Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis

Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis Facsimile Edition

France — Second half of the 15th century

457 naturalistic miniatures for illustration and to avoid misunderstandings: a late 15th century manuscript of the great medieval pharmacopoeia by Matthaeus Platearius

  1. “Simples” are unadulterated vegetable, mineral, or animal products with medicinal applications

  2. Platearius’ work is appended with sources like the famous Arab physician ibn Butlan (1001–64)

  3. Unlike other manuscripts, these miniatures were based on the artists’ direct observations

Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis

Originally written in Latin by Matthaeus Platearius during the 12th century under the title Circa Instans, the Book of Simple Medicines enjoyed widespread popularity over the coming centuries and was translated into France under the title Le Livre des simples medecines. Named after its home in Belgium, the Codex Bruxellensis IV is a late-15th century manuscript of this major medieval pharmacopeia. It was written on paper in an elegant cursive script by a skilled hand using maroon ink. A total of 457 naturalistic miniatures adorn the alphabetical list of “simples” – unadulterated vegetable, mineral, or animal products with medicinal applications. The work of Platearius is appended here with knowledge from additional sources like the famous Arab physician ibn Butlan. Unlike other manuscripts, which merely copied illustrations from earlier works, the miniatures of the Codex Bruxellensis IV appear to be based on the artists’ direct observation of nature, making it stand out among the two dozen surviving manuscript copies of the pharmacopeia.

Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis

Matthaeus Platearius, a physician trained at Salerno’s famous medical school, built on the works of Pliny and Dioscorides and blended them with more contemporary texts to create the Circa Instans or “Book of Simple Medicines”. This 12th century text was highly acclaimed during the Middle Ages and considered the equal of the herbals of the aforementioned ancient scholars. This manuscript is essentially an illustrated encyclopedia of 15th century medicine in the West consisting of a translation of the Tractatus de herbis by Bartholomew Mini of Siena, which was itself based on Platearius’ Circa instans, the pseudo-Apuleius, De virtutibus herbarum, Livre des secres de nature, and was subsequently supplemented with Arabic sources like Ibn Butlan’s Tacuinum sanitates. It is presented in a manuscript originating from France ca. 1480 that is furnished by 457 naturalistic and colorful miniatures: 394 botanical, 10 animal, 11 mineral, and 42 others.

A Mother’s Wisdom

Most people in the Middle Ages, from the highest social strata to the lowest, followed in the footsteps of their fathers professionally-speaking, or in the case of Matthaeus Platearius and his brother Johannes, their mother: Trota of Salerno. She is the author of numerous works on women’s medicine and health including one of the three texts in the so-called Trotula, which is named after her. She became famous across Europe from Sicily to England and some of her works were rediscovered during the 20th century, leading to a renewal of scholarly interest in her. While educated at the Schola Medica Salernitana, she specialized in women’s reproductive health and childbirth, making her arguably the world’s first gynecologist. Trota went on to teach as a professor and shared her knowledge with a generation of gynecologists who in turn spread it across the western world. She also wrote texts on personal health, diet, and hygiene recommending exercise, a good diet, and avoiding stress. These principles also lie at the heart of the Circa Instans and Matthaeus Platearius must surely have been heavily influenced by his wise and famous mother.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Buch der einfachen Heilmittel - Codex Bruxellensis
Livre des Simples Medecines: Codex Bruxellensis
Codex Bruxellensis IV. 1024
Book of Simple Medicines
Buch der einfachen Heilmittel
Livre des Simples Medecines
Origin
France
Date
Second half of the 15th century
Style
Language
Illustrations
457 miniatures (394 plants, 10 animals, 11 minerals, 42 others)
Content
French pharmacopoeia
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Simple Medicines - Codex Bruxellensis – Codex Bruxellensis IV. 1024 – Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Brussels, Belgium) Facsimile Edition
De Schutter – Antwerp, 1984
Limited Edition: 2000 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Livre des Simples Medecines: Codex Bruxellensis IV. 1024

De Schutter – Antwerp, 1984

Publisher: De Schutter – Antwerp, 1984
Limited Edition: 2000 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Carmélia Opsomer and Guy Beaujouan
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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