LEIGHEAS Manuscript of the Month: June 2024

Dublin, Trinity College MS 1343 (H. 3. 22)

Siobhán Barrett

View the manuscript online

Trinity College Dublin MS 1343 (H. 3. 22), p. 47: The opening page of Tadhg Ó Cuinn’s Irish translation of Circa Instans. Image courtesy of Irish Script on Screen.

Uilliam Ó Finngaine and Aed Buidhe Ó Leighin are the names of two scribes who worked, along with another unnamed scribe, on this 15th–century vellum manuscript. The material in this manuscript is mainly pharmaceutical in nature, dealing with simple and compound medicines and their therapeutic uses.

The Materia medica is the longest text in this manuscript. This is an Irish translation by Tadhg Ó Cuinn of Joannes Platearius’ Liber de simplici medicina, usually known from the opening words of the introduction as Circa Instans. There are several copies of this popular text in other Irish medical manuscripts (see Ó Conchubhair 1991 for the complete list). In this manuscript, the scribe, Aed Buidhe Ó Leighin, refers to Ó Cuinn as a ‘Bachelor in Physic’ and states that he completed this work in Montpellier in 1415 (p. 106b). The text consists of a list of 292 simple medicines, i.e. plants, animal products and minerals, ordered alphabetically by their Latin name, which is followed by the Irish name and a description in Irish of their various therapeutic uses.

The Antidotarium Nicolai is a book of about 150 recipes for pharmaceutical compounds, as distinct from the Materia medica, which is a list of simple medicines. The text in this manuscript is Johannes de Sancto Amando’s commentary on the Antidotarium Nicolai. The commentary describes how medicines are made and at what stage of an illness the medicines should be administered. 

Two of the shorter texts in this manuscript have been edited: The virtues of aqua vitae (an alcoholic drink/medicine prepared by distilling wine; see Ó Conchubhair 1989–90); and a text about the medicinal usages of animal excrement (see De Vries 2019).

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