Books for professional use
BPL 1905 (Southern Netherlands?, Netherlands, 1400-1600): Johannes de Ketham, Fasciculus Medicinae (Medical Treatises), paper, 15 fols., c.290 x 170 mm, , various lines.

This little manuscript contains parts of the Fasciculus medicinae; a compilation of six medieval medical treatises. Even though only two manuscripts with this compilation ever existed, the popularity of the Fasciculus medicinae increased tremendously once it was printed in 1491, as it had the distinction of being the first illustrated medical work to appear in print. This manuscript is a copy of one of the printed editions. The illustrations in this manuscript are quite rough in comparison to the woodcuts in the printed versions, but they are still recognizable.

The illustration on fol. 9r depicts the body of a stoic looking figure covered with cuts and bruises inflicted by knives, daggers and arrows. This figure was known as a “wound man”. Treatments for these various injuries are described in the margin of the page. Other illustrations in this manuscript depict which veins could be used for blood-letting (fol. 3v), how to find cures for various diseases (fol. 12v), and how to interpret the color of urine (fol. 1v). The scribe of this manuscript was apparently quite interested in that last topic, as he also added one Latin and two Dutch treatises on urinalysis.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 112) (Breugelmans, 1987, p. nr.70)


  1. When the quires were filled with text, the rubrics were in place, and the scribe had corrected his work, it was time for the finishing touches. Many medieval books contain some kind of decoration in addition to the written words. What kind of decoration can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
  2. Some books were heavily used, while others were not. Observe the presence or absence of wear-and-tear and damage in this book and try to assess how heavily it was used. What are your main reasons for saying so? If there are traces of use, can these be related to a specific kind of use, such as education or religious rituals?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
  2. Breugelmans, R. (1987). Goed gezien : tien eeuwen wetenschap in handschrift en druk : catalogus van de tentoonstelling ter gelegenheid van het vierhonderdjarig bestaan van de Universiteitsbibliotheek te Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, 30.10 1987/17.1 1988. Universitaire Pers Leiden.