Codex of Medicine of Frederick II

Ms. Plut. 73.16 - Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Códice sobre Medicamentos de Federico II, Die Medikamenten-Lehre Friedrichs II., Arneibuch Friedrichs II., Codex sur les Médicaments de Frédéric II, Codice sui Medicinali di Federico II, Códice sobre Medicamentos de Federico II

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Códice sobre Medicamentos de Federico II
Die Medikamenten-Lehre Friedrichs II.
Arneibuch Friedrichs II.
Codex sur les Médicaments de Frédéric II
Codice sui Medicinali di Federico II
Códice sobre Medicamentos de Federico II

Type
Extent / Format

460 pages / 17.6 x 11.5 cm

Date
13th century
Style
Genre
Patron

Emperor Frederick II

Illustrations

510 miniatures in the Mid-Byzantine style

Short description

The comprehensive, small Codex of Medicine of Frederick II arose likely in the middle of the 13th century in Italy. The exceptionally, scientifically interested Emperor gave the pharmacopoeia in contract, in order to make an entertaining and at the same time instructive work which cataloged the knowledge about the healing effects of herbs and other remedies and treatments. Collected within the Codex of Medicine are various medical texts of Pseudo-Apuleius next to other works on pharmaceutics. Richly illustrated, the text as well as the wondrous miniatures describes different illnesses and cures alongside numerous depictions of plants.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Codex of Medicine of Frederick II

The comprehensive, small Codex of Medicine of Frederick II arose likely in the middle of the 13th century in Italy. The exceptionally, scientifically interested Emperor gave the pharmacopoeia in contract, in order to make an entertaining and at the same time instructive work which cataloged the knowledge about the healing effects of herbs and other remedies and treatments. Collected within the Codex of Medicine are various medical texts of Pseudo-Apuleius next to other works on pharmaceutics. Richly illustrated, the text as well as the wondrous miniatures describes different illnesses and cures alongside numerous depictions of plants.

A Look into the Medical Treatment of the Middle Ages

In a wonderful, lively way, the many different illnesses with their consequences are pictorially depicted and placed in connection with the corresponding treatment. Therefore, not only type and dosage of the administration of the drugs is described, but also the spatial environment is depicted, in which the medical treatment was normally carried out. The patients lie in their beds, holding their feet in a small bath, or other, often bizarre ways of being handled. The attending doctors operate the medicine and impart upon the observer and reader the therapeutic applications, which the dose and manner of application of healing herbs and plants require. For example, in an illustration of healing a snake bite is shown to be remedied with verbena.

Botanical Depictions and Golden Glazed Miniatures

Such plants are reproduced over countless pages throughout the detailed manuscript, and often placed in connection with symbolic depictions of animals and mythical images.
Next to these miniatures without a background directly in the text, there are also whole-page Miniature pages in the manuscript. For example, there is a miniature page with a depiction of Hippocrates between Plato and Dioscorides. In a border with luxuriant golden décor and ornamental design of figures of backgrounds, such picture pages appear Byzantine. This stems from their creation in Southern Italy.
The in total 510 miniatures over 460 pages give a wondrous and striking overview over the status of medicine and healing in the 13th century.

An Emperor’s Pharmacopoeia

The Codex of Medicine of Friedrich II features a mixed content between mythical and popular scientific knowledge. The knowledge within the book is compiled from a collection from the Late Antiquity, which by the Middle Ages had been widely distributed throughout Europe and experienced great impact. Within are texts from the Herbarium of Pseudo-Dioscorides, the Medicinis ex libris feminis et masculinis, as well as other collected works.
Friedrich II (1194-1250), the Holy Roman Emperor from the Hohenstaufen dynasty, was the patron of the manuscript. His court applied as the center for science and culture*, and he himself was known to be an **enthusiastic scientist. Friedrich II was the most educated ruler of his time. He had a burning passion for medicine as an applied science. It comes as no surprise that he was the founder of the School of Salerno, where countless pharmaceutical books would arise from. Next to that, he settled in a game-changing law the **separation of doctors and pharmacists* as professions. The grandly designed Medicine Codex therefore fits perfectly into the area of interest of this famous and influential Emperor.

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