TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Collection of Medical Recipes and Health Regimens, including Receptes de plusieurs expers medecins consernantes diverse malladies (Recipes of Several Great Physicians Concerning Various Maladies, compiled by FRANÇOIS II DE ROHAN, and a recipe excerpted from GIOVANNI DA VIGO, Practica in arte chirurgica (Practical Treatise on the Art of Surgery); Pharmacopoeia detailing thirty-one plant-based recipes

In French and Latin (with additions in Italian), illuminated manuscript on parchment
France (Lyon?), c. 1515-1525

TM 937

i (parchment) + 63 folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, upper outer rectos, 1-63, complete (collation i-vii8 viii8 [8 is the rear parchment pastedown]), ruled in pink ink with full-length horizontal and vertical bounding lines (justification 150-157 x 88-89 mm.), written in one or two elegant French bâtarde hands with some humanist letterforms on fifteen long lines, rubrics and opening words or lines of new sections written in a larger, more calligraphic display script, spaces left on ff. 42v-61 for decoration that was never added and one- to two-line spaces for initials, on ff. 1-42 one-line paraphs painted in gold on red or blue grounds with gold pen decoration, red or blue rectangular line-fillers with gold pen decoration, brown or green branch-shaped line-fillers with gold pen decoration, one- to two-line painted initials in blue or grey, highlighted with white pen decoration, with green, blue, red, white, and yellow foliate or floral infills on painted gold fields, three-line blue or gray modelled initials infilled with flowers on gold grounds, full border decorated with flowers, foliage, and arabesques painted in red, green, blue, pink, and purple on a gold background, with miniature arms painted in blue, red, and gold at the bottom presented by two cherubs painted in gold (f. 1), marginal annotations throughout and added text on ff. 61v-63v and on the back pastedown in several contemporary humanist or bâtarde hands, some rubbing and flaking of the lower and right parts of the border on f. 1, stains in the border of f. 24, restoration on the inside margins of ff. 24, 26, and 29, otherwise in very fine condition.  CONTEMPORARY BINDING of red velvet over wooden boards, spine with five raised bands, traces of two fore-edge fastenings (now lost), significant wear to velvet over the spine and at the edges of the boards, upper board has visible crack from top to bottom.  Dimensions 205 x 144-147 mm.

Unique, unpublished collection of medical recipes, illuminated, and written in an elegant calligraphic script, this is a deluxe presentation copy from French aristocrat, François II de Rohan, Archbishop of Lyon to his brother, Charles de Rohan-Gié.  Bound in contemporary velvet, the lavish volume includes recipes mostly of the period and used by physicians to Pope Julius II, the kings of France, and others in the royal circle, thus offering rare insight into the actual medical practices in early Renaissance France.


1. Evidence of script, decoration, and textual contents tell us that this volume was produced c. 1515-1520 in France, likely in Lyon, for François II de Rohan (1480-1536), bishop of Angers (1449-1532), and Archbishop of Lyon from 1501-1536.  The manuscript’s contents were compiled by François (see below, in Text), and he is also named in an anagram written on the final pastedown in a roughly contemporary hand.  Renaissance Lyon was a center for humanist learning and the arts, known as the as the deuxième œil de France (second eye of France) and the clef du royaume (key of the kingdom). The decorative style in this manuscript suggests it may well have been copied and painted in Lyon (Virassamynaïken, 2015, esp. cat. 190, Lyon, Bib. mun., MS 5136, and less closely, cat. 73; see also Burin, 2001).

François had this manuscript made for presentation to his brother, Charles de Rohan-Gié (c. 1478-1528), Lord of Gié, Verger, and Sablé, Count of Guise and Orbec and Viscount of Fronsac, whose arms are painted in the lower margin of f. 1. Charles was the eldest son of Pierre de Rohan-Gié, a marshal of France and close advisor to three French kings (Louis XI, Charles VIII, and Louis XII). 

2. There are some signs of early use in this manuscript, most notably annotations indicating the efficacy of various recipes.  Stains in the border of f. 24 may also indicate that this book was being used as a practical reference, for all that it is a deluxe volume.

3. Private Collection, France.


ff. 1-42, SEnsuyuent les Receptes de plusieurs expers medecins Consernantes diuerses malladies come se pouvra veoir cy apres, Sensuyt le chappitre des opiattes, incipit, “OPiatte Pour faire pisser et lascher le ventre propre contre collique et fleume ordonne Par maistre Bernard Pour prendre ante cenam ... et applicquer ledit linge cinq ou six fois au soir et au matin;” f. 35, Sensuit le regime a tenir tant en yuer que este des choses esprouuees Par monseigneur Larceuesque de Lyon cothees par item, incipit, “ITem leuer a six disner a dix soupper a six et coucher a dix ... ITem leste souuent se Raire[?] la teste Pour Raison que les cheueulx engendrent deulx mesmes froideur et se couurir ligerement la teste au temps dudit este”;

An original collection of seventy-three medical recipes (predominantly written in French, although some recipes are given in Latin), titled Receptes de plusieurs expers medecins consernantes diverse malladies (Recipes of Several Great Physicians Concerning Various Maladies), drawn from contemporary physicians practicing in aristocratic circles in Renaissance France, identified throughout the text.  The text concludes with a health regimen attempted by François II de Rohan (1480-1536), Archbishop of Lyon, who appears to have compiled the entire work.  To our knowledge, there are no other copies of this collection.

