Collection of Medical Recipes, Charms, etc.

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 404
  • Dates of Creation
      2nd half 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. i + 46 + i folios, foliated 1-46 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 207 x 140 mm. Collation: 1 three, 26, 38, 416, 5 thirteen (ff. 34-46: 37-42 are three bifolia). Condition: the manuscript has been affected by dampness at some date, with staining and abrasion throughout, and loss of text on several leaves, particularly on ff. 33-38; 20th-century repairs. Medium: paper. Binding: described as unbound in 1929. Now in quarter brown morocco with bookcloth sides by Bramhall and Menzies for the John Rylands Library.

Scope and Content

A fragment of a composite fifteenth-century manuscript, written in several hands, containing numerous medical recipes, charms, notes on urine, etc. There are remedies for stones, gout, broken bones, headaches, fevers, etc.; recipes for laxatives and diuretics; remedies for problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth; and 'how to know if a woman be with child' (f. 45v). There is an index of recipes on ff. 1r-3r, and the recipes are numbered in the margins. The original manuscript has been severely damaged at some date, and has been repaired and rebound in the twentieth century.

Contents: (1) ff. 1-33v, quires 1-4: Medical recipes, etc.

  • (a) A numbered table of (b), added rather later. The scribe began with 'Ihesu mercy lady helpe' at the head of f. 1r. His numbers run to 'vic iiii iiii' (644); but in fact (b) has only about 142 heads and the numbers are wildly wrong after 'lxix'.
  • (b) ff. 4-31r: Recipes, the first 'For Swellyng Take watir Crasses and crommys of brede...'. Numbered by the scribe of (a).
  • (c) ff. 31v-33r: More recipes in other hands.
  • (d) f. 33v: 'Non omittas propter alliquam libertatem quin distrahis...' Two copies of a letter in Latin from the sheriff of Kent to William Rothley and Richard Vane, bailiffs, bidding them summon Robert Sottesherst and twenty-three other named jurors.

(2) ff. 34-46v, quire 5: Charms, recipes, notes on urine, etc.

  • (a) f. 34r: Charm in Latin: 'Omnipotens sempiterne deus qui locutus pretro (sic). fac hunc famulum tuum Iohannem vt non amplius frebrum nec dolores habeant. Moneo vos frebres que estis vtem (sic for 7tem) sorores Prima vocatur helya...'
  • (b) f. 34r: Charm in Latin: 'Alia. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti Amen. Ante portam zerusalem petrus sedebat supra petrum marmoriam + de febre mala... tu me famulum tuum Iohannem liberare digneris...'
  • (c) ff. 34v-35v: On the dies mali and days not to let blood.
  • (d) f. 35v: A charm to avoid ill fortune, to be worn around the head, 'cum istis catarectaribus (sic) [..] M.K.E.r (?) r (?) R.E.E.V.'
  • (e) f. 36r: Seven recipes.
  • (f) f. 36v: Latin charm of the holy names, 'Ihesu crist + Missias sother... Ista nomina protegant famulum tuum I. C...' The heading is damaged.
  • (g) f. 36v: Latin charm naming the apostles and evangelists 'vt me defendant ab omni malo et periculo et ab omni tribulacione hic et in futuro amen'.
  • (h) ff. 37-42v, 46v: Recipes, mainly herbal, beginning with Mugwort.
  • (i) ff. 42v-43v: 'Wryne is seid of whaye of blode for as þe whay comes of þe milke...'; on colours of urine, qualities of waters, four seasons of the year and four humours.
  • (j) ff. 43v-44v: 'Vryn' es departed in iiii regionys...'
  • (k) f. 44v: 'To knowe a manys water froe a womanys...'
  • (l) f. 44v: 'To torne a chelde if it lye ouerthwart in the motheris belle.'
  • (m) f. 45r: Notes on differences in urine, the first beginning 'The iiide þinge is sexus þat is to saye manhede or womanhede'.
  • (n) f. 46r: Two recipes for invisible ink and a third 'And you will see the son' in a Glasse... probatum per [...] etc'.'
  • (o) f. 46r: A charm to overcome enemies, 'Take erbe fluelly...'
  • (p) f. 46v: Seven recipes, the first 'For evyl in þe stomake'.
  • (q) f. 46v: Added in the 15th or 16th centuries: 'Howe to know yf a woman be wt chylld or no geyve her i clowe of garlyke to hete when she goeyth to bede ande yf she felle the sawer of yt when she doeythe awake of her fvrst slepe thene she ys wt chyllde'.

Script: The script changes at f. 26v from secretary (mainly) to gothic anglicana; the anglicana is current, except sometimes in headings.

Secundo folio: þoroughe a cloþe (f. 5r).

Decoration: None.

Other features: There is sketch of a woman's head in profile in the margin of f. 18v, and there are grotesque pairs of eyes in the margins of ff. 22v, 23r and 23v.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 424-5. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

See Manuscript Description below.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by the John Rylands Library as part of Mrs Rylands's bequest in 1908. Accessioned in September 1928, accession no. R24458.

Custodial History

Unknown. Ker suggests a Kentish provenance, in view of the inclusion of item (1d).


N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 424-5.

G.A. (Godfrey Allen) Lester, The index of Middle English prose. Handlist 2, a handlist of manuscripts containing Middle English prose in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and Chetham's Library, Manchester (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985), pp. 53-8.