Livre des simples médecines, in French

c. 1470
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A parchment and paper manuscript copy of the Livre des simples médecines, i.e. the French adaptation of the Circa instans attributed to Platearius, followed by a collection of recipes and a medical glossary in French, with additions of recipes in Latin and French by contemporary or slightly later readers on blanks, including one recipe mentioning Berthélemy (Medici) Mye, recipes by Simon of Pavia, Louis Abraham, Pierre de Grèce, Pantaleone Confienza, Jean de la Planche, Jean Espiart [or Espiard], Johannes de Scala, and the unidentified barbers/physicians G. Fabert and A. Bruneti, recipes for Charles the Bold and Jean de Bourbon, abbot of Cluny, and the verse entitled Virtutes Agnus Dei. Written and illustrated in Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), c. 1470.


1. ff. 1r-261r, Livre des simples médecines, the French adaptation of the late 12th-century pharmaceutical treatise in Latin known as Circa instans attributed to a physician operating in the milieu of the School of Salerno, named as Platearius. The treatise, organised in alphabetical order, provided information on the nature, healing properties, secondary qualities and therapeutic use of simples obtained from plants, metals and precious stones. It enjoyed great success in the Middle Ages and survives in six different manuscript versions. The text in the present manuscript is a copy of the French translation and adaptation of the Tractatus de herbis, which in turn was the second version of the variant A (versio A) of the original Latin treatise; the Tractatus de herbis is attributed to Bartholomaeus Mini de Senis as his name appears in a number of manuscripts in Latin and in French produced between the 13th and 15th century. The French text, entitled Livre des simples médecines, was probably written in the late 14th century and is represented in 28 extant manuscripts. This version supplemented the original text of the Circa instans with extracts from other pharmacopoeial works such as Pseudo-Apuleius's Herbarius, Macer Floridus's De viribus herbarum, De diaetis by Isaac Judaeus (Ishaq ibn Sulayjman al-Isra'ili), the Tacuinum Sanitatis of Ibn Butlan and the pseudo-Aristotelian Secret des secrets, among others. As a consequence, manuscripts containing this version of the text include between 432 and c. 900 chapters.

For reference, see: F. A. Baumann, Das Erbario carrarese und die Bildtradition des Tractatus de Herbis: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Pflanzendarstellung im Übergang von Spätmittelalter zur Frührenaissance (Bern: Benteli, 1974), pp. 99-125;
Livre des simples médecines: Codex Bruxellensis IV. 1024, a 15th-century French Herbal, introduction and adapted text [by] C. Opsomer, English translation [by] E. Roberts and W. T. Stearn, commentaries [by] C. Opsomer and W. T. Stearn (Antwerp: De Schutter, 1984), in particular vol. 1, pp. 10-13;
M. Collins, Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), pp. 239-278, 281-283;
Livre des simples médecines ed. M. Algàs, M. Miró and A. Pons, trans. A. Barton de Mayor (Barcelona: M. Moleiro, 2001), pp. 181-2, 225 n. 122, 226-7 n. 140;
I. Ventura, 'Il Circa instans attribuito a Platearius: trasmissione manoscritta, redazioni, criteri di costruzione di un'edizione critica', Revue d'histoire des textes, 10 (2015), pp. 251-362 (in particular p. 261 and n. 27);
eadem, 'Un best-seller farmaceutico medioevale tra produzione di libri e pratiche di lettura: il Circa instans attribuito a Platearius', in Orbis disciplinae. Hommages en l'honneur de Patrick Gautier Dalché, ed. N. Bouloux, A. Dan and G. Tolias (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), p. 628 and n. 9.
See also the note on the 'Livre des simples médecines, Anonyme' in the database Jonas-IRHT/CNRS (permalink:; consulted on 14th June 2017).

First printed as Arbolayre contenant la qualitey et virtus. propietey des herbes … at Besancçon by Peter Metlinger about 1486-8 (but assigned to Jacques Maillet at Lyons by Pellechet) (ISTC ia00944000; Wellcome Library copy at Incunabula 1.c.22); reprinted as Le grant herbier en françois in two other incunabula editions by Pierre Le Caron at Paris in quick succession between 1498 and 1500 (ISTC ia00945000 and ia00946000); see also Text-inc tia00944000.

