Medieval manuscripts blog

05 January 2016

Bald's Leechbook Now Online

The current Anglo-Saxon Digitisation project covers a wide range of manuscripts, from Psalters to letters to lawcodes to schoolbooks to medical remedies. We are pleased to announce that, for the first time, Bald’s Leechbook—a collection of medical remedies, recipes, diagnostic guides, and charms, copied in the mid-10th century—is now available online.  Bald’s Leechbook has long fascinated scholars, and it recently made headlines after a team in Nottingham discovered that one of its recipes—for a poultice for an infected eye— can combat the superbug MRSA. For more information on this discovery, see A Medieval Medical Marvel.

Recipe for an eye salve, from Bald’s Leechbook, England (Winchester?), mid-10th century, Royal MS 12 D XVII, f. 12v

Bald’s Leechbook is also interesting for its references to elves (about which more later), its prognostic about the ‘Dog Days’, and its compiler[s] use of Greek medical sources and more local medical sources, among other things.  It even includes a discussion of an early plastic surgery to fix a cleft palate, as well as cures for both impotence and lustfulness – very useful, indeed.

Cure for a harelip (haer-sceard), or cleft palate, involving a description of early plastic surgery, from Bald's Leechbook, Royal MS 12 D XVII, f. 20v

Cures for an overly lustful (wraene) man and for an impotent man, from Bald's Leechbook, Royal MS 12 D XVII,, f. 54v

An expanded discussion of the subject can be found in our post Anglo-Saxon Medicine, and please click over to Digitised Manuscripts to have a closer look at Bald’s Leechbook!


Where can I get a hard copy re-print in with English subtitles, as it were?
Thanks for your comment. A full translation of Bald's Leechbook is contained in *Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England*, ed. by O. Cockayne, Rolls Series, 3 vols (London: Longmans, 1864-66), vol II (1864) (available online at A printed facsimile can be found in *Bald's Leechbook (British Museum Royal Manuscript 12 D XVII)*, ed. by C. E. Wright and Randolph Quirk, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, 5 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1955).
-Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts, The British Library

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