A few months ago, in a post on medical manuscripts, I wrote about vade mecum and lamented that I couldn’t find any images online. Reader Margie has come to the rescue with a great list of examples, and I’ve collected and annotated some of the images below. Thanks Margie!
Vade mecum were carried by variety of professions, especially the mendicant religious orders, and not all included medical information. Though the Welcome and UCLA examples below include medical diagrams, some of the others seem to be purely calendrical in nature.
This example was made in the late fifteenth-century. Here we see the outer appearance of the vade mecum, including the folded pieces of parchment that make up the booklet and the two individual pieces that cover the front and back as a form of loose binding.
A calendar page fully opened from the front and displaying two months. You can see the four folds that create the booklet – one horizontal and three vertical. At the bottom the binding is visible.
A calendar page fully opened from the back. On the lower half is the table of contents listing the three months written on this page. When folded, the calendars are hidden and only the table of contents is visible while flipping through the almanac.
A zodiac man, with descriptions of each sign.
A phlebotomy, or bloodletting, man, showing the points to cut, as well as astrological charts.
Berkeley Huntington Library HM 47641 (please see correction in the comments below. Thanks Justin!)
This example, from the Huntington Library at Berkeley, is unusual in that it has a brass cover. It’s possible that other vade mecum had similar covers of metal or leather which have been lost.
The Berkeley manuscript opened – this liturgical calender has a different, and less commonly seen, orientation than the Welcome manuscript above.
Royal Observatory Edinburgh (scroll down)
This is a great photo, showing exactly how the booklets were opened and consulted.
Schoyen Collection (see MS 1581 and MS 2913)
MS in Norwegian and Latin on vellum, Uvdal, Norway, 1636, 30 ff. (complete), 5,5×5,5 cm, single column, (5×5 cm), 15 lines in capitals, Norwegian Gothic cursive script and a variant of Roman numbers, 80 miniatures of saints or their symbols, 12 circular diagrams, 12 miniatures of the occupations of the months, all in full colours; the book flattens out into a long strip, 67×11 cm, each section cut and folded around each month.
Binding: Norway, 1636, not bound but plied together to form a book, in its original girdle type leather covered wooden box.
Context: Very similar to 2 Norwegian girdle calendars dated 1558: the Hegra Calendar in Trondheim, Det Kgl. Norske Videnskabers Selskabs Bibliotek, and the Oslo Calendar, cf. MS 1581. Layout and illustrations are nearly identical, but the two earlier calendars are rather crudely executed compared to the present one.
This Norwegian almanac is very interesting in that it was created in 1636, long after the establishment of printing throughout Europe. It would be interesting to learn more about manuscript calender production in this period, and why this format might have been chosen over printed calenders in this region.
More examples from the Bodleian Library and UCLA:
UCLA MS Rosenbach 1004/29 – Two medical images – a bloodletting man and a urine wheel (used to diagnose based on the color and texture of a patient’s urine).