“Her begynnyth the wyse boke of maystyr peers of Salerne”

So begins the last part of 10a 215.  The Wyse Boke of Maystyr Peers of Salerne is a 14th-century English medical text, and includes sections on the four humors, signs of deaths, herbs, and recipes.  According to a 1993 article by Carol F. Heffernan, the book is attributed to a Peter de Barulo, who lived England in and around 1387.  By all accounts, it seems to have been a popular and well-known book, so it’s not surprising that a copy of it ended up in 10a 215.

f. 29r, Composite medical miscellany, 15th century, 10a 215

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However Human I am Allowed to Be

– by Wood Institute travel grantee Erin Solomons*


In November 2016, I visited the College of the Physicians of Philadelphia, under a travel grant from the F.C. Wood Institute. Over the past year and a half, I have been pursuing a practice-based MPhil/PhD in Photography in the United Kingdom. This means that I use the creation of artwork and traditional research methods to critically assess my area of interest. Prior to enrolling in the program, my art practice used raw materials and photography to investigate mental health, trauma, and American identity. My work has reflected the boundaries between the human body and intrusive interactions upon it.

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Manuscripts used as WHAT?!

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as ‘manuscript waste.’  To us, several hundred years later, it seems a horrible thing.  However, it was common practice for early bookbinders to cut up and use pages from unwanted manuscripts as binding material.  These pages were sturdy and were used for paste-downs, wrappers (covers), spine-linings, or gathering reinforcements.  Not only did the practice essentially recycle texts that were outdated, damaged, or for some other reason, no longer used, it also gives us an opportunity to get a glimpse into the history of a specific text’s use.  If we think about it, it’s not too much different than how we treat old newspapers today: as decoupage, potty-training mats for puppies, packing material, etc., etc., etc.

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Full diet or half diet?

by Robert Hicks, Director of the Mütter Museum & the Historical Medical Library
William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine


Special collections libraries occasionally spawn serendipitous discoveries while performing the most tedious tasks. Reference Librarian Caitlin Angelone was performing another bout of purging decades’ old pamphlet boxes of unneeded offprints of medical journal papers when she discovered a yellowed, folded wall poster. Carefully opening it, she discovered a ten-day diet schedule for posting in Union army hospital kitchens during the Civil War. In fact, the fine print at the bottom of the schedule commanded medical officers to conduct an “experimental trial” of the diet plan and report results to Surgeon General William A. Hammond, and scrupulously account for and report related expenses under the hospital fund, dated October 28, 1862.


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