Witches were believed to bring about the mutilation or death of their victims by making a likeness of them and then destroying it. This is alluded to in line 6 of John Donne‘s poem ‘Witchcrafte by a Picture’ (R.3.12)
WITCHCRAFT BY A PICTURE
by John Donne
I FIX mine eye on thine, and there
Pity my picture burning in thine eye ;
My picture drown’d in a transparent tear,
When I look lower I espy ;
Hadst thou the wicked skill
By pictures made and marr’d, to kill,
How many ways mightst thou perform thy will?
But now I’ve drunk thy sweet salt tears,
And though thou pour more, I’ll depart ;
My picture vanished, vanish all fears
That I can be endamaged by that art ;
Though thou retain of me
One picture more, yet that will be,
Being in thine own heart, from all malice free.
Manuscript O.2.48 is a medical miscellany combining the works of various authors. Part of a well-known group of manuscripts, the Herbarius corpus, the Trinity copy – donated by Roger Gale in 1738 – is one of the most extensively illustrated manuscripts of these medieval herbals. Written and illustrated in Germany in the second part of the 14th century, it contains approximately 800 drawings of plants and 40 drawings of doctors and patients. The text begins with a prayer, to recite when preparing plant-based medicines, and then explains the properties of each plant, the illnesses they are most suitable for, and how to prepare the potions. Rather than an interesting read for plant lovers, the Herbarium was a detailed manual for the general practitioner that allows us to glimpse at the life of medieval doctors, busy attending their patients and advising them on the most appropriate treatments for their illnesses.
The drawings also include two female doctors:
On f. 64r there is a portrait of Galen, the Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, together with his students. He is represented as a feudal king surrounded by his vassals:
Another remarkable aspect of this manuscript is the presence of a bestiary (Liber de medicina ex animalibus), with pictures of 54 animals, insects and birds. The text explains the properties of each animal, and how some of their features (hair, dung, milk, claws…) can be used to treat illnesses successfully. Among the drawings, there are common animals such as a goat, a bull, a dog, a horse, a cock; some more exotic ones, such as an elephant, a lion, an ostrich; and some mystical beasts, such as a unicorn and a dragon.
Appropriately as Halloween approaches, a cat is also featured and its feral aspect clearly shows that cats were not kept as pets in Medieval Europe. Although cats protected food stores from rodents, they were mostly associated with witchcraft and shape shifting, and were hunted accordingly until the advance of the Black Death.
George Gery Milner-Gibson Cullum (1857-1921) of Hardwick House, Bury St Edmunds was High Sheriff of Suffolk 1888 and Mayor of Bury St Edmunds 1913-14. He amassed a large library and shared the passion of many of wealth for autographs, being a vice-president of the Society of Archivists and Autograph Collectors. His autograph collection is now held in Trinity College Library.
Although quite miscellaneous, the collection is particularly strong on European nobility. 37 popes are also represented as are 20 presidents of the USA. It covers the 15th century through to the 20th. A small selection follows below.
Marguerite ofAngoulême (11 April 1492 – 21 December 1549), princess of France, Queen of Navarre and Duchess of Alençon and Berry
Pope Gregory XIII (7 January 1502 – 10 April 1585), commissioner and namesake of the Gregorian Calendar
Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) , queen of England and Ireland
Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658), Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715), King of France and Navarre
John Dee (1527-1609), mathematician, astrologer, and antiquary, and model for Shakespeare’s Prospero, owned one of the most significant private libraries in Elizabethan England. A fine facsimile of the Trinity College, Cambridge manuscript O.4.20 – John Dee’s Library Catalogue – was originally published by the Bibliographical Society in 1990 and edited by Julian Roberts and Andrew G. Watson. Unfortunately, this edition, which also included a complete list of Dee’s printed books, has been out of print for some years. In 2009 Roberts and Watson published their latest update online via the Bibliographical Society’s website: http://bibsoc.org.uk/content/john-dees-library-catalogue
It describes the current location of further items included in Dee’s catalogue with additional useful interpretation.
As part of its ongoing manuscript digitization project, and in the hope of further assisting researchers interested in Dee, Trinity has made a virtual manuscript of John Dee’s library catalogue publically available:
Furthermore, a major exhibition of books owned by John Dee is planned by the Library of the Royal College of Physicians, London, during the first half of 2016 and this will include O.4.20.