Medical recipes, arcane cures, Renaissance hippiatry, gold panning in Bohemia

Otto, Sigismund (ed.). [Medical manuscript]. Artznei Buch. 1590. Opusculum non magnarum, sed necessarium rerum per Sigismundum Otthonem collectum.

[Germany], 1590.

4to (175 x 202 mm). German manuscript in brown ink with red underlinings on paper by two hands. Title, 356, (16) pp., of which 162 written. The final 8 leaves with an index added later, probably mid-18th century. Contemporary vellum with ms. title to spine.


A wide-ranging compilation of medicinal recipes and treatments for a great variety of ailments, certainly drawing on various medical and pharmacological texts, although only one specific reference is made, namely to Melchior Sebisch's 1580 translation of Charles Estienne's agricultural treatise "L'agriculture et maison rustique" (Paris 1564). A medicine for the treatment of aphasia following a stroke ("Wann einen Menschen der Schlag gerühret und sprachlos liegt") is said to have been successfully used to treat Paul von Gröbel, princely hunter of Christian I of Saxony in the 2nd half of the 16th century (p. 11). The third personal mention in the manuscript, a "Doctor Longobart", who lends his name to a powder with several cold-related applications, seems to be folkloristic.

Many recipes are organized by illnesses or conditions like toothaches and gum disease, sleeplessness, epidemics affecting children and old people ("Zu heilen die schweren Seuch in Kindern und alten Leuten"), the plague ("In Zeit der Pest"); others stand for themselves like a miraculous rejuvenation tonic ("Ein wunderbarlich gleichsam göttliches und heimliches Wasser zumachen, welches alle alte verlebte Läuthe Verjüngen", p. 41), a "delicious stomach and chest powder" (p. 46 f.), or a tonic named after Emperor Charles ("Keyser Carll Kraftwasser", p. 47 f.). On pp. 83-105 follows an unrelated copy of a short treatise on gold ore with a description of locations for gold panning in Bohemia. The title suggests that the text on "finding gold mountains and gold washing locations" had been sent by a Venetian named Gratianus Gündell to Jacob Schaden of St. Gallen in 1530 or 1560. Among the locations indicated are: "Frauenstein bey Freyberg [...] Das rothe Wetterhaus [...] Der Eisenberg im Böhmen [...] Brun in Böhmen [...] Radebergh [...] Neunmarck [...] Gera und Weida [...] Weidenstein [...] Hammerberg [...] Schnegrube [...]". Further recipes listed are a remedy for nose bleeds ("Wieder das Bluten aus der Nasen", p. 149) and a cure for worms in children and old people ("Für die Würme der Kinder und alten Leutt", p. 237). The curious final pages present advice on how to tell the age of a horse ("Wie man das Alter eines Pferdes erkennen soll", pp. 335-337) with reference to Melchior Sebisch's 1580 publication, an alchemistic "piece" that had supposedly been commissioned by a member of the Bohemian Rosenberg family (p. 340 f.), three spells to stop a fire, including one that demands a shirt that has been worn by a virgin when she had her first period ("ein Hemdt, so eine Jungfrau ahn ihrem Leib getragen, so sie erstmals ihre Zeit bekam") and that is "used by all gypsies and is reliable" (p. 347 f.), a method for turning red roses partly white and instructions on how to keep beer from going stale due to contaminated kegs.

Covers somewhat soiled and warped. Some foxing and browning throughout; occasional collector's notes in pencil. A fine survival.