Miscellanies

Miscellanies, also known as commonplace books or household books, are volumes that combine diverse content. A miscellany may contain inventories, poetry, accounts, games, and recipes, with no clear demarcations and no apparent organizing principle. Parchment was expensive, so blank leaves in books would often accumulate unrelated content.

Takamiya MS 61: Medical and alchemical miscellany

Takamiya MS 61. Medical and alchemical miscellany. England, c. 1450-1475. 

Poetry and other literary texts were recorded in miscellanies fairly often, especially because verse was the medium for many “practical” texts. Takamiya MS 61 is a medical miscellany written in English, Latin, and French. The book includes two English poems (one alchemical, the other on the four temperaments), an excursus on the magical nature of snakeskin, and a Latin treatise explaining how to use one’s hand as a calendar.

Beinecke MS 163: Wagstaff miscellany

Beinecke MS 163. Wagstaff Miscellany. England, c. 1450. 

The Wagstaff Miscellany (Beinecke MS 163) includes medicinal and culinary recipes, a charm against thieves, short pieces of verse, dream prognostics, and a list of collective nouns (e.g., a “wanhope of wooers”; a “disworship of Scots”). 

Beinecke MS 365: Book of Brome

Beinecke MS 365. Book of Brome. England, c. 1475-1500. 

The Book of Brome (Beinecke MS 365) is most famous for its inclusion of a religious play about the Old Testament figures Abraham and Isaac. In keeping with the nature of miscellanies, this literary treasure is preserved among tax lists and dice prognostications.

Miscellanies