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Detailed record for Harley 937

Author John Somer
Title Physician's folding almanac, including John Somer's Kalendarium (ff. 3-6), eclipse canon (f. 7), diagrams of solar and lunar eclipses from 1431 to 1462 (ff. 8-10)
Origin England, N.
Date c. 1431
Language English
Script Gothic cursive
Decoration Initials in gold on background of blue and light purple with black and white. Initials in blue with penwork decoration in red. Paraphs in blue. Initials highlighted in red. Rubrics in red. Titles in black and red on the front of folded leaves. Eclipse diagrams in gold, blue and red (ff. 8-10)
Dimensions in mm 280 x 120 (145 x 45 when folded)
Official foliation ff. 10
Form Parchment folded separate leaves
Binding Pre-1600. Folded leaves sewn together in a tab at the lower edges, with a binding of limp vellum covered in velvet with braided cord.
Provenance Possibly made for the sons of a noble family in Northern England (see Mooney 1998).
The Harley Collection, formed by Robert Harley (b. 1661, d. 1724), 1st earl of Oxford and Mortimer, politician, and Edward Harley (b. 1689, d. 1741), 2nd earl of Oxford and Mortimer, book collector and patron of the arts.
Edward Harley bequeathed the library to his widow, Henrietta Cavendish, née Holles (b. 1694, d. 1755) during her lifetime and thereafter to their daughter, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (b. 1715, d. 1785), duchess of Portland; the manuscripts were sold by the Countess and the Duchess in 1753 to the nation for £10,000 (a fraction of their contemporary value) under the Act of Parliament that also established the British Museum; the Harley manuscripts form one of the foundation collections of the British Library.
Notes A portable physician's folding almanac based on the 'Kalendarium' of John Somer (d. in or after 1409), Franciscan friar at Bridgwater and astronomer.
One of 29 English folding almanacs, of which 10 are in the British Library, and the only one in Middle English: see Carey 2003.
Select bibliography A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols (London: Eyre and Strahan, 1808-12), I (1808), no. 937.

New Palaeographical Society: Facsimiles of Ancient Manuscripts, Second Series, 2 vols, ed. by Edward Maunde Thompson and others (London: [n. pub.], 1913-1930), II, pls. 72.

Rossel Hope Robbins, ‘English Almanacks of the Fifteenth Century’, Philological Quarterly 18 (1939), 321-331 (p. 323, n. 14).

Broxbourne Library, Styles and Designs of Bookbindings from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Centuries, sed. by Howard M. Nixon (London: Maggs Brothers, 1956), p. 9 n. 3.

Loren MacKinney and Thomas Herndon, Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts, Wellcome Historical Medical Library, New Series, 5 (London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1965), p. 138, no. 86.46.

Rossel Hope Robbins, 'Medical Manuscripts in Middle English', Speculum, 45 (1970), 393-415 (p. 397, no. 5).

Andrew G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 700-1600 in The Department of Manuscripts: The British Library, 2 vols (London: British Library, 1979), I, p. 120 no. 639, II, pl. 406.

Laurel Means, 'For as moche as yche man may not haue þe astrolabe: Popular Middle English Variations on the Computus', Speculum, 67 (1992), 595-623 (p. 600 n. 24).

The Kalendarium of John Somer, ed. by Linne R. Mooney (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), pp. xi, 48, 53, 62-63 (as MS. H2).

Hilary M. Carey, 'What is the Folded Almanac? The Form and Function of a Key Manuscript Source for Astro-medical Practice in Later Medieval England', Social History of Medicine, 16 (2003), 481-509 (pp. 488-89, 502, 505, 506 no. 10, 508 no. 10).

Pamela Robinson, 'A 'very curious Almanack': the gift of Sir Robert Moray FRS, 1668', Notes & Records of the Royal Society, 62 (2008), 301-14 (pp. 308, 309 and n. 26).

Catalogued for the Harley Medical Manuscripts Project [], accessed 4 February 2009.

J. P. Gumbert, Bat Books: A Catalogue of Folded Manuscripts Containing Almanacs or Other Texts, Bibliologia, 41 (Turnholt: Brepols, 2016), no. 43.

Chelsea Silva, ‘Opening the Medieval Folding Almanac’, Exemplaria: Medieval, Early Modern, Theory, The Provocative Fifteenth Century, Vol 2, 30 (2018), 49-65,, accessed 9 October 2019.

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Physician's folding almanac

f. 1
Physician's folding almanac

f. 8
Diagrams of solar and lunar eclipses

f. 8
Diagrams of solar and lunar eclipses

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