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Translation of Gilbertus Anglicus

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0175
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: Translation of Gilbertus Anglicus
Date(s): Early 15th century
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume, 2 notebooks, and an envelope of notes
Name of creator(s): Gilbert the Englishman | d c1250 | priest and medical writer x Gilbertus Anglicus x Gilbertus de Aquila x Gilbert de l' Egle


Administrative/Biographical history:

Gilbert the Englishman [Gilbertus Anglicus, Gilbertus de Aquila, Gilbert de l'Egle] was the author of Compendium Medicinae, an important medical and surgical work of the Middle Ages. It was originally written in Latin with excerpts translated into New High German, Hebrew, Catalan and Middle English. Little is known for certain about Gilbert's life, and he has been confused with other contemporaries of the same, or similar, name. He is likely to have been the Gilbert del Egle, physician, who witnessed a charter of Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1205. He is also likely to have been the Magister Gillbertus del Egle who attended the Archbishop on his deathbed. Other sources suggest that at about that time Gilbert was in the service of Robert de Breteuil, Earl of Leicester (d 1204). He is also thought to have received an ecclesiastical income and may have witnessed a charter as King John's physician, c 1207. The composition of the Compendium, which from his use of Arabic sources indicates he cannot have completed before c 1230-1240, suggests he may have attended a more sophisticated centre of medical and philosophical learning, eg Paris, Montpellier, Salerno, than could be found in England at that time. Gilbert's very early reference of Averroes (Abū 'l-Walīd Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd), as well as his association with Gilles de Corbeil and Richard of Wendover, point to his presence at Montpellier. Gilbert's Compendium covers all aspects of medicine and surgery as well as some of religious healing and the use of prayers and charms. It is divided into seven books dealing with fevers, the head, sense organs, organs of respiration, organs of digestion, the humours and in the last book diseases of women as well as advice for travellers, how to light fires and antidotes to poisons.

Trotula of Salerno lived in the 11th or 12th century in Salerno, Southern Italy. She is thought to have occupied the chair of medicine at the School of Salerno. Trotula was one of the most famous physicians of that time, with her main interests in alleviating the suffering of women. Her most notable medical works were Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum (The Diseases of Women), known as Trotula Major, and De Ornatu Mulierum known as Trotula Minor. Trotula Major contains information about menses, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and general diseases and their treatments. Remedies usually consist of herbs, spices, and oils. The identity of Trotula of Salerno has caused some controversy, with some scholars disputing her existence, or that she was a woman.


Scope and content/abstract:

Translation of Gilbertus Anglicus The Sekenesse of Wymmen [formerly identified as the Liber Trotularis], early 15th century, comprising a manuscript translation of a medieval obstetric/ gynaecological manuscript; an envelope containing 7 slips of transcripts of various pages in the manuscript, possibly written by Samuel Merriman (1771-1852); a letter from Mrs Dorothea Waley Singer concerning the manuscript and the publication of a catalogue of medieval manuscripts in Great Britain, Nov 1919; a notebook containing an unfinshed transcript of the manuscript when it was erroneously identified as the Liber Trotularis, Jan 1949; notebook and envelope of notes made by William Le Fanu on the 'Trotula' manuscript (now known to be Gilbertus Anglicus), and other medieval manuscripts from the Bodleian Library and other libraries.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The manuscript was owned by Dr Samuel Merriman, and the volume contains a bookplate belonging to him. This is presumably Samuel Merriman (1771-1852), a physician specialising in midwifery.

This manuscript was originally believed to be a Middle English translation known as Liber Trotularis - Trotula's On the Diseases of Women written in the 13th century. The volume is also listed in catalogues at the Royal College of Surgeons of England as being called Liber Familiaris (see Plarr's Catalogue of Manuscripts 1928). Research carried out on the manuscript - identifying it as a translation of Trotula - can also be found in the collection.

However, research carried out in the early 1990s by Monica H Green of Duke University, revealed that the manuscript was mistakenly identified as a translation of Trotula. The manuscript is in fact a translation of Gilbertus Anglicus The Sekenesse of Wymmen. There are 2 versions of translations of this text and this particular manuscript has been identified as version 2. Parts of the Sekenesse of Wymmen text were derived from the Trotula text, and in version 2 the source is acknowledged by the phrase 'Witnesse Trotula' at the end of the final addition to the text. Our manuscript ends at this point which is possibly why the manuscript was identified as a translation of Trotula. Other version 2 texts in existence contain an additional 5 non-gynaecological recipes after this which aided in their identification as a Gilbertus Anglicus translation.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The provenance of this material is not known.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Green, Monica H, Obstetrical and Gynaecological Texts in Middle English Studies in the Age of Chaucer 14: 53-88 (1992). [A reprint of this publication can be found in the Royal College of Surgeons of England Library - TRACTS D-GRE.]

Green, Monica H, and Mooney, Linne R, 'Chapter 11 - The Sickness of Women' in Tavormina, Mary Teresa (ed). Sex, Aging and Death in a Medieval Medical Compendium: Trinity College Cambridge MS R.14.52, Its Texts, Language, and Scribe. Volume 2. Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona, 2006. (This publication mistakenly references the manuscript as being reference MS129.)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.
Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website; and

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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