Bald’s Leechbook

Description

Bald’s Leechbook is a large collection of medical remedies in Old English. Its recipes are drawn from Greek and Roman authors and late Antique authors such as Alexander of Tralles (died c. 605) as well as physicians with Anglo-Saxon names such as Oxa and Dun. One passage mentions remedies sent by Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem (reigned c. 879–907) to King Alfred of Wessex (reigned 871–899), who suffered from a chronic, debilitating disease. In addition to injuries and infections, some of the Leechbook’s remedies address supernatural problems: one salve is recommended against elves (ælfcynne), night goblin visitors (nihtgehgan) and devils (deofol).

The manuscript takes its name from læca, the Old English word for physician. This word later became associated with the leeches that were used for bloodletting in pre-modern medicine. Bald is the name of a man mentioned on one of the manuscript pages: ‘Bald owns this book, which he ordered Cild to write … Nothing is as dear to me as this treasure.’ 

Full title:
Bald’s Leechbook
Created:
c. 925–950
Format:
Manuscript
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Royal MS 12 D XVII

Full catalogue details

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