Books for professional use
BPL 3284 (Germany, 1500-1550?): Arzneibuch (Pharmacopoeia), paper, 153 fols., 213 x 147 mm, 1 col., 16-40 lines.

This manuscript is a “pharmacopoeia”. The term is derived from the Greek word pharmakopoiia which means “drug-making”. A pharmacopoeia contains descriptions for the preparation and identification of medicines and was very useful for apothecaries. One of the owners of this pharmacopoeia was Adam Krentzer, who wrote his name on the inside of the binding. This manuscript consists of nine parts, all written in German but easily distinguishable because of the variation in lay-out and script1. Many readers of this manuscript have added remarks to the text, some of them even in Hebrew script (see for example fol. 70v).

When the parts of this manuscript were bound together, it received a parchment binding recycled from an unknown manuscript. The letters of this former manuscript are still visible on the binding. To protect the fragile paper of the pharmacopoeia, parchment strips of another manuscript were pasted to the end of the leaves, which prevented the threads of the binding from cutting into the paper. The readers’ notes in the manuscript show that the pharmacopoeia was still used regularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The recipes were, apparently, still relevant for apothecaries in these times.

(Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections, n.d.)


  1. This manuscript consists of several parts that where bound together on a later date. How do the parts differ from each other? Look for example at the material that was used, the type of script, the decorations and the addition of reading aids.
  2. Scribes added tools to the page to aid the reader in his or her endeavor to read, find and understand the text. Key “reading aids” are page numbers, running titles, and chapter titles and numbers. However, even decorative elements, such as colored initial letters functioned as aids to find or understand specific information. Make an inventory of all reading aids in this manuscript and deduce, based on your findings, why the reader turned to this book – that is, how the scribe, as he produced the object, anticipated the reader would. What aids are the most important clues for your conclusion? Clue: it helps to differentiate between the functions of reading aids: some helped the reader find information, while others clarified the text. What do the aids present on the page “do” and what does this tell you about how the reader used the book?


  1. Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections.