Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft

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9781855069176: Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft

Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England centres on an extraordinary range of Anglo-Saxon primary sources which had never been brought together in one collection. Thomas Oswald Cockayne (1807-73) was a philologist, a member of the innovative Philological and Early English Text Societies, and a keen student of the Anglo-Saxon language, a subject on which he published numerous works including Leechdoms. Originally published in 1864-6 by Longman as part of the Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages series, this highly collectable item is a valuable sourcebook for historians of the medieval period, medicine, science and language.

Volume 1 of Leechdoms contains the Herbarium of Apuleius which lists the various ills and the corresponding plant remedies (i.e. the worts) for each illness, e.g. bishopswort, 'in case a man have a mind not to be drunken', and for 'monstrous nocturnal visitors and frightful sights and dreams' and 'bite of mad dog'. It also includes the English version of Medicina de quadrupedibus of Sextus Placidus, which describes the use of various kinds of animals and their bodies in medicine, e.g. for oversleeping: 'a hares brain in wine given for a drink; wonderfully it amendeth' and for foot swellings: 'a hares lung bound on above and beneath; wonderfully the steps are healed'. The first volume also has a section on charms, 'for catching a swarm of bees' and 'for a bewitched land'. Volume 2 contains three leech books (medical texts), which list Greek and Latin authorities on medicine with prescriptions and recipes for ailments. Volume 3 resumes the immense collection of material on Western barbarian medicine (for example, remedies for headaches, insect stings and angina) and the Anglo-Saxon language, in addition to sections on Saxon mythology (such as the gods of Woden, Friya, Thor, Tiw and Valhalla) and interpretations of dreams and a horologium. The Thoemmes Press reprint of this informative and original work provides scholars with an intriguing insight into the medical philosophy of Saxon times.

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Oswald Cockayne
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