Edited by Orietta Da Rold, Takako Kato, Mary Swan and Elaine Treharne

(University of Leicester, 2010; last update 2013)

http://www.le.ac.uk/ee/em1060to1220, ISBN 095323195X

The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220

Danielle Maion

London, British Library, Harley 6258B

London, British Library, Harley 6258B

The Production and Use of English Manuscripts: 1060 to 1220

© 2010-13 The Production and Use of

English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 |

Ed. by ODR, TK, MS & ET, ISBN 095323195X |

Back to List of MSS and Descriptions

Medical Treatises

Date: s. xiiex


The manuscript includes material for the practice of medicine: the Old English translation of Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius and Medicina de Quadrupedus, which give, respectively, a list of plants and animals together with their therapeutic qualities, and a collection of remedies, the Peri didaxeon, that illustrates their use and their effectiveness together with their therapeutic applications. Although the earlier foliation suggests that the manuscript originally contained thirty more initial leaves, the quire's medieval signatures run from 'I', indicate that the extant texts were intended as a complete collection of medical treatises. Beccaria does not include this codex in his catalogue I codici di medicina del periodo presalernitano, because it is not pre-Salernitan, that is, before the eleventh century (Beccaria 1956).

Manuscript Items:

  1. Item: Fols 1r/1-44r/26

      Title (B. Pseudo-Apuleius: Herbarius, Medicina de Quadrupedibus [alphabetical version]

      Incipit: 'ƿið innoðes sar jenim þa ƿirte' [Initial letter no longer visible]

      Explicit: 'bite þæs cancores heo afeormað | '

      Text Language: English

      Other versions of the text:

      BL Harley 6258B, unlike the other Old English versions, is shorter and arranges the herbs in alphabetical order according to their Latin names (considering the first letter only). Residues of the previous arrangement are witnessed in the text (see fol. 33v where the last two words coincide with the first two words of the following chapter according to the arrangement of the other versions). Nevertheless, all the witnesses descend, very probably, from a common ancestor (see De Vriend 1984, p. xliii).

      Note: Numerous cures are provided with marginal annotations (circled in black or red) in Latin and, rarely, in Old English provide a brief summary of the content of the remedies. It is unlikely they were copied from the Latin original (see De Vriend 1984, pp. xxix-xxx), and it seems probable that they were added to allow quick retrieval of a specific cure in the text.


  2. Item: Fols 44v/2-51r/23

      Title (B. Pseudo-Apuleius: Herbarius, Medicina de Quadrupedibus [abbreviated version]

      Incipit: 'Þe egypta king e idpartus wæs hatan'

      Explicit: 'swylas edwæsceþ.'

      Rubric (final): 'explicit de medicinis herbarum. Incipit de singulis feris medicamen tum' (in the top margin, in black. Under the black rubric, singulis medicamentum is added in a much faded shade of red) .

      Text Language: English

      Other versions of the text:

      This Old English version of the Medicina de Quadrupedibus survives in the same manuscript tradition that preserves the Old English Herbarius:

      This version differs from the other witnesses for the abbreviation of its content, although the textual tradition appears to be the same (see De Vriend 1972, p. liv).

      Note: Unlike the Old English Herbarius, only a few remedies are provided with marginal annotations in Latin, and even more rarely in Old English. They are in red or in black (circled in red or black) and they summarise the content of the corresponding remedies.


  3. Item: Fols 51r/24-51v/14

      Title (B.21.5.11.EM): Recipe: Medical recipes for headaches

      Incipit: 'ƿið eafodece pollege'

      Explicit: 'ƿið wæter and beþa mid'

      Text Language: English

      Other versions of the text: The remedies run together as a single text. The second remedy has the red title De beta. The last four remedies duplicate four in Balds Læceboc and two of these (for sinew problems) are translated from the Latin Herbarius; the last remedy is also found in the collection of medical recipes preserved in BL, Add. 43703.

      Note: Seven recipes.


  4. Item: Fols 51v/14-23

      Title: Three Latin medical recipes.

      Incipit: 'ad tumorem nervorum.'

      Explicit: 'and statim sedabitur.'

      Text Language: Latin

      Note: These Old English and Latin remedies, that are offset with paragraph marks, seem to have been added to fill a blank space between the two long treatises, the Medicina de Quadrupedibus and the Peri didaxeon. This may have already occurred in the examplar of Harley 6258B, as the remedies begin in the last two lines of the folio.


  5. Item: Fols 51v/23-66v/23

      Title (B.21.7.EM): Additional Medical Texts: Peri didaxeon

      Incipit: 'Her onginþ þeo boc þa | peri didaxeon gename' [with a two-line red initial].

      Explicit: 'and bynd þa scealfe to þan breostan þane.'

      Text Language: English


Physical Description:

Object Description:

Form: Codex

Support: Parchment. Not good quality with numerous flaws and repairs. A fragmentary small-format manuscript conceived to be economical to produce rather than a deluxe copy: the manuscript was unbound for a long time and much of the volume seems to have been made of shreds of rejected vellum (see Cockayne 1866, I, p. lxxxiv). Added slips pasted to parchment tags are used to include further material, in particular chapters of the Old English Herbarius that seem to have been first omitted by the scribe (see De Vriend 1984, p. xxxiii). Moreover, the transcription is very inaccurate, but the texts were thoroughly revised, thus confirming the importance of the content rather than physical beauty in production.

Extent: v+66+v leaves; including a number of added slips (fols 4, 9, 16-18, 21-22, 29, 30, 33, 35, 41) written on one side, except fol. 41, and some fragments (fols 11-19); fol. 15 is actually the upper corner of fol. 19; trimmed leaves size:

Foliation and/or Pagination:

The manuscript has been doubly foliated at the top right hand corner of each recto. Modern pencil foliation, followed here, inserted according to the 1870s usage (see Prescott 2006, p. 475), is made of Arabic numerals running without interruption from 1 to 66. The brown-ink foliation is older and runs from 31 to 38 (fols 1-10, excluding the two added slips); it switches to 49 (fol. 19) and then to 54 (fol. 20) and skips from 56 to 98 (fols 23-66), with the repetition of number 71 in two consecutive folios (fols 38 and 39). The last three folios (fols 64-66) have other numbers (55, 56, 57) entered by a hand similar to the older one.


Condition: The manuscript is well-preserved on the whole; there are many holes (fols 25, 34, etc.) and tears (fols 6, 24, etc.), but they do not interfere with the texts; certain tears have been sown up with string (e.g. fol. 10). The manuscript suffered damage and was affected by several losses. Eight leaves (fols 11-19) are burnt fragments: they have been recovered in the material belonging to the Cottonian collection (see Cockayne 1866, I, p. lxxxv) and gaps in foliation indicate that several leaves are missing. The earliest foliation, running from 31 in coincidence with the first folio of the manuscript, suggests the loss of thirty leaves before the present contents. Furthermore, the numbering interruptions between fols 38 (fol. 10) and 49 (fol. 19) and between fol. 49 and fol. 54 (fol. 20) suggest that at least fourteen more leaves are lost and are only partly recovered by the fragments. Finally, the catchword at the end of Quire 7 (fol. 66v) and the abrupt interruption of the text, indicate that the manuscript contained at least one more quire originally.

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