In the Middle Ages, barbers were not only responsible for cutting hair, but also for surgeries such as tooth-extractions and amputations. In England, it was not until 1745, that barbers and surgeons were given their own, separate guilds. This manuscript was made in the late 15th century, for members of the Guild of Barber-Surgeons of the city of York and demonstrates how medieval medical knowledge and practice was influenced by religion and astrology.

Divided into two parts, the latter half of the manuscript contains medical and astrological drawings and diagrams, including that of the Vein Man, the Zodiac Man (image no. 2), the Four Humours, and a circular zodiac chart, known as a volvelle (image no. 1), which has moving parts. The volvelle would have been used to predict the best time to provide medical treatment to a patient. The success of a particular remedy or operation was often considered dependent on assistance from religious saints: the volvelle is accompanied by illustrations of St John the Baptist, St John the Evangelist, and Sts Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of doctors and surgery.