Book of Simple Medicines

FP. Fv VI #1 - National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Alternate Titles:

Libro de los Medicamentos Simples, Livre des Simples Médecines, Libro delle Medicine Semplici, Buch der einfachen Heilmittel, Libro delle Medicine Semplici, Livro dos Medicamentos Simples

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Alternate Titles

Libro de los Medicamentos Simples
Livre des Simples Médecines
Libro delle Medicine Semplici
Buch der einfachen Heilmittel
Libro delle Medicine Semplici
Livro dos Medicamentos Simples

Extent / Format

340 pages / 35.5 x 26.0 cm

Late 15th century

Count Charles of Angoulême (1459–1496) and his wife Louise of Savoy

Artist / School

Author: Matthaeus Platearius, a 12th Century physician from the medical school at Salerno
Illuminator: Robinet Testard (1470–1531)


386 illustrations

Short description

The Book of Simple Medicines arose in early 15th century France. It is a how-to manual about medicine, as it was practiced in the Middle Ages. The work was made by the French illuminator Robinet Testard and contains an unbelievable plethora of beautiful and informative illustrations

Facsimile editions available


Book of Simple Medicines

The medicine of the Middle Ages traces back to the knowledge of ancient scholars. Medicines made from plants and animals as well as mineral substances were used for the treatment of various sicknesses. The Book of Simple Medicines is a comprehensive how-to manual, which contains the information about the properties and compounds of natural medicine. The highly detailed work is decorated with an astonishing variety of beautiful book illustrations. It is one of the most noteworthy codices of medieval European art.

French Book Art

The codex originated from 15th century France and was produced for Count Charles of Angoulême and his wife Louise of Savoy. It consists of 5 book sections. These are concerned with plants and flowers, trees and resins, metals and minerals, animal products, and other materials. Following these explanations is a collection of 115 outstanding miniatures. The French text is based on the Latin explanations of the physicist Mattheaus Platerius, De medicinis simplicibus. In the 12th century, he compiled one of the most influential medical how-to manuals, which was translated into various languages during the Middle Ages. This treatise was enlarged with new findings in the French book of medicines.

Characteristic Painting

The breath-taking miniatures of the book were very likely produced by the master Robinet Testard. The artist almost never signed his works, which complicates an unambiguous assignment. To be sure, Testard was employed at the court of Count Charles of Angoulême as a princely valet of the family at the end of the 15th century. The depictions show the botanical, faunal, and mineral substances and sometimes the persons for whom the use of these medicinal substances were intended. Sometimes the scenes were ennobled with elements of gold leaf. This artistically valuable treatise about the medicine of the Middle Ages is counted among the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the French Renaissance. Today the original edition of the document is found in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.

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