Encyclopedic manuscript containing allegorical and medical drawings
In the Middle Ages, medicine was very much intertwined with astrology and other nonscientific superstitions. This manuscript on vellum, produced in southern Germany around 1410, contains pen and ink drawings with explanatory texts in German and Latin. The first drawing shows the earth and seven planets. It is followed by Zodiac-man, a naked man shown with the 12 signs of the zodiac, each relating to a specific part of the body. Next are four bloodletting charts of the human body. Such bleeding charts or calendars were widely used in this period. They provided instructions on the optimum days on which to draw blood, and the body points from which to draw it. The very complexity of the instructions offered–they varied for different phases of the moon, different diseases, and different body points– lent a degree of credibility to an essentially worthless and often harmful act. The work concludes with drawings of the Tower of Wisdom (text in German); a man called Microcosmus; a man called Macrocosmus; the Tree of Virtue; Philosophy surrounded by the Seven Arts; stories showing the evil power of women; the Tree of Babylon (or vice); the Tower of Wisdom (text in Latin, on two leaves); and the Wheel of Fortune. This work is from the Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress.