae a glossa ordinaria differunt. Vita Johannis Apostoli et Evangelistae. Liber de arte moriendi. Excerpta de medicina, anatome, etc. Omnia figuris explicata, sine ullo auctoris nomine. Cod. membr. sec XIV in fol. maximo. Legago in pelle. No. 100. Lib 2. Scaf. 4 (struck through). '12." This is written in an Italian 18th cent. hand.

A loose 4to. sheet has been inserted, inscribed by a somewhat later Italian hand, containing the same particulars worded slightly differently, and omitting the shelf marks and numbers.

Related material

There is a 15th cent. MS. in the Bibliotheca Casanatense in Rome containing very similar illustrations and text-though without the Medical Section, which has been fully described, discussed, and compared with the Wellcome volume by Dr. F. Saxl in his article "A spiritual encyclopaedia of the Middle Ages" (Journal of the Warburg Institute, Vol. V, 1942, pp. 82-142). Dr. Saxl considers that the Wellcome MS. is 'one or two decades earlier than the Rome MS.' (p. 199). The latter he dates provisionally 1425-1440 (p. 92). The article contains two Appendices by Otto Kurz: 'I. The verses in the Casanatensis and Wellcome manuscripts.' 'II. The medical illustrations of the Wellcome MS.'

Terms of use

Please consult the digitised version as this item needs to be accessed in our conservation studio. Email library@wellcomecollection.org to request an appointment.

Finding aids

Database description transcribed from S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973).

Ownership note

Armorial Ex-libris of Walter Sneyd [1809-1888] pasted inside the upper cover, with a cutting from Sotheby's Catalogue of the Sneyd Library Sale (Dec. 1903), where this MS. was Lot 35. It was then bought by Messrs. Quaritch for £950.


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Accession number

  • 67200