“My Written Books of Surgery in the Englishe Tonge”: The London Company of Barber-Surgeons and the Lylye of Medicynes
By Erin Connelly
Manuscript Studies, Vol. 2:2 (2018)
Abstract: The Middle English Lylye of Medicynes is an early fifteenth-century translation of Bernard of Gordon’s Latin Lilium medicinae (completed in 1305). The Lylye is contained in Oxford Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 1505 as a sole text. Although there are many extant witnesses in Latin, there are no other known Middle English copies.
The Lylye contains thousands of medicinal ingredients, including 360 individual recipes identified with Rx, with accompanying guidelines for diagnosis and prognosis. Although the text does contain some medical theory and etiology (based on thought from Arabic medicine, specifically Ibn Sīnā, and Antiquity, predominantly Galen and Hippocrates), its main feature is the large volume of medicinal recipes. It is thought to have been commissioned by Robert Broke, ‘master of the king’s stillatories,’ in the early fifteenth century during the reign of Henry VI.
This article explores the later provenance of the Lylye amongst the Gale family of barber-surgeons in sixteenth-century London.
Top Image: Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, by Hans Holbein the Younger