Mediaeval Advice on the Avoidance and Treatment of Sea-sickness

Mediaeval Advice on the Avoidance and Treatment of Sea-sickness

By Robin Ward

The Northern Mariner, Vol.14 No. 3 (2004)

Introduction: The well physician Gilbertus Anglicus, mentioned by Chaucer in his description of the Doctour of Phisik, wrote his Compendium Medicine in the second half of the thirteenth century. Gilbert had travelled to the Holy Land by sea in 1240 and no doubt drew on this maritime experience to include in his Compendium advice for those travelling by sea. It is included in a chapter {Liber septimus) which, curiously, also covers the reproductive system, diseases of women, how to light fires, and antidotes to poisons. This chapter is omitted from the Middle English translations of the original Latin, perhaps because of the irrelevance of the contents to the land-bound, celibate, male monks in whose libraries the Compendia were kept. Using a sixteenth century copy of the original Latin MS printed in Lyons, Gilbert’s advice has been here transcribed and translated.

In the transcription, abbreviations have been silently expanded; punctuation has been left unaltered but paragraphing has been introduced for clarity. The letters b and h, printed identically, and u and v, used indiscriminately, have been differentiated by context; the letters / and j have been left as printed. Two compositor’s errors have been corrected: para. 1 line 2, inversion of et and rectificatione and para. 2 line 7, sedimen for sedinem. In the translation, person, tense, voice and mood have been modernised and made consistent. The third person singular has been used throughout in reference to the patient although the plural occurs in places. Paragraphs have been maintained as in the transcription, with punctuation added.

Click here to read this article from the Northern Mariner

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine