CORBEIL, Egidius. [with] [Attr.: KETHAM, Johannes de, and others.]


CORBEIL, Egidius. [with] [Attr.: KETHAM, Johannes de, and others.] ‘De urinis’ [with] [‘Fasciculus medicinae’].

Manuscript on paper, Germany, early 1400s. [with], Manuscript on paper, Poland, late 1400s.


22 unnumbered ll. + 2 interleaved. Brown and red ink, early C15 Germanic Gothic cursive, few marginalia in the same later C15 hand as II, approx. 30 lines per full-page, ink ruled, watermark: ox with fleuron. Occasional finger-soiling to outer margin, minor light water stain to extreme lower outer blank corner, last verso dusty.


63 unnumbered ll., i12, ii12, iii-v8, vi6, vii8, viii6, ix-x8, xi4. Black and red ink, late C15 Germanic Gothic cursive, approx. 32 lines per full-page, watermark: crown or P surmounted by Greek cross; 4 hand-coloured full-page medical diagrams or human figures. Couple of tiny worm holes or small trail towards gutter, touching few words, minor water stain to extreme lower outer blank corner, lower outer corner of leaf 309 trimmed, not affecting text.

Small 4to. 207 x 155mm, continuous C15 ms foliation. A very good copy in late C15 probably Polish goatskin over wooden boards, remains of four clasps, vellum stubs, one a ms document, the other printed, double blind-ruled, outer border with blind-stamped fleurons, inner border with blind rolls of interlacing ribbons and fleurons, central panel with blind-stamped lozenges, raised bands, compartments blind-ruled, spine repaired, extremities scuffed. Copious c1500 annotations to endleaves and flyleaves, one dated 1509, further annotations in the same hand to both works, C19 ms ‘649’ in blue crayon to front pastedown.

This fascinating ms volume was produced as a C15 physician’s reference book. It comprises two ms treatises written at least half a century apart, with numerous late C15 annotations. The first manuscript, in an early C15 Germanic Gothic hand, comprises long excerpts from the ‘De urinis’ of Egidius de Corbeil. The second appears to be in the same late C15 Germanic cursive Gothic hand as the drawings and the annotations, and comprises short treatises and images of women’s health and reproduction, uroscopy, phlebotomy, surgery and anatomy, subsequently recomposed into the medical book known as the ‘Fasciculus medicinae’.

The c.1490-1500 binding was produced in a Germanic area, although not necessarily in Germany, where cord, not leather as here, would likely have been used for sewing supports. The vellum used as spine lining comes from a document, in a late C15 Gothic hand. The name ‘Kazimirus’ appears twice, once preceded by ‘ducato pertinaciter contenderit’. This is most probably Kazimir IV Jagellonian (d.1492), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. The binding is most probably Polish. The tooling and design are reminiscent of Cracow bindings of the time (e.g., van Leeuwen, 22 and 31).

The first ms (early C15) contains substantial sections of the ‘De urinis’ of the French royal physician, Egidius de Corbeil (1140-c.1225). He studied in the celebrated medical school of Salerno, before returning to France in the c.1190, where he composed his verse ‘De laudibus et virtutibus compositorum medicaminum’, an important source for the later history of that school as well as a record of the teaching of drug therapy adopted from the Greek medical school of Theophilus Protspatharius. ‘The setting of learned works to Latin verse was common in the late C12 and early C13, as an aid to memory when texts were  frequently memorised. Mss of this work are of enormous rarity on the markets, with only 3 copies available in the last century: (1) by Art Ancien in 1936/7; (2) Sotheby’s, 9 July 1969, lot 33; (3) another sold in the same rooms, 6 December 1993, lot 53 (ex Tollemache, now in the Schoenberg collection).

Egidius’ ms work was bound with a late C15 ms, identified, in part at least, with the texts subsequently known as the ‘Fasciulus medicinae’ and attached to the name de Ketham, though it is not known whether Ketham ever existed. However, as this has been identified as the seventh known early ms witness, it provides priceless evidence for the text’s circulation before it reached the press. The production of this ms can be traced back to Central Europe – Germany and Poland in particular – with Bohemia and surrounding territories being the likely places of origin of most of the 6 surviving mss.

