Science and Medicine

Medieval medicine relied on ancient humoral theory, which held that disease was caused by the imbalance of the body’s four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Each humor was associated with one of the four elements as well as with one of the seasons, planets, signs of the zodiac, and stages of life.

Takamiya MS 33: Secretum secretorum

Takamiya MS 33. John Lydgate and Benedict Burgh, Secrees of Old Philosoffres, etc. England, c. 1475-1500

On the left-hand page of Takamiya MS 33, an unfinished “zodiac man” image summarizes the influence of the zodiac on the body: cuts on the head or face, for example, were particularly dangerous when the sun was in Aries. The right-hand page of Takamiya MS 33 lists medicines according to the part of the body they would treat. This manuscript also contains, among other texts, a copy of John Lydgate and Benedict Burgh's Secrees of Old Philosoffres, a poetic translation into Middle English of the Latin prose work Secretum secretorum.

Takamiya MS 59: Inventory of chirurgy

Takamiya MS 59. Guy de Chauliac, The Inventory of Chirurgy. England, c. 1450. 

The leaf tucked into Takamiya MS 59, a manuscript containing an English translation of Guy de Chauliac’s surgical manual The Inventory of Chirurgy, contains more detailed recipes. Because they include remedies “for your brestes” and “for your mannes face,” they may have been written for a female practitioner.

Science and Medicine