Two 13th Century Leaves Dealing with Dermatological Maladies

(Italy: late 13th century). Intact leaf: 235 x 175 mm. (9 1/4 x 7"); bisected leaf: both halves measuring 117 x 172 mm. (4 5/8 x 6 3/4"). Double column, 42 lines in a rounded proto-gothic hand.

Rubrics in red, intact leaf with five two-line initials, and bisected leaf with six two-line initials, all in either red or blue with contrasting penwork embellishments. With some brief marginal notations in contemporary and later hands. With some mostly light general soiling and wrinkling, the text a little faded and abraded in places (approximately three-quarters of the text on each leaf still very legible), and a few lines nearly worn away at the folds (where one of the leaves is bisected), but still very good specimens given that they were recovered from a binding, and remarkably desirable because of their content.

The present leaves come from an important time and place in the history of medicine, where fledgling universities in Italy and neighboring regions provided new opportunities for the study of medicine and dissemination of medical knowledge. Although we have not been able to discern which medical treatise these leaves might be from, we can ascertain that they come from a section on ailments of the skin. The first fully-fledged monograph on the skin would not emerge until the mid-16th century, but the text here represents at least a small step in that direction, with separate chapters on pustules, discolorations, scaly infections, hair loss, and other related conditions. Despite being recovered from a binding (and thus with inherent damage), these leaves survive with decent margins and with most of the text intact. Medieval manuscript specimens containing medical subject matter are increasingly difficult to obtain, and the present leaves offer an excellent opportunity for further study.