This ‘Fasciculus’ features a treatise on the colour of urine and its use in diagnosis, the various illnesses of the body arranged alphabetically, the most advantageous parts of the body for bloodletting and grievous injuries and surgery to treat them, each with their diagrams. It famously includes several medical diagrams. In this case, these are the ‘Urine Wheel’ (with twenty urine flasks in its outer ring, each painted with a colour to allow practical comparison with actual patients’ urine), the ‘Disease Man’ (with surrounding list of male and female ailments discussed on the following pages), the ‘phlebotomy man’ (showing favourable places for blood-letting), and the ‘wound man’ (impaled and injured by various weapons).

The c.1500 annotator – the scribe of ‘Fasciculus’ – likely a Polish physician, and medical student at Padua c.1508. (At the time, the only medical school in Poland was at Cracow; Copernicus was a student there in 1491-5.) Our annotator glossed both texts in the margins, with a passage on women’s infertility, recipes for curative oils and balms, several for skin conditions, as well as syrups and ‘confectiones’ for the head, chest and liver, the use of ‘mumia’ (i.e., Egyptian mummy), and face make-up (‘belletum’). He spells ‘cyclamen’ as ‘szyclwamyno’, suggesting he was Polish. He was interested in ancient and medieval medical authorities, quoting recipes by ‘Rabi Moyses’ (i.e., Moses Maimonides), Aristotle, and the surgeon Guillelmus de Placentia (Guglielmo da Saliceto). Most of his references to contemporary physicians or facts appear to be Polish. The annotator writes that the nobleman ‘Lenczyczye’ (Lenczycki) reported the successful treatment of an eye condition. From a ‘reliable’ (‘fide dignus’) source – allegedly the physician who treated the sickly Sigismund (1467-1548), son of Kazimir IV – the annotator learnt treatments for an ailment of the testicles. He notes the case of a ‘senex Polonensis’ (‘old Polish man’) from Kalisz, near Poznán, with a damaged penis caused by intercourse. He mentions Nicolaus Kleczko, a Polish Franciscan (recorded at the end of the C15 in a Poznán ms), as well as Paulus Velker (a physician?) from Poznán, recorded in ms city documents c.1495. A remedy used by Gostysky is also noted, and one by Nicolaus Golczensky, notary public from Poznán. Stephanus Schibsky is mentioned as the author of a small medical book (‘libellus’) used by the annotator. None of these people were either famous or publisheds, so the annotator must have heard this information probably in Poznán.

Two notes suggest the annotator also visited Padua, likely as a medical student, and that he brought how own mss there. The heading of a short section states that he drew notes from a small book (‘libellus’) given to him by Bartoli de Florentia(?), lecturer at Padua. Another, dated 21 Jan 1508, reports a visit to the sick Piero Antonio, grocer in Padua. The university registers at Padua record two Polish medical students in 1508 – ‘Mattheus’ or ‘Ioannes’, who did not take his final exam in summer 1508, and ‘Mathias Polonus’, who got his degree in 1508 – only a dozen Polish students were recorded at Padua since 1450. The annotator also wrote down one balm recipe in Italian, probably from a fellow student; the verb ‘magnare’, in dialect, suggests Padua. Finally, at the foot of one page, he wrote 10 intriguing lines, partly unintelligible, connected by Latin formulas, cryptographic techniques used to conceal secret alchemical recipes.

J. Storm van Leeuwen, The Golden Age of Bookbinding in Cracow, (1400-1600) (2011); Acta graduum academicorum Gymnasii Patavini ab anno 1501 ad annum 1550 (1982); A. Honkapohja, ‘“Latin in recipes?” A corpus approach to scribal abbreviations in 15th-century medical manuscripts’, in Multilingual Practices in Language History, ed. P. Pahta (2017), p.243-71. We are very grateful to Dr Jack Hartnell (author of Medieval Bodies) for kindly discussing these manuscripts with us and for his valuable expertise
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