Gale’s Herbarium

There is a search option on the James Catalogue of Western Manuscripts that allows you to ‘browse all manuscripts’ and then to ‘only include virtual manuscripts’. I had a quick look through ‘Newton’s Notebook’ (classmark R.4.48c), a ‘Roll of Carols’ (classmark O.3.58) and a 15th century ‘Medical Texts’ (classmark R.1.86). What will you find?

Trinity College Library, Cambridge

Manuscript O.2.48 is a medical miscellany combining the works of various authors. Part of a well-known group of manuscripts, the Herbarius corpus, the Trinity copy – donated by Roger Gale in 1738 – is one of the most extensively illustrated manuscripts of these medieval herbals. Written and illustrated in Germany in the second part of the 14th century, it contains approximately 800 drawings of plants and 40 drawings of doctors and patients. The text begins with a prayer, to recite when preparing plant-based medicines, and then explains the properties of each plant, the illnesses they are most suitable for, and how to prepare the potions. Rather than an interesting read for plant lovers, the Herbarium was a detailed manual for the general practitioner that allows us to glimpse at the life of medieval doctors, busy attending their patients and advising them on the most appropriate treatments for their…

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