Summer fruits to rid oneself of a hot fever

In medieval medicine, humoral medicine was a common practice.  (For more about the humors, see my earlier post here.)  When patients were ill, food and drugs – often plant-derived – were prescribed, taking into account not only the symptoms, but also his or her temperament, age, location, and time of year.

Balancing the humors seems to me to have been somewhat precarious at times.  If one was too choleric (hot and dry), foods and herbs that were considered cold and moist were prescribed.  However, too much could cause a swing in the opposite direction.  Foods were assigned qualities similar to those of the four humors – for example, cucumbers and watermelons were considered cool and moist.


Folios 65v – 66r. Baptista Massa de Argenta, De fructibus vescendis, Ferrara, Italy. 1471. Call no. 10a 189.

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The Lily of Medicine

Bernard de Gordon finished his Lilium medicinae in 1305 at the University of Montpellier.  Lilium medicinae (literally, the lily of medicine) is his most well-known work.  It is an encyclopedia of diseases with their symptoms, causes, effects, and treatments; and includes plague, tuberculosis, scabies, epilepsy, anthrax, and leprosy.  Lilium survives in approximately 50 manuscripts (and numerous later, printed volumes) and was translated into French, German, and Hebrew in the 14th century, and Spanish and Irish in the 15th century.  It was considered required reading at Montpellier beginning in the early 1400s.


Front cover, Bernard de Gordon’s Lilium medicinae, 1348 (Oxford?). Call no. 10a 249.

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[Al]chemical symbols, anyone?

This is the second blog post about this manuscript asking for help from the medieval and/or history of medicine and/or history of science communities.  The table below is found on f. 12r of the second volume of 10a 131.  I don’t believe they are alchemical symbols, but perhaps abbreviations for chemicals.

Table of chemical [?] symbols, vol. 2, folio 12r. Composite volume of medical texts, Italy, 14th & 15th c. Call number 10a 131.

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