W. Curtis Worthington, Jr. Prize

As a reminder, there is an undergraduate and graduate research paper competition run through the the Waring Library Society and the Waring Historical Library at the Medical University of South Carolina for original research in the history of the health sciences.

We encourage those of you with relevant topics to submit your papers!  The deadline is 31 May 2015. Details can be found here.

If you are interested or have questions, come talk to us.


Week 10: Necromancers and Demons

Questions: What was necromancy, and why was it condemned? How would necromancers respond to these accusations?

Beinecke MS 411. Book of Hours, use of Rome. (France, beginning 16th c.). Hours, use of Rome

Beinecke MS 411. Book of Hours, use of Rome. (France, beginning 16th c.), fol. 90r.

Other manuscripts and printed books consulted:

  • Beinecke MS 406. Guillaume de Deguilleville, Pelerinage de la vie humaine. [Pilgrimage of the life of man.] (France, ca. 1400).
  • Beinecke MS 447. Unidentified theological commentary, Visigothic. (Spain, first quarter 10th c.).
  • Beinecke MS 1063. Franciscan inquisition manual. (Central Italy, between 1270 and 1280).
  • Osborn fa40. Charters. (England, 1181-1293).
  • Johannes Nider, Formicarius. (Cologne: Ulrich Zell, ca. 1475.)  Call no. Zi +897.
  • Nicholas Eymeric. Directorivm inqvisitorvm. (Venice: Marcus Antonius Zalterius, 1595.) Call no. 1973 +131.
  • Ulrich Molitor, De lanijs et phitonicis mulieribus: ad illustrissimum principem dominu[m] Sigismu[n]dum archiducem Austrie tractatus pulcherrimus [On Witches and Female Diviners]. (Cologne: Cornelis de Zierikzee, between 1496 and 1500) Call no. 2008 1737.
  • Sachsenspiegel: die Wolfenbütteler Bilderhandschrift Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug. 2̊ [The Mirror of Saxony]. Call no. Yale Law Library AL 141 G81 ++Sa143 Facsimile.

Manuscripts descriptions available here.

Necromancy transcription

If you’d like to practice your transcription skills, try this passage from John Lydgate‘s translation of The Pilgrimage of the Soul. Begin at the blue paraph mark.

London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius A VII, f.44v.

London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius A VII, f.44v.

A full transcription will be made available on classesv2 if you’d like to check your work ahead of our next meeting.

Medieval Medicine in the News: Anglo-Saxon cure for MRSA!

In a bit of excellently timed news, scientists from the University of Nothingham have recently shown that a 9th-century remedy can fight MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). The remedy is an eye salve from the Anglo-Saxon medical collection known as Bald’s Leechbook .

Bald's Leechbook Folio 12b

The British Library Board (Royal 12 D xvii) fol. 12b.

For more information see articles on the British Library Science blog or at the New Scientist. Or see the video from the University of Nottingham:



Week 9: Practitioners

Questions: Who practiced magic and medicine, and where did they learn their arts? Did learned magicians and university-trained doctors have different goals than did those in the unlearned traditions?


Beinecke MS 561. Atlas of the islands in the Eastern Mediterranean (Venice, c. 1560-1564). fol. 33r, astronomer with quadrant observing the sky.

Other manuscripts and printed books consulted:

