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De Amore Hereos (Author: [unknown])

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De Amore Hereos

The following extract is taken from R.I.A. 23 F 19, a vellum manuscript, very fragmentary, containing twenty-eight leaves, all of a medical nature, and including a handbook on gynaecology. The manuscript is a sort of scrap-book, imperfect at the beginning and end. It opens on fol. 18, of which the obverse is illegible; the last folio is numbered 110. Fols. 25 to 88 are missing, also 91, 92, and 107. The writing is beautiful. The capitals are rubricated; some of them are coloured green, obviously a later addition, as green is a most unusual colour in manuscripts. The contractions are as usual in medical manuscripts very numerous. On fol. 24v1 is the following colophon, which would seem to indicate the probable time (1352) and place of compilation, though not the name of the scribe: ‘Et is edh do bo shlan don tigerna an tan doronad an lebur so .i. míle bliadhan & tri ced bliadhan & da fichit bliadhan & da bliadhain deg nis mo &rl. tairnic an lebur so an bliadhain do marbad Seaan Óg Mac Conaithne & a tigh mic Diarmuda hI Meachair do scribadh. Dia trocaireach co nderrna se trocaire oraind uile.’

Under this is scribbled: ‘Misi Risderd Muirchertaigh’, in the hand of the Scribe of 3. C. 19, a copy of the Lilium Medicinae, the work from which the present text is also taken and of which details will be given further on in this Introduction (cf. 3. C. 19, 81r). This Richard Moriarty transcribed a large part of the work at Coolkeel, the seat of Mac Giolla Padrig in 1590.

The Lilium Medicinae was written by Bernard of Gordon in 1303 or 1305. It is a very compact account of the whole of medicine as known in the fourteenth century, a well planned work, in seven parts (particulae). It was regarded as a standard work on medicine, was widely read, and was translated into several European languages, including Irish. According to the standards of the time it was a scientific work, and was for that very reason never so popular as the Rosa Anglica or Rosa Medicinae of John of Gaddesden (a fashionable English doctor of the time of Edward II) with which it is frequently confused.


The famous Breviarium Bartholomei of John Mirfield in the fourteenth century, the first book on medicine to be connected with St. Bartholomew's Hospital, contains an account of the plague which is taken almost word for word from the chapter on the same subject in the Lilium Medicinae.

The first edition of the book appeared about 1480. A French translation was made at Rome in 1377, and printed in 1495. It was translated into Spanish in 1494. The edition used for the present work is that of 1559. (Bernardus Gordonius, Lilium Medicinae. Lugduni MDLIX.) Irish versions of the Lilium Medicinae occur in quite a number of MSS. These are: R.I.A. 23. F. 19 (fragment), 3 C. 19, and 3. C. 22; British Museum: Eg. 89; National Libr. of Scotland MSS. 2. 13 (fragments), and one complete translation in the library of the Soc. of Antiq. of Scotland. The two fragments in Edinburgh are the same as R.I.A. 23. F. 19, and are especially interesting on account of a peculiar mistranslation of which I shall speak later. The British Museum copy is a fine vellum MS. It records the date at which it was written, namely 1482, by one of the O'Hickeys, hereditary physicians of the Dáil Cais in Thomond. A further note shows that it was still in the possession of the scribe in 1489, and a third note gives an account of its purchase for twenty cattle in 1500 by Gerald Earl of Kildare. There is also a pithy remark about the actual make-up of the book itself: ‘Two and twenty folded skins are in this book.’

The present extract from 23. F. 19 is on fol. 110r of the MS., and covers three-quarters of a page. It is an adaptation of a fragment of the Lilium Medicinae of Bernard of Gordon, and is taken from the section entitled De Passionbus Capitis in part 2 (cap. 20). The original of the extract is on page 210 of the 1559 edition of the Lilium Medicinae referred to above. It is called variously De Amore Hereos, De Amore qui Hereos Dicitur. The disease was one of the head, attributed, like mania, to melancholy. The Irish translator or adapter of 23. F. 19, which is the same as the two Edinburgh MSS., evidently got mixed up in his translation of philocaptum (Greek filo-), which he confused with filocaptum (Latin filum ‘thread’). The other MSS. known to me, viz. Eg. 89 and R.I.A. 3. C. 19 and 3. C. 22, do not mention thread.


The whole section in the original Latin is called De Affectionibus (Passionibus) Capitis and De Amore Hereos is found in cap. 20 of the section. Dr. Singer suggests that filocaptum may be filocapnum, i.e. leaves of capnum, which he remembers from Saxon Leechdoms, and this idea, he thinks, may be borne out in Pliny, where two species of capnum are mentioned. As in the case of most other medieval medical writers, little is known of the life of Bernard of Gordon, except what can be learned from those of his works still extant. For a long time he was believed to have been a Scotsman, but it is now generally accepted that he was French, a native of one of the many places in France named Gourdon; either Gourdon in Le Var or Gourdon in Le Lot, or possibly Gourdon en Rouergue.

I am indebted to Mrs. Charles Singer for most of the details of the life and writings of Bernard, which are taken from the Hist. Litt. de la France (1869), vol. xxv, pp. 321–36. All the histories of medicine seem to refer to this work as the source of their information about Bernard.

The frequency of MSS. and early incunabula shows that Bernard must have been a famed physician. He is much quoted by physicians who came after him. As he spent most of his life at Montpellier, he is probably the Bernard the Provençal who is sometimes cited. In 1285 he became Professor at Montpellier. This is established by his statement in the Lilium Medicinae that the work was begun(?) in 1305 (French translators say 1303) when he was lecturing for the twentieth year.2 He retired from teaching in 1318. The earliest of Bernard's works is the Regimen Acutorum Egritudinum, and in 1296 he wrote Affectus praeter naturam curandi methodus, also called De decem ingeniis seu indicationibus curandorum mobororum, and he adds that he had already done the Regimen Acutorum. About 1305, immediately after finishing the Lilium, he did De Crisi et de Diebus Criticis, which is not extant. The subject is, however, treated in De Phlebotomia, written in February 1307, and quoted in Tracatus de Urinis, which contains twenty-eight chapters. He says he had already done a commentary on Aegidius.


De Urinis is followed by Warning to a physician on his conduct, i.e. how to avoid suspicion and blame. Next came De Pulsibus, followed by Regimen Sanitatis, and it is thought that these three are really appendices to De Urinis. In the Lilium Medicinae, Part V, cap. 8, he says he intends to compose De conservatione vite humane a die nativitatis usque ad ultimam horam mortis, which intention he carried to fulfilment, but De Morbo, which he refers to as having written, in the Lilium, Part II, cap. 11, is not extant. He also wrote Pharmacorum omnium que in communi sunt praticantium and De floribus dietarum.

Bernard is one of the first writers to mention spectacles, oculus berellinus (as they used to be made of smoky glass). Cf. Garrison, History of Medicine, p. 185. Bernard's last work is De Prognostics, though Opus c. med., p. 77, states that he wrote some smaller works after 1307. It is not known how long he lived nor anything further about his life.

Winifred Wulff.