Illustrated account on cautery points and medical recipes


Large, clear drawings in this medical textbook show the application of cautery, or the drawing from the body of sick or excessive humours that were thought to cause illness.  Following the ancient medical authority Hippocrates (b. c. 460, d. c. 375 BC), the body was thought to consist of four humours: black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm. When they became unbalanced, this procedure was considered necessary. 

The format of this book, probably produced in England in around 1100, suggests that it was a teaching manual. The four annotated cautery images are followed by other practical and theoretical medical writings that were common in both France and England at the time. Here, the drawings show male patients with the cautery points marked by black dots, and the surgeon is shown heating his irons.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
Illustrated account on cautery points and medical recipes
1st quarter of the 12th century, England or Northern France
Latin / Anglo-Norman
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Sloane MS 2839

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Medical knowledge in the early medieval period

Article by:
Taylor McCall
History and learning, Science and nature

Understanding of the human body and the treatment of illness in the Middle Ages derived from the works of classical authors as well as contemporary scholars. Taylor McCall examines popular medical texts and their circulation before 1200.