  • Beinecke MS 84. Girdle book (England, 15th c.[?]).
  • Beinecke MS 163. Wagstaff miscellany (England, mid-15th c; 16th c).
  • Beinecke MS 327. Merchant’s commonplace book (Venice, 2nd half 16th c).
  • Beinecke MS 556. Mathematical, computistical, astronomical and astrological treatises  (Southern France, 2nd half 13th c. (1281)).
  • Beinecke MS 558. Astrological and other occult or scientific treatises (England, mid-16th c).
  • Beinecke MS 923. Folding calendar (Paris, possibly between 1290 and 1300).
  • Cary ITA 109 & PLAYING CARDS GEN 65. Visconti-Sforza Tarot (Italy, c.1445).
  • Mellon MS 6. Alchemical miscellany containing texts of popular and street magic (North Italy, about 1435).
  • Mellon MS 27. Alchemical miscellany (Pomerania and Germany, c. 1520, 1536, and c. 1586).
  • Takamiya MS 39. Wyse boke of fylosophy and astronomy (England, c.1500).
  • Takamiya MS 61. Medical and alchemical miscellany (England, mid-15th c., additions up to c. 1570).
  • Takamiya MS 95. Planetary calendar (England, perhaps London, c.1450).
  • Gra[n]t kale[n]drier des bergiers (Lyons: Claude Nourry, 1510). Call no. 1973 672.
  • Bonus: Mellon MS 79. Reading notes and excerpts on alchemy by Isaac Newton (England (Cambridge?), c. 1700).
  • Puzzle: Beinecke MS 408. Cipher manuscript (Central Europe[?], end 15th– 16th c[?]).

Manuscripts descriptions available here.

Week 7: Magic and Science: Alchemy / Astronomy / Astrology

Questions: What did the medieval practices of alchemy, astronomy, and astrology involve, and what was their relationship to magic and science? What influence did the heavens have on medicine and healing? How can we talk about scientific method before the Scientific Revolution?

Mellon MS 5.

Mellon MS 5. Alchemical Miscellany (about 1400).

Marston MS 210. Italy, after 140.  Table to determine in which ascendant or descendant sign of the  zodiac the moon will be for each day of the month and each month of the year.

Marston MS 210. After 1410. Table to determine in which ascendant or descendant sign of the zodiac the moon will be for each day of the month and each month of the year.

Other manuscripts consulted:

  • Beinecke MS 650. Pharmacological, etc. miscellany (beginning 15th c.)
  • Mellon MS 13. Iacobus of Speyer(?), Iudicium astrologicum for 1475 (probably late 1474).
  • Mellon MS 23. Alphonsine Tables (about 1500).
  • Mellon MS 25. Astrological Miscellany (about 1505).
  • Rosenthal 1. (Printed book from which portions of Mellon MS 25 were copied.)
  • Mellon MS 41. Ripley Scroll (about 1570).

Manuscripts descriptions available here.

Week 6: Texts and the Power of Words

Questions: How were words used in medieval magic (i.e. as units of meaning, symbols, etc.)? How did they exert magical power? Did books themselves have any power, independent of or in addition to the words on their pages?

Beinecke MS 410. Indulgence Scroll (England, end 15th c.)

Beinecke MS 410. Indulgence Scroll (England, end 15th c.)

Other manuscripts consulted:

  • Beinecke MS 138. Falconry texts, including a charm. (mid 15th c.)
  • Mellon MS 1. The Ars Notoria. (c. 1225)
  • Takamiya MS 46. Herbs and their medicinal properties. (beginning 15th c.)

Week 5: Arab Knowledge and the Universities

Questions: What was the twelfth-century translation movement, and how did it change European traditions of magic and science? To what extent are the theoretical bases of this week’s sources different from last week’s?

Beinecke MS 225 f.266r

Beinecke MS 225 f.266r

Other manuscripts consulted:

  • Book of Sydrach / La fontaine de toutes sciences: Marston MS 260 (14th c.) and The history of Kyng Boccus, & Sydracke: how he confoundyd his lerned man  London: Thomas Godfray, [1530?]. (Call no. Ig Sy25 530)
  • Educational reforms and manuscript culture: Beinecke MS 413: Capitularies of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, etc. (Rheims[?], ca. 875); Beinecke MS 912 (N. France, 800-810); Beinecke MS 441 (England, 8th-9th c.); Beinecke MS 193 (France, 8th).
  • Translation: Mellon MS 25: Astrological miscellany (c. 1505)
  • University books: Mellon MS 3: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (c.1350); Beinecke MS 225: Scholar’s Notebook(1422).

Manuscripts descriptions available here.