For manuscript copies of the Circa instans in Latin in the Wellcome Library, see MSS 536 (England?, late 13th century), 547, ff. 192r-215v (France or England, 14th century), 624 (Germany, late 15th century) and 625, ff. 1r-21r (excerpts on herbs only; Germany, mid 15th century).

The present manuscript includes 486 chapters organised in alphabetical sections, each section preceded by an index, often incomplete and with the names of the simples inconsistently in French or Latin and not always in accordance with the name provided in the text. The sequence and illustration of the chapters seems to be closely related to the Latin text of the Tractatus de herbis found in London, British Library, Egerton MS. 747 (dated to no later than the first third of the 14th century), from which all other copies of this particular version of the Circa instans may derive.

f. 1r: Prologue, Incipit: [E]n Ceste presente besongne est nostre propos et entencion de traiter des simples medicines ...

f. 2r, column 1, lines 7-11: Prologue, Explicit: ... Et combien les peu li garder et quelles vertus il ont et comment on le doit administre. Et sera se trautier par le lectres de a.b.c.

f. 2r, column 1, line 12 - column 2, line 14: Index for simples beginning with letter a, Incipit: De aloan ...; Explicit: ... de antifernracum [for antiformacum, over erasure].

f. 2r, column 2, line 15: Incipit: [A]loan est de chaulde et seche complexion ou second degree ...

f. 261r, column 1, lines 11-17: Explicit: [Zuccara] ... Et / pour euiter prolixite / cy est fin de ce liure / en quel sont contenuz les / segres de salerne loue / en soit dieu Amen. // Deo gracias.

2. ff. 261r, column 2 - 263v: Miscellaneous recipes, in French, Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), early 1470s: 1. Recepte pour faire sentorit [?] / Prenes plain poing de betonie et autant de pinpinelle …; 2. Pour la maille des yeux bonne cure et esproue (car au monde ny a samblable …) …; 3. Experience esprouuee …; 4. Precieux oiguement contre la goute …; 5. Recept pour faire oiguement …; 6. Poudre cordiale pour le stomac …; 7. Electuaire contre limpedimie compose pour pape clement bien approuue …; 8. Recepte pour faire oiguement pour toutes doleances y soient en bras ue en jambes …; 9. Pour faire medicines …; 10. Pour faire emplastre …; 11. Jtem pour faire buuraige …; 12. Pour faire cincs ffecon fortatincs [?].

3.ff. 264r-288r, column 2, line 24: Collection of recipes, in French, Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), early 1470s: [caption in red] [L]es Remedes pour les ma/ladies de la teste seront / trouuees es chapitres / si comme il sera declarie [end of caption] //A la doleur du chief on cha/pitre daloen ... Contre morsures veni/meuses et venin en zedoar.

4.ff. 288r, column 2, line 25 - 293r, column 1, line 12: Medical glossary in alphabetical order, in French, Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), early 1470s: [caption and first word in red] [L]a Exposicion des / mos obscures et / mal cogneus par 1'ordre / des lettres de A B C. // [a]lopice [end of rubric] cest cheete de/cheueux ... [y]posarte Il en et dit en / leucofleumance etc. // Explicit.

5. f. 293r-v: Receipts for 'Eaue de noix' and 'Eaue de vierge', in French, Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), early 1470s: incipit: Quant les noix sont / de hore de la premier / fleur…; incipit: Ceste eaue ycy sapelle / lait de vierge …; f. 293v, incipit: [e]aue de noix a telle virtue …

6.ff. 294r-295r: Eight miscellaneous recipes, in Latin, Eastern France?, late 15th century, including: Recepta solemnis pro oculis …; a recipe mentioning Barthélemy Mye of Bourg-en-Bresse: Item quia non Reperitur apud nos herba sileris montani / mitte Burgum In bressia In domo filii magistri bartholomei / mye qui tibi tradet vnum paruum vitrum aque illius herbe / seleris montani ... (f. 294r, line 17); a recipe whose title was cut away by the binder but seems to attribute the remedy to the unidentified 'maistre / G. Fabert' (f. 295r, line 1 and inner margin).
Barthélemy (Medici) Mye is identifiable with a barber and surgeon in Bourg-en-Bresse, active between 1429 and 1451: see E. Wickersheimer, Dictionnaire biographique des médecins en France au Moyen Age (Paris: Droz, 1936), p. 62.