The recipe portion of this text is organized into chapters on different kinds of remedies, such as opiates, syrups, applications (like plasters and ointments), powders, potions, pills, enemas, and an electuary and a gargle.  Thus, different kinds of remedies for the same maladies can be found scattered throughout the text.  Common ailments include constipation, kidney stones, stomach pain, colic, plague, pleurisy, tertian and quartan fevers, and heart failure.  Many recipes are prefaced with information on the times of year in which they were proven most beneficial.

The writer of this text named some of the sources for these collected recipes and regimens, many of whom belonged to royal entourages in France and Italy.  They include Francois d’Allez (f. 27) and André Briaud (ff. 18v, 22v, 24v, 31v), both physicians to Francis I, king of France from 1515-1547, Master Philippe (f. 33v), physician to Charles VIII, king of France from 1483-1498), Master Francis or Francisco (ff. 8v, 34v), physician to Frederick of Aragon, king of Naples (reigned 1496-1501), and Master Albert (ff. 19, 23), physician to the queen.  One recipe (f. 9) is even attributed to Petrus de Montagnana, professor of surgery at the University of Padua (immortalized in a woodcut portrait in Johannes de Ketham’s 1491 edition of the Fasciculus Medicinae, the first illustrated medical book in print; see Online Resources).  Sources also include various doctors of Paris and Lyon, most notably one Master Bernard, who seems to have been François II de Rohan’s personal physician (see below).  Recipes of Spanish or English origin are noted as well.

ff. 42v-43v, [E]xtractum ex libro Johannis de vigo Januensis Cirourgici nuper sanctissimi domini pape Jullii nunc in vrbe Romana commemorantis pro gutta[?], incipit, “Vide in additionibus suis folio xxxixo hec sequuntur ex eodem auctore eodem libro ... sed erit cerotum valde vtile Contra omnes huiusmodi dolores”;

A recipe (in Latin) excerpted from the Practica in arte chirurgica of Giovanni da Vigo (1450-1525), official surgeon to Pope Julius II (sedit 1503-1513).  His Practica, first published in Rome in 1514, was the first great practical surgical work since that of Guy de Chauliac (c. 1300-1368).  The work was issued many times in 1516 by the presses of Lyon, both in Latin and French (see Pettegree and Walsby, 2012, p. 520).  This recipe, for an oil used to treat arthritis, can be found printed in the 1564 Lyon edition (Practica, pp. 925-926).  Giovanni was one of the first doctors to publish a discussion of how to treat gunshot wounds and to study and treat syphilis, which had spread in Europe since the expedition of Charles VIII to Naples at the end of the fifteenth century.  

ff. 44-46, [C]ontra dolorem dentium, incipit, “[R]Ecipe semen susqueamy[?] albi oppij thebaicj an<...?> dragmas duas ... [V]el Recipe nigelle non correfacti vnciam vnam Laudam purissimi dragmas duas fiat nodulus et sepe odoretur”; [ff. 46v-47v, ruled but blank];

Seven additional medical recipes (in Latin and French) to remedy tooth pain, eye pain, kidney stones, couperose skin, and stomach upset.  One of these recipes is attributed to the same Master Francis or Francisco named above, physician to King Frederick of Naples (f. 45v).  Another is attributed to a canon of the church of Lyon (f. 44v).  Added notes in the margin note how well proven the various recipes are.

ff. 48-61, [S]ensuit la vertu daucunes herbes experimentees Par plusieurs maistres en cirurgie et medicine, [E]t premierement [P]our les goutes guerir, incipit, “[P]renez oing de porc francencens Racine de persil et dysope et grune[?] de geneure et cuyses tout ensemble ... [I]tem Prenez veruaine ou calamentum et les broiez destremptz de vin et deaue et boyues au matin”;

Pharmacopoeia detailing thirty-one plant-based recipes (in Latin and French) to be used to treat different forms of gout, tertian and quartan fevers, ulcers, skin diseases, ailments of the legs and ears, and the plague.  There is also a recipe to dye hair black.

ff. 61v-62v, incipit, “Qui tropo cherca troua lo lupo al bosco / E qui non cherca In ca non troua Bosco ... Qui de male arme si se trouare armato / A quel qui arma et si non e armato”;

A poem in Italian, added in a different hand, combining aphorisms on moral character.

ff. 62v-63, Recepte contre la grauelle, incipit, “[P]renez de semence de bardane de semence de milsoleil et de saxifrage ... Soit faict sirop en cuisant lentement”; [ff. 63v-pastedown, recipes added in later hands].

