Rylands English MS 404 (Medical Recipes) has now been transcribed by our volunteer, Mary Begley, who worked with the text for her MA thesis in 2011. This manuscript consists predominantly of medical recipes in English, written in several different scribal hands. There are also some folios which contain fragments of a herbal, and also dies mali – lucky and unlucky days for bloodletting, travelling, getting married, etc.
Parallel recipes can be found in Gilbertus Anglicus (Wellcome MS 537; Getz, (ed.) 1991), Liber de Diversis Medicinis (Thornton manuscript, MS Lincoln Cathedral A.5.2; (ed.) Ogden, 1938), and A Fifteenth Century Leechbook (MS Medical Society of London 136; (ed.) Dawson, 1934). However the Rylands manuscript is unique, and is not a direct copy of any known medical recipes text. It is likely that it was regularly referred to by a practising leech (medieval physician), possibly carried on his person. The advisory or didactic style of some of the text also suggests that some or all of the recipes were written down for the benefit of a pupil.
The transcription has been made as diplomatically and faithfully as possible, including the use of (and lack of) punctuation, so that the text can in the future be incorporated into a corpus of medical and scientific prose searchable by linguistic and other scholars.
Mary is an AHRC-funded PhD scholar at the University of Manchester. Her working thesis title is ‘The language of madness in Middle English: language change and ideologies in Middle English medical texts’. http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/postgrad/mary.begley/