Medical and Astrological Almanac

Medical and Astrological Almanac – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)

Southern Alsace (France) — Ca. 1445

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

  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)
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Medical and Astrological Almanac

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
Origin
France
Date
Ca. 1445
Style
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
Calendar with astronomical-medical information
Artist / School
Previous Owners
David McCandless McKell

Available facsimile editions:
Medical and Astrological Almanac – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Medical and Astrological Almanac

Enthroned Astronomer

Crowned, seated, and holding an open book, the reoccurring character of the astronomer is depicted with ruddy cheeks and greying hair pointing toward a star. He is typical of the figures in the manuscript, who are characterized by strongly expressive gestures combined with naïve facial expressions. The text surrounding him contains prognostications for the month of June, which cautions against bloodletting, recommends hot drinks, and states thunder will be a bad omen for the fruit harvest.

Medical and Astrological Almanac – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Single Page

Medical and Astrological Almanac

January

Aquarius is symbolized by the beautiful Phrygian youth Ganymede, who is depicted wearing a grey tunic, shoes, and hat as well as blue tights and white gloves as he pours out his archetypal jug of water. He appears below a medallion containing a three-faced king sitting at a table and drinking wine. This figure symbolizes that the month of January is a time for looking into the bygone as well as the forthcoming year.

The local saints commemorated in the calendar are associated with the diocese of Strasbourg, e.g. Saint Erhard, an episcopus vagans or “wandering bishop” whose feast is celebrated on January 8th. Black, red, and blue-green ink has been expertly employed by the scribe, who also included an alphabet at the bottom of the page.

Medical and Astrological Almanac – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 7.141 – Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire (Strasbourg, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Ein Astro-medizinischer Kalender

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Parchment cover with gold embossing
Commentary: 1 volume by Christoph Mackert with a contribution by Lieselotte Saurma-Jeltsch
Language: German

All texts are transcribed and translated into New High German.
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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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