7. f. 295v: Two recipes respectively against epidemic pestilence, in Latin, and paralysis, in French, by two different hands, France, late 15th century.

8. f. 296r-v: Nine recipes against the plague, epidemics and for the eyes, in Latin, Central France (Bourbonnais?), late 15th or early 16th century, including: a recipe against the plague attributed to Simon of Pavia: Ditata [sic] per magistrum Symeonem de pauia Contra pestem … (f. 296r, line 1); seven other recipes against epidemics attributed to Louis Abraham: Alia Recepta super eodem ditata [sic] per Magistrum Ludouicum (f. 296r, line 6); one recipe for the eyes, anonymous: Aqua pro oculis / Recipe Bethonice pilopille … (f. 296v, line 3).
Simon of Pavia (c. 1405-1478) was an Italian doctor active in Lyon from 1433. He was the physician of the Charles I (1401-1456) and Charles II (1434-1488), dukes of Bourbon, and of Charles VII (1403-1461) and Louis XI (1423-1483), kings of France: see Wickersheimer, Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, p. 742, and D. Jacquart, Supplément (Geneva: Droz, 1979), pp. 268-9; also C. Petouraud, 'La vie médicale à Lyon au moyen âge', in Lyon et la médecine, special issue of the Revue lyonnaise de médicine, 7 (1958), pp. 42-4.
Magister Ludovicus is identifiable with Louis Abraham, a physician active in Châlons from the outbreak of the plague in 1456: see Wickersheimer, Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, pp. 526-7.

9. f. 296v, lines 12-29: Two recipes for the eyes, in Latin, Central France (Bourbonnais?), early 16th century, with 'cadel' initial: Alia Recepta pro oculis et approbata. Possibly written by the same hand as the added recipe on 'melisse' on ff. 171v-172r.

10.f. 297r-v: A short treatise attributed to Pierre de Grèce on the virtues of 'gui de chesne (or chêne)' [i.e. mistletoe or Loranthus europaeus], traditionally used to treat cancer, cardiovascular disorders, epilepsy, infertility, hypertension and arthritis, in French, Central France (Cluny?), late 15th century: Ce sont les vertus du g[ui] de ch[êne] que maistre / pierre de gresse natif darabie philosophe docteur / et cheualier en medicine a extrait des liures / qui ont este faits et expperimentes par ceulx cy /dessoutz escript comme il appert en la librairie / de labbaie de clugny que ledi[t] maistre pierre / y aporta et donna ...
The information was copied from this manuscript in L. Delisle, 'Notes sur quelques manuscrits …', p. 686, and used by Wickersheimer for his entry on Pierre de Gèce in the Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, p. 636.

11.f. 298r-v: A verse recipe against an epidemic (the plague?) for Herzog Karl dem Kühnen [i.e. Charles the Bold] (1433-1477; r. from 1467), followed by prose commentary, in French, Central France (Bourbonnais?), late 15th century: Recepte notable Contre Limpedimie / venue de lostel de noble et puissant / prince charles duc de bourgoyne etc. Ending with a monogram, possibly different from the one on f. 304v.

12. f. 299r: Six recipes against gravel, in Latin, France, late 15th century: Pro grauellosis // Recipe pulvis electuarij ducis .... Followed by the Latin sentence 'Visitabis Interiora terrae rectificando Inuenies / optimum [for occultum] lapidem veram medicinam', added in brown ink by a different hand.

13. f. 299v: Two recipes, against gravel and toothache respectively, in French, France, late 15th century: Une Recepte pour grauele / Prenez trois Raffenel … Followed by a third recipe also against toothache by a later hand.

14.ff. 300r-301r, line 15: Two recipes for different ailments, in French, France, late 15th or early 16th century.

