Medieval Medical Recipes : Macrobius and Mattheus Platearius

Medieval Medical Recipes

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript comprises three parts, all probably copied in the 12th century, perhaps in France. The first part, which contains Cicero's <i>Somnium Scipionis</i> (Dream of Scipio) and Macrobius' popular commentary on the text, is probably the oldest part of the manuscript and was made perhaps in the first half of the 12th century. The <i>Somnium Scipionis</i> is an extract from Book 6 of Cicero's <i>De re publica</i> in which Cicero describes a dream vision of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus. In the dream, Scipio looks down on the city of Carthage from a vantage point in the heavens before turning his attention to describing his celestial surroundings and offering a topography of the earth, sky, planet and stars. Macrobius' <i>Commentarium</i> was an incredibly popular text in medieval western Europe and multiple copies survive - most, like this manuscript, with diagrams that illustrate various portions of Scipio's description of the heavens. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The second part of the volume, ff. 55-138, contains two extremely popular medical works attributed to Mattheus Platearius: his Commentary on the Antidotarium Nicholai known as the 'Liber iste' and his <i>De simplicibus medicinae</i> also known as the 'Circa instans'. The 'Liber iste' is a collection of glosses (detailed explanations) on a popular medical text known as the <i>Antidotarium Nicholai</i>. The 'Circa instans' follows the pattern of typical medieval European herbals, with a sequence of medicinal plants arranged alphabetically and described according to their taxonomy and their uses in various preparations to treat specified medical problems. Both the 'Liber iste' and 'Circa instans' are thought to originate from the milieu of the medical school at Salerno in the second half of the twelfth century and so this part of the manuscript contains early copies of the most up-to-date and respected medical information available in western Europe at the time.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The final part of the volume, ff. 139-140, is a fragment; the two leaves may have once been used as binding waste as the majority of f. 140 has been torn away, and what remains has a visible coating of an adhesive on the verso. Nevertheless, ff. 139-140 preserve several short medical recipe instructions and treatments, so it is possible that the fragment has circulated with at the very least the preceding part of the volume for a long time on account of the similarity of their content, with the two leaves perhaps serving as prepatory research notes, or a place to collect later addenda. </p>It is not clear when all three parts of the volume came together. The two main parts were listed as one volume in Edward Bernard's 1697 list of the contents of John Moore's collection of manuscripts, but the presence of annotations in late-16th and early-17th century hands in both parts suggest that they may have been bound together for a longer period.<p style='text-align: justify;'></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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