Necromancy, the practice of conjuring and controlling evil spirits, was a popular
pursuit in the courts and cloisters of late medieval and early modern Europe.
Books that gave details on how to conduct magical experiments circulated widely.
Written pseudonymously under the name of the astrologer and translator Michael
Scot (d. 1236), Latin MS 105 from the John Rylands Library, Manchester, is
notable for the inclusion, at the beginning of the manuscript, of a corrupted,
unreadable text that purports to be the Arabic original. Other recensions of the
handbook, which generally travelled under the pseudo-Arabic title of Almuchabola
Absegalim Alkakib Albaon, also stressed the experiments non-Western origins.
Using Latin MS 105 as the main case study, this article aims to investigate the
extent to which a magic books paratextual data conveyed a sense of authority to
its contemporary audience.
Judging from repetitious appearances of her marital arms in the painted line-endings, the Psalter-Hours John Rylands Library Latin MS 117 probably belonged to Jeanne of Flanders (c.1272–1333), daughter of Count Robert III of Flanders and in 1288 second wife to Enguerrand IV of Coucy. Yet the line-endings also contain some 1,800 diminutive painted escutcheons, many of which refer to other members of the local nobility active during the 1280s. This study, based on an exhaustive survey of the total heraldic and codicological evidence, suggests that the majority of the extant Psalter predated the Hours and that the two parts were combined after the 1288 marriage. The ‘completed’ manuscript bears witness to major events that unfolded in and around the Coucy barony over the course of the decade. It suggests a complex relationship between Jeanne of Flanders and a lesser member of the local nobility, a certain Marien of Moÿ, who may have served as her attendant.
Hesyre was a high court official in ancient Egypt and lived about 2650 bc during
the reign of King Djoser. He managed to combine religious as well as secular
posts, and has the distinction of being the first recorded physician and
firstknown dentist in history. Healthcare developed at an early period in
ancient Egyptian history as is supported by the evidence from the skeletal and
mummified remains, from the artistic record, as well as from inscriptional and
textual sources. These textual sources, the medical papyri, provide details of
medical procedures undertaken, drugs employed and treatments provided - some of
which have influenced modern medical practice. What we know about Hesyre comes
from his impressive tomb at Saqqara, the walls of which are brightly decorated
with items of daily life. Additionally, the tomb contained six fine wooden
panels listing Hesyres titles, among them those relating to his practice of
medicine and dentistry.
Many current assumptions about health provision in medieval English cities derive
not from the surviving archival or archaeological evidence but from the
pronouncements of Victorian sanitary reformers whose belief in scientific
progress made them dismissive of earlier attempts to ameliorate the quality of
urban life. Our own tendency to judge historical responses to disease by the
exacting standards of modern biomedicine reflects the same anachronistic
attitude, while a widespread conviction that England lagged centuries behind
Italy in matters of health and hygiene seems to reinforce presumptions of
‘backwardness’ and ‘ignorance’. By contrast, this paper argues that a systematic
exploration of primary source material reveals a very different approach to
collective health, marked by direct intervention on the part of the crown and
central government and the active involvement of urban communities, especially
after the Black Death of 1348-49. A plethora of regulations for the elimination
of recognized hazards was then accompanied by major schemes for environmental
improvement, such as the introduction of piped water systems and arrangements
for refuse collection.