Secrets of Medicine

Secrets of Medicine – Imago – Codice Redi 165 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)

Italy — 1430-1449

On the treatment of itching, headaches, or digestive problems: the secrets of medieval medicine in a 15th century manuscript illuminated on almost every page

  1. One of the most important manuscripts of the world-famous Laurenziana Medical Library in Florence

  2. An extensive compilation of the medicinal healing properties of plants and their applications

  3. Over 90 pages of the manuscript are decorated with colorful depictions of plants, people, and animals

Secrets of Medicine

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Secrets of Medicine

Probably the most famous library of medical works from the Middle Ages, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence houses an artistically and historically outstanding illuminated manuscript from the 15th century: The Secrets of Medicine. The unique codex contains the medicinal properties of many different plants and their uses. Whether itching, headaches, gynecological disorders, or digestive problems, the reader learns about a multitude of ailments that still occur today and how they can be alleviated or even cured with the secret healing power of plants. In particular, the colorful depictions of plants, which are often accompanied by imaginative depictions of people and animals, are also extraordinarily fascinating for modern-day viewers.

Secrets of Medicine

Datable between 1430 and 1449, this codex is part of the collection of 216 manuscripts bequeathed in 1820 by the Redi family to the Laurentian Library in Florence. It contains a rich repertoire of plants, which includes about 90 different botanical species, each of which is illustrated by a respective watercolor. Human and animal figures accompanying each plant, and sometimes serving as their roots, are often included to demonstrate one or more of the ailments for which the plant could be used. There are numerous fantastic and allegorical figures such as centaurs, angels, and demons. The watercolor paintings are the work of an unknown artist who nonetheless possessed a remarkable ability to render the various pathologies that plants can cope with in a realistic way.

Practical and Mystical Considerations for Treatment

The passages of Italian text written in a neat Gothic script contain advice on the cultivation and use of these plants. Thus, the location, type of soil, and proper time of year for planting and harvesting each plant are specified, as are instructions for how they are to be prepared and mixed with wine, animal fats, oils, honey, or rose water. Furthermore, each plant is ascribed a virtue and there are also astrological considerations to be made as the stars will determine when treatments will be most effective or when they should be delayed. This is especially true of bloodletting, as it was believed the moon had a similar effect on human blood flow as it did the tides.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Geheimnisse der Medizin
Segreti e virtù delle erbe
Erbario mediceo
Size / Format
108 pages / 28.8 × 21.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1430-1449
Language
Illustrations
90 large format plants illustrations
Content
Comprehensive presentation of the medicinal effects of plants and their areas of application

Available facsimile editions:
Secrets of Medicine – Imago – Codice Redi 165 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2021
Limited Edition: 300 copies
Detail Picture

Secrets of Medicine

Treating a Dog Bite

A man dressed in red with a blue cap is attacked from behind by a dog, which sinks its teeth into his leg, and reaches out for a remedy mid-bite. Even with today’s modern medicine, bites from animals – and humans for that matter – pose a serious health risk due to bacterial infection. One of the most popular ancient and medieval treatments for bites was Betonica officinalis, commonly known as betony or bishop’s wort. It was also used to treat arthritis, gout, and drunkenness.

Secrets of medicine
Single Page

Secrets of Medicine

Mandrake

Thanks to its various medicinal uses as well as its distinctive roots resembling human figures, mandrake is popular not only in medieval pharmacopeias, but has folkloric and superstitious connotations as well. Mandrake has hallucinogenic and narcotic properties and was used as an anesthetic for surgery because it can induce unconsciousness in sufficient quantities.

According to legend, mandrakes scream when uprooted, killing those who hear it. This is a common depiction, which echoes the advice of 1st century Romano-Jewish scholar Josephus: a dog is tied to the roots and induced to run away while a farmer kneels and covers his ears so as not hear the plant’s cries, which are represented by a demon blowing a horn above.

Secrets of medicine
Facsimile Editions

#1 Secrets of medicine

Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2021

Publisher: Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2021
Limited Edition: 300 copies
Binding: Gold embossed leather cover with floral pattern
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: German
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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