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Original price £1,500.00 - Original price £1,500.00
Original price
£1,500.00 - £1,500.00
Current price £1,500.00

[Wirtsung, Christoph; Carel Baten (trans.)]: Medecijn bock. [Low Countries, 17th century].

An abridged manuscript copy of the Medicijn-boec (here spelled ‘Medecijn bock’), a popular Dutch medical guide intended for a mainstream audience. The text was originally written in German by Christoph Wirtsung (c.1500–1571) and was translated into Dutch by Carel Baten (c.1539–1619), who was city physician of Dordrecht at the time. The Dutch version was printed in seven editions between 1589 and 1628. This manuscript was perhaps produced for household use.

It is unclear which edition our scribe copied from, or perhaps even if another manuscript version served as the exemplar. The printed versions cover all parts of the body from head to toe including relevant medical recipes, with an introduction followed by eight thematic sections and a short cookery book. However, our copyist apparently only included (in abridged forms) the introduction, section 1 (head), section 2 (chest), and part of section 3 (stomach and reproductive organs). Perhaps it was once part of a set.

The narrow margins, lack of decoration, and notes on the pastedowns indicate that this is a pragmatic and economical reference copy. The manuscript includes a register. Overall, this manuscript sheds light on popular medical literature and the relationship between manuscript and print culture in the Low Countries during the early modern period.


Manuscript. One volume, 19 x 16 cms in binding. Approx 322 folios (includes two smaller inserted bifolia). Erratically and inconsistently paginated including a brief switch to foliation after p. 147, the closing ten folios being pp. 599-600 [15] 601-603. Likely a few folios missing at rear on account of a catchword on the final verso and a reference to p. 611 in register. There may be some further short lacunae, but substantial losses are unlikely as the bookblock bulges in the binding and catchwords (on most rectos and versos) generally anticipate correctly.

Bound in calf over boards, decorated in blind with triple fillet frame to both covers. Remnants of fastening ties. Pastedowns at front and rear.

Condition (textblock): browning to pages, especially outermost folios and pp. 175-6. Fraying to edges. Minor worming to blank lower margins of final folios. Condition (binding): binding only loosely attached. Leather rubbed and degrading, with some stains. Wear to leather at corners, sides, and spine (some gatherings exposed). Cracks to spine.

Provenance: Arenberg, Brussels, 16–18 June 2022, lot 1202.

Cook, Harold J., Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 136–8.