15.f. 301r, line 16: One recipe against catarrh attributed to Pantaleone Confienza, in Latin, Central France (Bourbonnais?), late 15th or early 16th century: Magistri panthaleij / Contra catarrum.
Magister Panthaleus may be identifiable with Pantaléon de Vercellis or de Confluentia (Conflen), i.e. Pantaleone Confienza (d. c. 1492), professor of medicine at Turin and Pavia, physician of the dukes of Savoy (from Louis I (1413-1465), to Charles II (1488-1496)), of Charles de France (1446-1472), duke of Berry, Normandy and Guyenne, and of Louis XI, king of France. Well travelled, Pantaleone spent some time in Paris (in 1463) and Tours. The recipe was copied from this manuscript in L. Delisle, 'Notes sur quelques manuscrits …', p. 686, and used by Wickersheimer for his entry on 'Pantaléon' in the Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, pp. 591 and 592 n. 9; F. Di Trocchio, 'Confienza, Pantaleone (Pantaleo de Confluentia, Pantaleo medicus)', in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 27 (1982) [available at; consulted on 2 June 2017].

16. ff. 301v-302r: Eight recipes against various ailments, including gout and paralysis, transcribed by four very cursive Gothic hands, in Latin and French, France, late 15th or early 16th century, cropped away along the upper margin.

17. f. 302v: A recipe against jaundicee signed 'A. Bruneti', unidentified, in French, France, early 16th century [?], cropped away along the upper margin: Pour guerir de la jaunisse [?] …

18. f. 302v, line 13: Recipe against urinary gravel for Jean de Bourbon, abbot of Cluny (abbot from 2 Nov. 1456, d. Dec. 1485), in Latin, Central France (Cluny?), early 16th century [?]: Contra grauellam pro domino Johanne de borbonio abbate cluniacense. The recipe was copied from this manuscript in L. Delisle, 'Notes sur quelques manuscrits …', p. 686, and used by Wickersheimer for his entry on 'A. Bruneti' in the Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, p. 1, possibly mistakenly as the recipe was copied by a different hand from the previous one.

19. f. 303r-v: Eight recipes for healing waters and against gout, transcribed by different hands in cursive Gothic script, in Latin and French, France, early 16th century, partly cropped away along the upper margin: Aqua multum odorifera …

20. f. 304r: Two recipes against gout, in French, Central France, early 16th century [?].

21. f. 304r, line 22: Recipe against escoriations, attributed to 'Preceptor de l'Aulmusse', in French, France, early 16th century: Pour excoriation. Preceptor de l'Aulmusse … Followed by a note in Latin and French recording the approval of the recipe by Magister Jean de la Planche, added by a different hand: Approbatum est aussy par Maystre Jehan de la planche, jadiz procureur en parlement a paris.

22. f. 304v: Five recipes against urinary gravel, the first approved by Jean Espiart or Espiard, in French, France, 16th century: Recepte pour la grauelle approuuee par maistre Jehan Espiard, ending with a monogram (partly cut away). The recipe was copied from this manuscript in L. Delisle , 'Notes sur quelques manuscrits …', p. 686, and used by Wickersheimer for his entry on 'Jean Espiart' in the Dictionnaire biographique des médecins …, p. 397.

23. f. 305r: Virtutes Agnus Dei, verse (11 lines), a well known part of the Flos Medicinae or Scholae Salerni, in Latin, France, early 16th century. The verse describes the virtues of balsam, a spice imported from the East (mostly Egypt) and used as a balm both for healing and for the administration of religious sacraments. The text reads: Proprietas agni dei / Barsamus [for Balsamus] et cera munda cum crismatis vnda / Conficiunt agnum quem do tibi munere magnum / F[on]te velud natum, per mistica sanctificatum / Fulgura de sursum depellit et omne malignum / Pregnant servatur sine ve partus liberatur / Portatus munde sanat a fluctibus vnde / Peccatum frangit ut Christi sanguis et vngit / Dona confer dignis virtutes destruit ignis / Morte repentina servat Sathane que ruyna / Si quis adorat eum retinebit ab hoste triumphum / Agnus dei miserere mei qui crimina tollis / Amen.
This text was set in music by the composer Guillaume Defay and first perfomed in 1431. For editions, see P. Rosenthal, Poeseos medii aevii medicae specimina nonnulla minus cognita. Commentatio historico-medica (Breslau: Apud Max et Socium, 1842), Chapter IV: Fragmenta poeseos salernitanae continuatae et auctae, III. Therapeutica, E. Medicina composita, p. 42; 'Flos Medicinae', in Collectio Salernitana, ed. Salvatore di Renzi, 5 vols (Naples: Filiatre-Seberio, 1859), vol. 5, p. 84; U. Chevalier, Repertorium hymnologicum (Louvain and Brussels: [Societé des Bollandistes], 1892-1912, 1920-21), no. 24055; H. Walther, Initia carminum ac versuum medii aevi posterioris latinorum (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1959), no. 2058.
The verse is followed by two 2-line recipes against gout by two different hands, a note, partly erased, in French, and the line 'Nec oculos ad cartas nec manus ad [..]rches [?] imponas' by a fourth hand.

