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Medieval Medical Recipes : John Dunstable's compilation of judicial astrology, astronomy, and scientific texts

John Holbroke

Medieval Medical Recipes

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Cambridge, Emmanuel College, MS 70 (hereafter Emmanuel MS 70) is a compilation of scientific texts with a particular focus on astronomy and judicial astrology. The texts within Emmanuel MS 70 were, for the most part, curated and copied by the English composer John Dunstable (d. 1453). When M. R. James examined Emmanuel MS 70 in preparation for his <i>Catalogue</i> of the Emmanuel College manuscripts (printed in 1904), he recorded an inscription 'Dunstaplus conscripsit hunc librum' (Dunstable copied this book) at the top of f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>1r</a>, but does not seem to have connected the volume to the composer John Dunstable. In 2009, R. M. Thomson published an article about manuscripts connected to Dunstable and demonstrated that Emmanuel MS 70 had both belonged to Dunstable and was (mostly) written in his hand through comparison with two other surviving books - <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 118</a>, in which Dunstable wrote a copy of Boethius' <i>De arithmetica</i>, and <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Cambridge, St John's College, MS F. 25</a>, a now-composite volume of which Dunstable once owned ff. 74-85. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Recognition of Emmanuel MS 70 as an item largely curated and copied by Dunstable is important for our understanding of Dunstable's intellectual landscape as the volume suggests that in addition to being a talented composer, he was also a competent scribe, was deeply interested in astronomy and astrology, and was also an accomplished artist responsible for a series of figurative illustrations of constellations in one section of the volume. In Emmanuel MS 70, Bartholomew of Parma's <i>Breviloquium de fructu totius astronomiae</i> (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(163);return false;'>80r-111v</a>) - essentially a catalogue of the constellations - is accompanied by delicate tinted drawings that are presumably also in Dunstable's hand. All of the images are beautiful in their own way, but readers may wish to examine the illustration of the constellation Draco on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(196);return false;'>96v</a> to see Dunstable's skill at using stippling and shading to suggest volume and texture, the illustration of Eridanus on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(212);return false;'>104v</a> to see his treatment of drapery, and the image of Putheus on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(219);return false;'>108r</a> for his ability to suggest mood and depth in his art. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Among the many and various scientific excerpts and short treatises collected in Emmanuel MS 70 are three short passages on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(261);return false;'>129r</a> attributed to the Cambridge astronomer and mathematician John Holbroke (d. 1437). The Holbrokian passages had not been noticed prior to the preparation of this catalogue record, and are identified in Emmanuel MS 70 by citations at the end of each excerpt: 'q[uod] M[agister] J. Holbrock', 'secundum dictum M[agister] J. Holbr'', and finally 'J.H.', all on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(261);return false;'>129r</a>. Holbroke was a fellow of Peterhouse from 1393, and was Master of Peterhouse from 1421 until his death in 1437. The short Holbrooke texts in Emmanuel MS 70 include a passage on the calculation of the length of the solar year, and references Holbrooke's 'Tables of Cambridge' (see Nothaft (2018) for further reading on the Tables). </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> In addition to all of the astronomical and astrological texts, Emmanuel MS 70 also contains medical recipes towards the end of the volume, (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(302);return false;'>149v-[ii] recto</a>) in a mixture of Latin and Middle English, some in Dunstable's hand and some in the hands of other scribes. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>References: </b><div style='list-style-type: disc;'><div style='display: list-item; margin-left: 20px;'>M. R. James, <i>The Western manuscripts in the library of Emmanuel College. A descriptive catalogue</i> (Cambridge, 1904), no. 70</div><div style='display: list-item; margin-left: 20px;'>R. M. Thomson, 'John Dunstable and His Books', <i>The Musical Times</i>, 150.1909 (2009), pp. 3–16</div><div style='display: list-item; margin-left: 20px;'>C. P. E. Nothaft, ‘John Holbroke, the Tables of Cambridge, and the “True Length of the Year”: A Forgotten Episode in Fifteenth-Century Astronomy’, <i>Archive for History of Exact Sciences</i>, 72.1 (2018), pp. 63–88</div></div><br /></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Sarah Gilbert<br /> Project Cataloguer for the Curious Cures Project<br /> Cambridge University Library</p>

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