Remedy (in French) for kidney stones.

This compilation of medical recipes and regimens is highly unusual both in its appearance—it is a far more deluxe production than most contemporary books of recipes—and in its contents, which draw not from earlier traditions (from antiquity, say, or from Arab-Islamic medicine, or even from the school of Salerno), but from the remedies of physicians practicing at the time of the book’s production, or very recently before.  This collection, unedited and apparently known only in this manuscript, offers historian of Renaissance medicine an important new source (recent research on related material include Hillard, 2012 and Martin, 2017).

There are numerous connections between many of the contemporary practitioners named throughout as sources for the collected recipes and regimens and the individual who compiled this volume, François II de Rohan (1480-1536), Archbishop of Lyon.  François is directly associated with the health regimen that occupies ff. 35-42.  Furthermore, the preface to one of the earliest recipes in the volume clearly indicates a relationship between the compiler and the source of the recipe: “Cestuy cy donne a mon frere de frontenay ordonne d’un espaignol [This was given to my brother, of Frontenay, ordered from a Spanish (doctor)]” (italics added; f. 1v), a reference to Pierre II de Rohan-Gié (d. 1525), lord of Frontenay and one of François’s two brothers.  This deluxe volume was made for presentation to François’s other brother, Charles de Rohan-Gié (his arms are found on the opening folio; see Provenance, above).  Beyond connections to François’s immediate family, it is possible, even likely, that François de Rohan met the prominent surgeon Giovanni da Vigo in Pisa during the Council of 1511 (Giovanni was official surgeon to the pope at the time).  Finally, the preponderance of the volume’s attributed recipes are connected to the exalted circles in which François would have moved in Lyon.  The frequently named André Briaud ministered to King Francis I in Lyon, one recipe was offered following a meal in Lyon (f. 18v), one regimen was given to the “monseigneur de Lyon” (perhaps referring to François himslef?) by the king’s primary physician (f. 27), and the most frequently named physician, one master Bernard, appears to have served as physician to that same monseigneur (f. 9v).

François II de Rohan was appointed bishop of Angers at the age of nineteen (in 1499) and was elevated soon after to the archbishopric of Lyon (in 1501).  He was active in ecclesiastical affairs; he presided over the Council of Tours (1510), took part in the Council of Pisa (1511), and organized a provincial council in 1528 to combat the rise of Lutheranism.  François was not only a precocious and powerful ecclesiast, but a writer.  His translation of Fiore di virtu (Flower of Virtue), an early fourteenth-century Italian collection of moral texts, has survived in a luxuriously illuminated manuscript (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1877, produced c. 1530), illustrated in Paris by an artist known as the Master of François de Rohan and probably made for presentation Marguerite de Navarre.  His own demonstrable interest in medicine, evident in the recipes and regimens linked to him in this volume, and in literary endeavor, to say nothing of his connections in the French and papal courts, make him a plausible overseer of this book’s production and compiler of its privileged recipes.  His motto, found in BnF, MS fr. 1877 is appropriate for someone with these interests: mentem sanam in corpore sane (a sound mind in a healthy body). 


Burin, Elizabeth. Manuscript Illumination in Lyons, 1473-1530, Ars Nova, 3, Turnhout, 2001.

Demaitre, Luke.  Medieval Medicine: The Art of Healing, from Head to Toe, Santa Barbara, 2013.

Freeman, John F.  “Physicians and Humanists in the World of Francis I,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 30 (1975), pp. 124-135.

Glick, Thomas, Steven J. Livesey, and Faith Wallis, eds.  Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, New York, Routledge, 2005.

Hillard, Denise. Traité des eaux artificielles, ou, Vertus des eaux et des herbes : le texte, ses sources et ses éditions : édition critique : une enquête lexicologique et bibliographique de 1483 à 1625, Geneva, 2012.

Martin, Véronique. Médecine et rhétorique à la Renaissance - Le cas du traité de peste en langue vernaculaire, Paris, 2017.

Pettegree, Andrew and Malcolm Walsby, eds.  French Books III & IV: Books Published in France before 1601 in Latin and Languages other than French, Leiden, 2012.

Practica D. Ioannis a Vigo Genvuensis, olim Ivlii II pont. max. chirvrgici clarissimi, Lyon, 1564.

Siraisi, Nancy G.  Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice, Chicago, 1990.

Virassamynaïken, Ludmila. ed., Lyon Renaissance : arts et humanisme, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (exhib.), Paris, 2015 (extract available online, https://issuu.com/baranes/docs/lyon_renaissance._arts_et_humanisme/100)

Online Resources

“Montagna, Petrus de,” Muzeum umení olomouc, 2016

TM 937