24. f. 306r: Four recipes, the first against the plague, in Latin, in three different cursive hands, France, early 16th century, followed by a monogram in the lower margin, possibly matching that on f. 304v [Jean Espiart?].

25. ff. 306v-309v: A collection of eleven recipes against a number of ailments, in French, in cursive hand, France, early 16th century.

26. f. 310r-v: Recipes against gout and other ailments, and to purify the humours, in French and Latin, in cursive hands, France, early 16th century.

27. ff. 311r-312v: Thirteen recipes, mostly against the 'Mal de Naples', in Latin and French, in cursive scripts by different hands, France, early 16th century, including:
f. 311r, lines 1-23 (first line almost totaly cropped away by later binder): a recipe in Latin attributed to a physician in Milan, called Johannes [de Scala?] and living in the household of the jurist Jason de Mayo [i.e. Giasone del Maino] (1434-1519)]: Ex magno [i.e. magistro] Johanne medicina [sic] phisico mediolani commorante de scala In domo Jasoni [?] mayno;
f. 311r, lines 24-31: a recipe in Latin, but with a French title, signed with the monogram 'J E' [Jean Espiard?] and a sign similar to a notarial sign: Recepte pour guerir du m[al] de napples. The recipe was dated to 1500 in Baumann, Das Erbario carrarese ... (cited above), p. 114.

28.ff. 313r-314r: Eight prayers and recipes against a number of ailments, in Latin and French, in cursive script by four different scribes, France, early 16th century.


c. 1470

Physical description

1 volume

On paper and parchment, the external bifolium of quires 1-27 being on parchment; watermarks: 1. Fruit, grape, without additional motif, with stem consisting of one line with noose (height c. 73 mm; width 44 mm; distance between chainlines 43 mm), found in quires 1-27 (ff. 1-304), similar to Piccard no. 128911 (Nurnberg, 1447), and Briquet no. 13040, the latter comprising a group of watermarks of similar design produced in Northern Italy, France, Switzerland and Southern Germany between 1430 and 1503 (Moorat - possibly arbitrarily - identified the present watermark as a variant dated Bourg, 1464 within this group: see Catalogue of Western Manuscripts ..., vol. 1, p. 483, followed by Baumann, Das Erbario carrarese ... (cited above), p. 114); 2. Monogram 'DP' in gothic style (height 94 mm; width 29 mm; distance between chainlines 41 mm) found in quire 28 (ff. 306-316), similar but not identical to Piccard no. 30815 (Bruges, 1446), but see also Briquet no. 9744 for a group of watermarks of similar design produced in France and Flanders between 1433 and 1468 (formerly identified by Moorat as a variant to Briquet nos 9744 (Cluny, 1456) or 9771 (Chaussin, 1451): see Catalogue of Western Manuscripts …, vol. 1, p. 483).

316 leaves, plus single modern paper flyleaves and conjoint pastedowns at the beginning and the end; ff. 315 and 316 blank; old foliation 'i-cclxiii' in light brown ink in upper right corner of rectos on ff. 1-263, late 15th century; old foliation 'iiclxiiii-iiclxx[iii]' in light brown ink in upper right corner of rectos on ff. 294-298 and 306-310, late 15th or early 16th century; modern foliation '264-316' in pencil in lower right corner of rectos on ff. 264-316. 277 x 197 mm; the texts shows different layouts: a) ff. 1r-263v, Livre des simples medecines: written space c. 208/212 x 143/145 mm, inconsistent ruling of single vertical and horizontal bounders in metal point for double columns to the page, no ruling for the horizontal written lines, 34/41 lines (above upper horizontal bounder) to the column; b) ff. 264r-293v: written space c. 205 x 140 mm, ruling of single vertical bounders and horizontal bounders in metal point (grey line) for double columns to the page, no ruling for the horizontal written lines, 37/42 written lines (above upper horizontal bounder) to the column; c) ff. 294r-314r, additional recipes written by a number of slightly later hands in long lines with different layouts mostly without ruling.

