IN 2006, Kari Ann Rand highlighted two unnoticed copies of the ubiquitous plague tract attributed to John of Burgundy.1 Given the number of extant surviving copies of this treatise in English—more than fifty copies in two major versions, long and short2—and the paucity of other tracts produced in England in either English or Latin before the early sixteenth century, scholars consider John of Burgundy’s text to be ‘the parent of a whole host of variants and descendants [that] provides a key to much of the [English plague tract] literature’.3 One of those descendants, an adaptation made by the Dominican friar Thomas Multon c.1475 and extant in a single manuscript copy (British Library Sloane MS 3489), appeared in print before 1530 and was regularly republished with minor amendments until 1580.4 To the lists of known manuscripts containing the John of Burgundy text can now be added another one. Wellcome Library Western MS 674, a folio-sized manuscript on paper still bound in its original vellum cover, contains unattributed adaptations of both the short version and Thomas Multon’s reworked edition. The Library’s catalogue suggests a date of 1625–82, based on marginal notations and annotated receipts, but acknowledges that some texts may be earlier. Recent palaeographical analysis agrees with the latter, arguing for a Tudor Secretary hand of the mid- to later-sixteenth century for the main body of the manuscript.5 Although it contains various medical treatises, including on astrology, temperaments, plague, an antidotary, surgical remedies, and an unfinished herbal, this manuscript is not noted by Keiser, by The Index of Printed Middle English Prose (IPMEP), by the numerous Index of Middle English Prose (IMEP) volumes that record other John of Burgundy texts, or by the eVK2 database. The treatise-length texts are individualized adaptations of well-known (often printed) works; in addition to the John of Burgundy/Thomas Multon plague tracts, these include Jean Gouerot/Thomas Phayer’s Regiment of Health (printed in English multiple times between 1543 and 1596), and Thomas Gale’s books on surgery and wounds (1563, reprinted 1586). Later hands have added numerous medical receipts for consumption, the spleen, ague, smallpox, and other ailments. The manuscript contains two main parts; the first is paginated 13–60 (the first twelve pages are blank) and the second is foliated 1–113. The first plague tract begins on p. 31 with the words: A Treatise of medicynes good agaynst ye pestilence, devided into three partes. Whereof the first declareth how a man should brere [sic] and keepe him self in the tyme of the pestilence yt he fall not into the said sicknes. The second expressethe how this sicknes comethe. And the third part sheweth what medycynes are good and fitt to be used agaynst this contagious disease. These words follow closely the opening lines of John of Burgundy’s short tract, aside from the exclusion of his name (itself not uncommonly omitted) and the notice of three, rather than four, parts. Indeed, the word ‘four’ appears to have been erased and overwritten with the word ‘three’. Most extant copies of the tract are divided into four chapters with a short summary of each commencing the work. One copy, in British Library Egerton MS 2572, outlines only three chapters, but its ‘skipped’ part—medicines good against the plague—is different than the omitted part here, which addresses how a man should keep himself in pestilential times. British Library Harley MS 3383 claims to be departed in four chapters, but outlines only three; there, though, a later hand has added the fourth part. Even so, the Wellcome tract actually contains the ‘fourth part’, which begins as in other copies with the words (on p. 33) ‘But while a man is in this sickness he ought to be carefullie and measurably dyetted …’ The remainder of the text follows, more or less, the structure and contents of the original tract, and the ending on p. 33 is typical: ‘by Gods grace he shall be made hole and delivered of this sicknes for ever.’ The immediate source text for the Wellcome tract has yet to be identified, but the copyist was likely influenced in his description of three parts by a subsequent tract, which is also ‘devided into three parts’. This text, which appears on pp. 37–43, is a modified version of Thomas Multon’s treatise with Multon anonymized as: A worthie, noble & learned doctor of Divinitie, that was profoundlie and substantially learned and seene in all the seven scyences [who] devised by his learning this tretise followinge. The tract directly replicates neither the late fifteenth-century manuscript nor the sixteenth century printed text, but is closer to the latter. Its reference to the health of the king’s liege people comes from the printed text, for example, as does its claim to be ‘requisite & necessarie for all practitioners in phisique and chirurgerie’. Perhaps most notable is its assertion: That sinne is the chiefe originall cause therof when it raignethe among ye people, especyullye when the governors of the churche of God and the expounders of the word and law of God doe transgrethe and swarve from ther dutie thereby causing not only plague and pestilence but many other sicknesses infirmities and most grievous miseries … The attribution of the plague to the sin of high-level officers (i.e. governors) of the church and law was an addition made to the print version of the tract before 1530 (‘that synne that reygneth amonge hed men & the gouernours of the churche and of the lawe’ on p.B2v). Multon’s original manuscript text blamed plague only on ‘sin that reyneth amonge comones’ (f.44v). The print amendment sharpened the tone of the manuscript text and highlights the tumultuous nature of the early Reformation era.6 The author of the Wellcome text continued to develop this theme of high-level blame by further excoriating these ‘governors and expounders’ and making them responsible for a wide range of ‘grievous miseries’ unmentioned in the printed tract. He also omits Multon’s long discussion of malevolent constellations and prophesies, replacing it with further reflections on the sin by which men ‘doe dailie p[ro]voke him [God] to anger’ (p. 38). Between the two tracts on pp. 34–6 are a series of anti-plague recipes. The first begins ‘A Medecyne for the Plague wh[ich] King Henrye the Eyght did use in ye first yeare of his raigne wh[ich] healed above eyght thousand persons the same yeare.’ This same recipe appears in a number of other sixteenth-century manuscripts, including Oxford, Bodleian Rawlinson MS A.393 (at f.99r), which also contains an unattributed short version of the John of Burgundy treatise.7 The second and third regimens (p. 34, beginning ‘Another soveraigne medycyne for the plague’, and p. 35, beginning ‘Another one of the most holsome preservatives agaynst the plague’) are the lengthiest, while the next six are short instructions for plague water or drinks. These are different from those noticed by Rand for Fitzwilliam Museum MS 261 and Cambridge University Library MS Ll.1.18. A full transcription of the Wellcome manuscript is currently underway, to be followed by an analysis that will explore questions about its compiler and that person’s motivations for collecting and, more intriguingly adapting, the various works in the MS. This work will also help to further identify the recipes and other texts, as well as related manuscripts. While several manuscripts contain multiple versions of the John of Burgundy tract and a variety of plague recipes, none other has been noticed to include a handwritten adaptation of the printed Thomas Multon tract.8 The Wellcome compiler’s personal reworking of these various texts is thus intriguing and merits further study. Three additional updates to earlier lists of John of Burgundy plague tracts are noteworthy. First, Keiser’s Item 49—Untraced: Christie’s 8 Nov 1978, ff.42b–44a (15 cent)—is actually the same item as his Item 48—Tokyo, Takamiya 33, ff. 33b–43a (1480–1500).9 Keiser has misidentified the folio numbers in both. In this illuminated and gilded manuscript purchased by Toshiyuki Takamiya as Lot 198 at the Christie’s auction, the Latin long version of the tract appears on ff. 42r–44v, followed by the English short version on ff.44v–47r, and the Latin Dilectissime frater version on ff. 47v–49r. The Takamiya manuscript is included elsewhere in lists of John of Burgundy tracts, as is the untraced manuscript, but the two have not been recognised as being a single item.10 Second, the full shelfmark of Keiser’s Item 47—Yale Mellon (olim Phillipps 12086; 15 cent)—is John Porter Manuscript, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. The short version of the plague tract appears on ff. 71r–72r, copied into the miscellany by John Porter who was elected Member of Parliament for Worcester in 1447. This version of the tract was then copied, along with its references to King Richard (II), into British Library Lansdowne MS 285 (John Paston’s ‘Grete Boke’) by the subsequent owner of both manuscripts, Sir William Dethick, in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Finally, the late nineteenth century Scottish antiquary David Murray included Mostyn MS 221 in his list of John of Burgundy manuscripts, stating that it contained the (Latin) Dilectissime frater version ‘followed by an English translation’ on ff.1v–6v.11 This was likely a misreading of his source, which itself had blended and confused the two tracts in suggesting that the opening lines of the plague tract was a Latin prologue to the English urine treatise.12 The manuscript is not included in subsequent lists of John of Burgundy tracts after the early twentieth century.13 Nevertheless, it is worth noting that this manuscript is now Wellcome Library Western MS 784, following its purchase at a Sotheby’s auction in 1928.14 The plague tract begins on f.1r and continues on ff.7v–9v (Murray seems to have been unaware of the tract’s foliation). Linda Ehrsam Voigts notes that the manuscript shares one (undescribed) plague tract and similar format, size, and watermarks with other manuscripts of the Sloane Group.15 Footnotes 1 Kari Anne Rand, ‘A Previously Unnoticed Fragment of John of Burgundy’s Plague Tract and Some Connected Pest Regimens’, N&Q, liii.3 (2006), 295–7. 