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English 15th century medical and astrological compendium

  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


MS.8004 is an English medical and astrological compendium written in the middle of the 15th century.

The digital facsimile of this item can be viewed online via the UK Web Archive.

The manuscript is of interest because it appears to represent part of a unified campaign of book production for an owner who wanted fine copies of the various texts and tables appropriate to his profession or interests. The contents are almost exclusively in English, which is in itself quite unusual for a medical book at this date, and beside the medical and astronomical components there is also a lengthy pilgrimage text (ff.75-84v). Some of the texts are unique, such as those on bloodletting veins (f.18), celestial distances (f.49) and reckoning times (ff.49-52); others are very rare. The pilgrimage text, giving directions from London to Jerusalem, may also be unique.

The entire manuscript is richly decorated and illuminated, with lavish use of gold.

Neither owner nor scribe are known, but the work may have been commissioned either by a provincial sugeon or a layman with medical interests. The dialect of the English texts suggests an origin in the East of England: Nottinghamshire / Lincolnshire / South-East Yorkshire, or possibly Norfolk. The calendar opening the work is according to the Use of Sarum but adds the Translation of St. Hugh of Lincoln as a major feast.

The calendar which opens the work states that it was begun in the year 1454, and since the entire contents of the volume appear to represent a single campaign of book production it is reasonable to assume that the manuscript was completed shortly after that.



Physical description

1 volume

Acquisition note

Purchased by the Wellcome Library from Sam Fogg Rare Books Ltd., London, on 6 June 2002, through the agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and with assistance from the Science Museum's Prism Fund.

Ownership note

Formerly in the library of the Dukes of Newcastle at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire: that collection was dispersed in 1938. The Wellcome Library attempted to purchase the manuscript when it was sold at Christie's on 29 November 1999 (lot 9) but were not successful on that occasion.

Location of duplicates

The digital facsimile of this item is temporarily unavailable through the live library website but can be viewed online via the UK Web Archive.


  • Middle English

Where to find it

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