Collation: 18, 2-2212, 2310 (formed of ff. 259-263 and 294-298, as testified by the half watermarks on ff. 261 and 262 finding their other half on ff. 295 and 296), 24-2512, 2612-6 (ff. 288-293; wanting vii-xii), 276, one parchment singleton (i.e. fol. 305, used as the lower pastedown of an earlier binding), 2812-1 (wanting xii); catchwords at centre of the lower margin on the verso of the last leaf in quires 1-22 and 24-25; trace of quire signatures 'i-vi' in quires 1-23 (see signatures in lower right corner of ff. 34 and 37-38 in quire 4); trace of a new set of signatures 'ai-[avi]' in lower right corner of first leaf of quire 24 (f. 264r); signatures 'i-vi' in different style in brown ink in lower right corner of leaves in the first half of quires 25-26.

There is evidence that the original ordering of the quires has been disturbed at an unknown date and they were originally bound as follows: quires 1-23 (ff. 1-263, 294-298), 28 (ff. 306-316), 24-27 (ff. 264-304). This is suggested by the pattern of old foliation in quires 1-23 and 28 - with foliation 'i-cclxiii' on ff. 1-263 (late 15th century) continued as 'iiclxiiii-iiclxx[iii]' on ff. 294-298 and 306-310 (late 15th or early 16th century) - , by the collation of quire 23 (formed of ff. 259-263 + 294-298), and by the evidence that f. 305 (a singleton) was used as the lower pastedown in a previous binding.

Secundo folio: manieres il en sont.

ff. 1r-293v, written in an accomplished French cursive Gothic script (Northern Semihybrida or Libraria/Currens) in black and brown ink possibly by a professional scribe, using two forms for minuscule 'r' - the round-shaped Textualis, used also at the beginning of words, and a variant of the two-stroke Textualis form made in one counter-clockwise stroke: see A. Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 149, Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), c. 1470.

Decorated in Northern France (French Flanders or Picardy), c. 1470 (written communication by François Avril); previously attributed to Burgundy: see Baumann, Das Erbario carrarese…, p. 114, fig. 87b; W. Blunt and S. Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal, 2nd ed. (London: Frances Lincoln, 1994), p. 81; M. Collins, Medieval Herbals …, p. 282, pl. XXX.

Illuminated opening on f. 1r, with full border, two central vignettes, representing a physician in his study inspecting a urine flask and the arms and crest of the manuscript's patron, unidentified, his arms and motto 'Loue soit dieu' also in bas-de-page within the foliate decoration of the border.

Column-wide and 10-18 lines high coloured images of the simples (plants, animals, minerals or other substances), mostly preceding the descriptions but occasionally within their text, as follows: 1. 11 framed vignettes depicting a king (f. 5r), men gathering plants or mining minerals (ff. 4r, 7r, 10r, 21v, 30v, 52r, 166r, 223v), a turreted town (f. 22r) and a landscape with liverworts (f. 91v); 2. unframed images of plants (401 images throughout, plus three left unfinished on ff. 75v, 86v, 217r), of men gathering, mining or producing simples (ff. 29r, 63v, 249r, 252v), of animals such as fish (f. 17v), spiders, snakes and dogs (individually passim, and all together in the lower margin of f. 39r), shells (ff. 43r, 159r), corals (f. 60r), a stag (f. 187r), an elephant (f. 228r), lizards (f. 228v) and a beehive (f. 165r), mummies in their sepulchre (f. 159v), and objects, such as barrels (f. 10r), furnaces (f. 20r), cauldrons (ff. 48r, 92r), a turret (f. 73v), a fireplace (f. 110v) and a dash of blue (lapis lazuli?, f. 136r); 37 chapters are left without illustration.

