The 'Sloane Group': related scientific and medical manuscripts from the fifteenth century in the Sloane Collection
Linda Ehrsam Voigts
IN his entry on Sir Hans Sloane in the Dictionary of National Biography, Norman Moore observed that the Sloane Manuscripts 'must always be one of the main sources of medical history in England from the time of Charles H to that of George I I '. While the validity of that observation is not in dispute, it is equally important to acknowledge that the Sloane Collection in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library is likewise the richest source of scientific and medical writings from medieval England. The Sloane Collection (Sloane MSS. 1-4100) and Sloane manuscripts with Additional MS. numbers (Add. MSS. 5018-5027, 5214-5308) comprise some 4205 catalogue entries (4100 and 105 respectively). Admittedly, this numbering includes Oriental manuscripts, annotated printed books and maps, no longer in the Department, while in some instances two numbers have been assigned to a single manuscript, so the collection in fact probably contains fewer than 4000 codices. Nevertheless, the Sloane Collection is a remarkable assembly of manuscripts. As Moore's observation implies, the majority of manuscripts in the Collection are medical codices from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but earlier periods are by no means neglected. By my reckoning I have seen in the Sloane Collection more than 500 manuscripts that either can be dated before 1500, most of them from fifteenth-century England, or, if post-medieval, that contain sixteenth- or seventeenth-century transcriptions of medieval texts. As one would expect, given Sloane's interests, most of these medieval texts are scientific or medical.