2 The long version is usually attributed to John of Burgundy, while the shorter is typically organized into four chapters and attributed to John of Bordeaux (or some variation thereof). Some copies are misattributed to and/or misappropriated by other authors. For earlier lists and short descriptions of extant copies, see George R. Keiser, A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050–1500, vol. 10 Works of Science and Information (New Haven, CT, 1998), 3856 and Lister M. Matheson, ‘Médecin sans Frontières? The European Dissemination of John of Burgundy’s Plague Treatise’, ANQ, xviii.3 (2005), 19–31. See also the electronic database constructed by Linda Ehrsam Voigts and Patricia Deery Kurtz, Scientific and Medical Writings in Old and Middle English: An Electronic Reference, eVK2 <http://cctr1.umkc.edu/search>. 3 Dorothea Waley Singer, ‘Some Plague Tractates (Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries),’ Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, ix (15 March 1916), 161. Lister M. Matheson has also identified an ‘approbate’ version, which is derived from the John of Burgundy treatise but contains no authorial attribution. Matheson has transcribed and edited all three versions in Lister M. Matheson, ‘John of Burgundy: Treatises on Plague’, in M. Teresa Tavormina (ed.), Sex, Aging, and Death in a Medieval Medical Compendium. Trinity College Cambridge MS R.14.52, Its Texts, Language, and Scribe (Tempe, 2006), II, 569–606. 4 Thomas Moulton, This is the Myrour or Glasse of Helthe (London: Robert Wyer, <1530). For a discussion of the transition from the manuscript to print version, see George R. Keiser, ‘Two Medieval Plague Treatises and Their Afterlife in Early Modern England’, Journal of the History of Medicine and the Allied Sciences, lviii.3 (2003), 292–324. 5 I am grateful to Alpo Honkapohja for his assistance with the palaeographical analysis of this manuscript, and to Peter Murray Jones for his assistance with some of the transcription. The palaeographical work was conducted primarily using the Cambridge University website ‘English Handwriting 1500–1700: An Online Course’, <https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/index.html>. 6 For a discussion of this point, see Keiser, ‘Two Medieval Plague Treatises’, 305. 7 Voigts and Kurtz note that similar versions of the recipe, which begins in Wellcome ‘Take a handful of herbe grace, of feverfewe, marygolde, sorrell …’, also attribute it to ‘the King’s Grace’, including San Marino, Huntington, HM 144 at f.151v and Berkeley Castle Muniments, Special Book 89 at f.9r. Other unattributed copies of the recipe are companion texts to a John of Burgundy tract, including in Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.14.52 and Durham University Library, Cosin MS V.IV.1. 8 A subset of six manuscripts of the ‘Sloane Group’ identified by Linda Ehrsam Voigts, for example, each contain three different versions of the John of Burgundy tract, the Latin long, the English short, and the short Latin Dilectissime frater version. These six are British Library Sloane MSS 2320 and 3566, Takamiya MS 33, Cambridge Gonville & Caius College MS 336/725 and Trinity College MS O.1.77, and Boston Harvard Medical Library Countway MS 19. See Linda Ehrsam Voigts, ‘The “Sloane Group”: Related Scientific and Medical Manuscripts from the Fifteenth Century in the Sloane Collection’, British Library Journal, xvi (1990), 26–57, and Alpo Honkapohja, Alchemy, Medicine, and Commercial Book Production: A Codicological and Linguistic Study of the Sloane Manuscript Group (Turnhout, Belgium, 2017). Cambridge Trinity College MSS O.8.29 and R.14.32 likewise contain three separate versions of the tract, in Latin and in English. Matheson, ‘John of Burgundy: Treatises on Plague’. With regard to another plague tract attributed to ‘Canutus’, manuscript copies are known to have been made from printed texts. See Kari Anne Rand, ‘The Elusive Canutus: An Investigation into a Medieval Plague Tract’, Leeds Studies in English, New Series XLI (2010), 186–99 and Joseph P. Pickett, ‘A Translation of the “Canutus” Plague Treatise’, in Lister M. Matheson (ed.), Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England (East Lansing, 1994), 265–9. 9 Keiser, Manual of Writings, 3856. 10 For example, Voigts, ‘The “Sloane Group”’; Honkapohja, Alchemy, Medicine, and Commercial Book Production, 49, and M. Claire Jones, ‘Vernacular Literacy in Late-Medieval England: The Example of East Anglian Medical Manuscripts’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Glasgow, 2000), 399. See also Voigts and Kurtz, eVK2, 2177.00. 11 David Murray, John de Burdeus or John de Burgundia: Otherwise Sir John de Mandeville and the Pestilence (Paisley and London: Alexander Gardner, 1891), 11. 12 Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1873), I, 359. Murray correctly identified the plague tract, but misread the urine tract. The urine treatise is the ‘Rufus Subrufus’, identified in M. Teresa Tavormina, ‘Uroscopy in Middle English: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts’, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, Series 3, xi (2014): 1–154, as item 6.2. 13 Its last appearance seems to be in Singer, ‘Some Plague Tractates’, 175, where reference is made only to the Royal Commission Report and not to any direct study of the tract itself. 14 S. A. J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library: I, MSS. Written Before 1650 A.D. (London: The Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1962), 578–9. 15 Voigts, ‘The “Sloane Group”’, 27. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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