A script in sanitatis

Over the past few months, we’ve looked at various parts of medieval manuscripts – catchwords, ink (here and here), illuminations (here, here, and here), etc., etc.  Today we are going to look at the script of 10a 210 (Arnald of Villanova’s Regimen sanitatis ad regem Aragonum).

Paleography is the study of historical handwriting.  The script is the style of handwriting, while hand refers to an individual scribe’s style of writing.  The script of a medieval manuscript can help in dating its creation.  Rather than list all the terms associated with paleography, and try to summarize the history of western scripts, I’m adding an extended sources/further reading section at the end of this post.


Folio 9v. Arnald of Villanova’s Regimen sanitatis ad regem Aragonum. 14th century (Spain or southern France). Call no. 10a 210.

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“A terrible pestilence”

Unfortunately for us, medieval manuscripts are not usually dated.  The Library is lucky to have one, Macer Floridus’ De virtutibus herbarum (1493, call no. 10a 159) in which the scribe has not only written the date it was completed, but also his name (check out this earlier blog post here).  The Library’s copy of Lilium medicinae is also dated: 20 June 1348, the day after the feast of Corpus Christi.  That’s 669 years ago, tomorrow.


Colophon, f. 256v. Bernard de Gordon’s Lilium medicinae, 1348 (Oxford?). Call no. 10a 249.

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Christoforus B. and De virtutibus herbarum

Dating medieval manuscripts can be tricky, as many of them aren’t dated by the scribe, nor do we know who the scribes were.  However, 10a 159, Macer Floridus’ De Virtutibus Herbarum, has both a date and a name.  We even know approximately how long it took our scribe to complete each section!

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Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and the Mystery of the Smudged Date

by Karie Youngdahl, Project Director, History of Vaccines

Robert Abbe (1851-1928), a New York surgeon and Fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, was an avid collector of medical and archaeological objects. Here at the College’s Historical Medical Library, we hold a number of Abbe’s items, including mementos from his friendship with Marie Curie. Of particular interest to the History of Vaccines project is Abbe’s collection of Louis Pasteur memorabilia, much of it dating from the 1922 centenary celebrations of Pasteur’s birth.

The collection includes a scrapbook with photographs of Pasteur and his family, French postage stamps featuring Pasteur as a national hero, postcards of monuments dedicated to the scientist, and commemorative tags picturing key moments from his life. However, what stands out in the collection is a letter in Pasteur’s handwriting. The letter is intriguing both because it involves several of the 19th century’s most eminent scientific figures and because it presents something of a mystery.

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