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Medieval Medical Recipes : Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, in Old English

Medieval Medical Recipes

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 41 (hereafter CCCC MS 41) is a copy of the <i>Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum</i> (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) by Bede, who lived and worked at the Benedictine monastery in Jarrow in the north-east of England from the late-seventh century until his death in 735. Bede composed around forty works during his lifetime, and he listed most of them in a post-script at the end of the <i>Historia ecclesiastica</i>, located in this manuscript on pp. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(487);return false;'>479-482</a>. The majority of Bede's writings are guides to help readers study and understand various books of the Bible, but Bede also wrote homilies, textbooks on grammar and the composition of poetry, books on the lives of saints and other important religious figures, and books on the natural sciences and computus.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>By far his most famous work, then and now, the <i>Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum</i> is a history of the Christian church in England from the first conversion efforts, to the establishment of monastic sites, to the connections (and occasional conflicts) between kings and various abbesses and abbots, priests and bishops, and monks and nuns. Bede cast his research back into the distant past and tried to describe the pre-Roman peoples of Britain and their customs, life in Roman Britain, contemporary events in mainland Europe, and the migration to and settlement in what is now England by various Germanic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries. Although there are some inaccuracies in the text, Bede was a careful and diligent researcher, and took care to inform his readers where he had found his information, his assessment of its veracity, and its potential corroboration in other sources. The <i>Historia ecclesiastica</i> is also full of personal detail, particularly as the narrative moves closer to Bede's own lifetime, with anecdotes about shepherds and princesses, travel and debates, and miraculous stories of healing and divine intervention. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The <i>Historia ecclesiastica</i> was very widely circulated, not just in England but in many parts of north-western Europe. The Latin version of the text has survived in part or in full in over 150 manuscripts, but CCCC MS 41 is one of fewer than ten surviving partial or complete copies of the Old English version of the text. Other significant copies are: <ul><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk.3.18</a></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>London, British Library, Additional MS 43703 (1562 copy (i.e., pre-fire damage) of London, British Library, MS Cotton Otho B xi</a></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>London, British Library, Cotton Domitian A ix, f. 11 (fragment)</a></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>London, British Library, Cotton Otho B xi, ff. 1-38 (damaged by fire in 1731)</a></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Oxford, Bodleian Library, Tanner MS 10</a></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 279B</a></li></ul></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>CCCC MS 41 was written in the first half of the eleventh-century, probably somewhere in the south of England. The manuscript is large and has generous margins, and later in the eleventh-century those margins were used for a number of other texts, ranging from the Old English Poem <i>Solomon and Saturn</i>, to liturgical texts, and medical recipes and charms in Old English. At least some of the marginal additions were probably made at Exeter: CCCC MS 41 was one of the manuscripts given to Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, Bishop of Exeter who was bishop there from 1050 to 1072 - the manuscript still contains a bilingual curse for anyone who might try to remove the book from the Cathedral. The curse, on p. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(496);return false;'>488</a> is as follows:<br /> 'Hunc librum dat leofricus episcopus ecclesie sancti petri apostoli in exonia ubi sedes episcopalis est ad utilitatem successorum suorum. Si quis illum abstulerit inde, subiaceat maledictioni. FIAT. FIAT. FIAT. <br /> Ðas boc gef Leofric. b. into sce petres mynstre on exancestre þaer se bisceopstol is for saƿle alisednysse 7 gif hig hƿa ut æt brede god hine fordo on þære e<i class='delim' style='font-style:normal; color:red'>[</i><i class='unclear' style='font-style:normal;' title='This text imperfectly legible in source'>...</i><i class='delim' style='font-style:normal; color:red'>]</i> '<br /> (This book was given by Leofric, bishop of the church of Saint Peter the Apostle in Exeter where his episcopal seat is for the use of his successors. If anyone steals it, may they be put under a curse. Let it be so. Let it be so. Let it be so). </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A list of the books donated to Exeter by Bishop Leofric survives in <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Bodleian Library, MS Auct D.2.16 ('The Leofric Missal')</a>, ff. 1r-2v, but this particular volume is not included in that list. Other manuscripts that were part of Leofric's gift to Exeter, and which were also once in the possession of Matthew Parker include Cambridge, University Library, MS Ii.2.11 an eleventh-century copy of the Gospels in Old English, which contains a donation inscription on f. 1r: <br /> 'Hunc textum euangeliorum dedit Leofricus episcopus ecclesiae sancti petri apostoli in exonia ad utilitatem successorum suorum <br /> Ðas boc leofric b<i class='supplied' style='font-style:normal;' title='This text supplied by transcriber'>isceop</i> gef sancto petro 7 eallum his æftergengum in to exancestre gode mid to ðenienne'<br /> (Bishop Leofric of the church of Saint Peter the Apostle in Exeter gave this book of the gospels for the use of his successors). Another is  <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Cambridge, University Library, MS Ii.2.4</a>, an eleventh-century copy of Gregory the Great's <i>Cura pastoralis</i> in the Old English translation attributed to King Alfred. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Sarah Gilbert<br /> Project Cataloguer for Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries<br /> Cambridge University Library</p>

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