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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;'>This manuscript contains a compilation of scientific texts with a particular focus on astronomy and judicial astrology that were assembled for the most part by the English composer John Dunstable (d. 1453). This manuscript has been connected with Dunstable since at least 1904, when it was catalogued by M. R. James, who noticed the annotation 'Dunstaplus conscripsit hunc librum' at the top of f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>1r</a>. In 2009, R. M. Thomson confirmed that this manuscript belonged to Dunstable and was (mostly) written by his hand, and demonstrated a relationship between Emmanuel MS 70 and 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;'>Emmanuel MS 70 suggests that Dunstable, in addition to being a gifted composer, was also a talented artist. 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 by 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 works by various scientific writers collected in this volume are three short excerpts on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(261);return false;'>129r</a> attributed in the manuscript to the astronomer and mathematician John Holbroke by the statements 'q[uod] M[agister] J. Holbrock', 'secundum dictum M[agister] J. Holbr'' and simply 'J.H.'. Holbroke was a fellow of Peterhouse from 1393, and Master of Peterhouse from 1421 until his death in 1437. These excerpts have not hitherto been recorded in descriptions of this manuscript. They include references to the calculation of the length of the solar year, and to Holbrooke's Tables of Cambridge (see Nothaft (2018) for further reading on the Tables). Finally, the manuscript also contains medical recipes on some of the later leaves 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 copied by 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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