The illustration of plants follows in the tradition of British Library, Egerton MS. 747. It was carried by at least two artists, the first more accomplished and sophisticated in the rendering of leaves and colours (mostly on ff. 2r-137r, but also on ff. 144r and 218r), the second less competent and precise with flat and unshaded colouring (ff. 137r-259v): see Baumann, Das Erbario carrarese…, p. 114; M. Collins, Medieval Herbals …, p. 298 and n. 174, pl. XXX.

Chapter initials (2-3 lines high) and paragraph marks in alternating red and blue on ff. 1r-263v; rubrics and paragraph marks in red, but dedicated spaces for initials (2-3 lines high) left blank on ff. 264r-287v; rubrics in red with dedicated spaces for 2-line initials left blank, first words in glossary in red ink with no initial but with dedicated space and small red guide-letter at their left, and paragraph marks in alternating red and blue on ff. 288r-293v.

Additional recipes in Latin and French written in cursive Gothic hands of various degrees of proficiency and cursivity by a number of different contributors on ff. 294r-305r, possibly Eastern France (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Cluny?), late 15th and early 16th century.

Several annotations and marginalia by different readers, throughout; four long marginal additions as follows: 1. in correspondence to the chapter on 'Ieineure' [i.e. Iuniperus] written in light brown ink by a very cursive hand in the lower margin of ff. 130v-131r; 2. in correspondence to the chapter on 'Melisse' [i.e. Melissa] entitled 'Aultre Recepte de la melisse' written in dark brown ink in accomplished cursive bookhand in the lower margin of ff. 171v-172r; 3. in correspondence to the chapter on 'Raue' [i.e. Rapa or Turnip] written in dark brown ink in a cursive Gothic hand in the lower margin of f. 220r; 4. following the end of the Livre des simples médecines on f. 261r and written in brown ink by a highly cursive hand; all datable to the late 15th and early 16th century, and possibly Eastern France (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Cluny?); incorrect numbering of chapters as '1-458' by a later reader, late 16th or early 17th century.

Binding: Half brown calf and decorated paper over pasteboards, with gilt title and tooling on spine compartments, spine restored, with bookblock edges sprinkled red, France [?], late 18th or early 19th century.

Acquisition note

Purchased from Barnard, Bookseller of London 1935.

Related material

Select images of this work were taken by the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum: WT/D/1/20/1/44/47, WT/D/1/20/1/44/48, WT/D/1/20/1/44/49, WT/D/1/20/1/44/50, WT/D/1/20/1/44/51

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), vol. 1, pp. 483-5. Description enhanced by Laura Nuvoloni in Summer 2017 based on the compiler's own research.

Location of duplicates

Various images have been photographed and form part of the Wellcome Images collection: L0019170, L0019171, L0019172, L0019442, L0022688, L0027217, L0028502, L0031747, L0031748, L0031749.

Ownership note

Unidentified 15th-century patron, his arms (azure, two cocks or crested gules, affronted, accompanied by three etoiles, two and one or) on f. 1r and motto 'Loue soit il' on ff. 1r and 80r. The arms had formerly been identified as those of the Dubois family: see Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library, vol. 1, p. 484, citing M. M. A. Chassant and H. Tausin, Dictionnaire des dévises historiques, vol. 2 (Paris: Dumoulin, 1878), p. 519.

Pierre Arcelin of Mâcon (d. 1771?), professor of medicine at Montpellier and Paris, his armorial book-plate inscribed 'Ex libris Petri Arcelin Matisconensis Medicinae Facultatis et Parisiensis' on upper pastedown.

Baron Louis Marie François Dauphin de Verna (1810-1895), the sale of his library by Louis Brun, Lyons, 13 November 1895, lot 1270.

The Parisian Librairie Damascène Morgand [55 passage des Panoramas, Paris], purchased at Baron Dauphin de Verna's sale; the bookseller catalogue no. 7, 1895, no. 27541, entitled 'Grand Herbier en françois ou le Livre des simples ḿdecines, suivî d'un recueil de recettes': see L. Delisle, 'Notes sur quelques manuscrits du baron Dauphin de Verna', Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes, 56 (1895), pp. 645-90 (pp. 684-6, no. XVIII), available at (consulted on 21 June 20170.


Where to find it

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Accession number

  • 68483