Health tips and nutritional advice from the 15th century: a colorfully illuminated calendar manuscript as a guide through everyday life in the Middle Ages

Medical and Astrological Almanac

Upper Rhine (Germany) — ca. 1445

Medical and Astrological Almanac

Medical and Astrological Almanac

Upper Rhine (Germany) — ca. 1445

  1. Perpetual calendar with health and nutrition tips, weather forecasts, and monthly rules

  2. Colorfully illuminated with gold and opaque colors: cheerful figures, signs of the zodiac, and monthly activities

  3. Probably conceived ca. 1460 on the Upper Rhine as part of a larger manuscript

Medical and Astrological Almanac

Ms. 7.141 Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Alternative Titles:
  • Astro-medizinischer Kalender
  • Astro-medizinischer Ratgeber
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Medical and Astrological Almanac was created ca. 1460 and is a fantastic manuscript which is simultaneously an annual calendar, medical guide, astrological guide, and almanac. It thus served the aristocratic medieval household as a general guidebook to life, health, weather, etc. and is filled with advice based on cosmic forces, the four humors, and other ancient traditions. The text is written in both Latin and German making generous use of expensive red ink. Originally believed to be part of a larger work, the surviving 24 pages contain colorful miniatures with gold leaf depicting the zodiac symbols, labors of the months, and other depictions of everyday life. The figures have a sweet and childlike appearance with rosy cheeks and kind faces. Researchers speculate that the manuscript originated from the Upper Rhine region, most likely for a patron in Strasbourg judging by the saints’ festivals included in the calendar.

Medical and Astrological Almanac

A wonderful glimpse of everyday life in the Upper Rhine region during the Late Middle Ages: the Medical and Astrological Almanac goes above and beyond the standard medieval calendar manuscript and contains advice regarding weather, health, and diet based upon the movements of the stars. Written in a Swiss-German dialect, the artistic style of the manuscript points to the region around Freiburg and Colmar ca. 1460. The medallion miniatures, zodiac signs, and other depictions resemble the work of the so-called “Master B”, who was associated with the Alsatian workshop of Diebold Lauber (active 1427-71). Saints’ festivals listed in the calendars indicate a recipient for the diocese of Strasbourg. However, further information eludes researchers because the 24 pages (12 leaves) appear to be a fragment of a larger manuscript. Nevertheless, the artist created wonderful miniatures of months’ labors and other activities with rich opaque colors and gold ink, and the scribe executed a gorgeous text in black, red, and blue ink.

Macrocosm and Microcosm

In the Middle Ages, it was believed that events in the cosmos, the “macrocosm”, had a clear effect on man as a “microcosm” thereof. According to this philosophical concept, the balance of humors in man’s body is effected by the changing forces of the stars and there is a connection between the four humors, four elements, four major winds, and four cardinal directions. Originally conceived of by Pythagoras and developed by Plato, the concept continued to be popular in the Middle Ages and attracted the attention of great minds like Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). While other medieval calendars show zodiac signs and constellations related to a month, what sets the Medical and Astrological Almanac apart is the processing of this information into specific advice that is elucidated in the text. For example, in May it is recommended that one should start the day with a glass of goat milk with fresh herbs. This manuscript was designed to be consulted regularly by “learned” medieval Europeans trying to keep their humors in balance.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Astro-medizinischer Kalender
Astro-medizinischer Ratgeber
Size / Format
24 pages / 20.6 × 15.5 cm
Date
ca. 1445
Language
Illustrations
12 monthly medallions framed in gold, 12 signs of the zodiac and eleven scholarly images with 22 decorative gold arches. Rich pictorial decoration with gold and bright opaque colour painting
Content
Astronomical-medical information organized according to the calendar
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Medical and Astrological Almanac“

Astro-medizinischer Kalender
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Imageof

Astro-medizinischer Kalender

Publisher
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Luzern, 2020
Limited Edition
680 copies
Binding
Parchment cover with gold embossing
Commentary
1 volume by Christoph Mackert with a contribution by Lieselotte Saurma-Jeltsch. All texts are transcribed and translated into New High German
Language: German
Price Category: €€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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