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Medieval Medical Recipes : Philosophical treatises and medical tracts and recipes

Medieval Medical Recipes

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This 15th-century English manuscript contains a collection of philosophical treatises, and medical tracts and recipes, largely written in Latin but also containing a few Middle English recipes on its opening page. The Latin recipes had previously not been studied in detail before but they contain valuable information with which it is possible to date and locate the manuscript's origins more precisely, and to consider the socio-historical context of its production and use.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The recipes often refer to well-known medical authorities, such as Gilbert Kymer (d. 1463), physician to Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, and Thomas Duncan (fl. c. 1400-1461), physician to Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March. However, their composer also regularly provides anecdotes from and refers to obscure medical practitioners who were local to North Yorkshire. For example, a recipe for an unstated purpose is said to have been proved by 'a nun of Sheriff Hutton' (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(301);return false;'>150r</a>), referring to a village of that name situated to the north-east of York and probably specifically to a member of the nearby Augustinian nunnery at what is now Marton-cum-Moxby, known as Moxby Priory. A recipe against icterus (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(386);return false;'>192v</a>) that is said to have been used by "Elizabeth Scrop" may refer to a member of the Scropes of Bolton, West Yorkshire, or of Masham, North Yorkshire. A cure for migraine (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(392);return false;'>195v</a>) is attributed to a certain John Richardson who is located near Whitby, North Yorkshire, while another for stomach pain (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(393);return false;'>196r</a>) is attributed to a Henry Haxby of York. A medicine for a swelling (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(393);return false;'>196r</a>) is said to have been used on the wife of 'Bulton of Pickering Lithe', referring to the wapentake of that name in the North Riding of Yorkshire. She is said to have been carried to York where she was placed under the care of 'friar Multon' (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(393);return false;'>196r</a>). The latter is elsewhere mentioned in the manuscript (in a recipe for diatessaron) and there credited as 'P. Multon of York' (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(204);return false;'>101v</a>). None of the aforementioned practitioners and patients can be found in C.H. Talbot and E.A. Hammond, <i>The Medical Practitioners in Medieval England: A Biographical Register</i> (London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1965). Their obscurity may well owe to the location of the compiler(s) of the recipes and the local sources from which they drew their medical knowledge.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Probably less indicative of the specific locality in which the medical recipes were compiled but providing further evidence for the collection's regional provenance are the medicines that are associated with figures from across Northern England. These include a recipe against diarrhoea (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(204);return false;'>101v</a>) that is attributed to a deacon of Lancaster; a recipe against the plague (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(204);return false;'>101v-102r</a>) that is said to have been made for "E. de nevyl", perhaps Eleanor Neville (d. 1472), Countess of Northumberland; a faded recipe (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(358);return false;'>178v</a>) attributed to the 'physician of Southwell', referring to Southwell, Nottinghamshire; a recipe against paralysis (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(391);return false;'>195r</a>) that is attributed to "T. Poppos" [? Popes] who is identified as a former 'vicar of Stranton', referring to Stranton in Durham; a recipe (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(392);return false;'>195v</a>) that is attributed to the physician William Cawdray (d. 1434) of Pontefract, West Yorkshire [see Talbot and Hammond (1965), p. 391]; and a recipe against disease (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(393);return false;'>196r</a>) that is attributed to Thomas Wilton (fl. c. 1381-1448), a physician in the York diocese [see Talbot and Hammond (1965), pp. 361-362].</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The recipes not only suggest that the manuscript originates from North East Yorkshire but also that the manuscript was produced in or after 1421: recipes on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(205);return false;'>102r</a> and f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(390);return false;'>194v</a>) are dated to this year.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The identity of the compiler(s) is unknown but on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(331);return false;'>165r</a> a physician writing in the first person refers to themselves as "G." when claiming to have used a particular recipe to cure a Cistercian monk ("unum monacum album") from sciatica. The fact that the collection refers to a number of monastic physicians and patients and that the manuscript also contains a few devotional and theological items make it possible that the manuscript was made in a milieu that was located at or associated with a religious institution. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Clarck Drieshen<br /> Project Cataloguer in Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries<br /> Cambridge University Library</p>

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