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'The Warm Herbs', in a Miscellany

'The Warm Herbs', in a Miscellany

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1245

Shelfmark: Harley MS 978

Item number: f.26r

Length: 18.9

Width: 13

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

What if someone put together all the bits and pieces of written material that they enjoyed and needed for frequent use? The result might be something like this manuscript, perhaps a medieval version of the web-surfer's 'favourites' list. Mostly in Latin and French--with one famous Middle English exception--it has songs, satire and poems for entertainment, along with medical information, a calendar of religious feasts and devotional music. Believed to have been at Reading Abbey in the middle ages, it probably was made at a workshop in Oxford and may have been commissioned by the notorious music-loving monk, William of Winchester.

The medical section of the book includes recipes in French for laxatives and remedies to ease stomach-ache, headache, baldness and other complaints, as well as medical writings in Latin and French on the four bodily humours and other diagnostic techniques such as uroscopy (examination of urine). Types of herbs, classified as 'cold' and 'warm' are written up as well. The list of warm herbs begins on this page. It starts with artemesia and includes mint, bettony, sage, tansy, hollyhock and saxifrage, going on to include lavender and nettle on the next page.

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