Monday, 3 November 2014

Hallowe'en Special: Hairy Crawlers, Shaggy Dog-Men, and Frisky Satyrs

For our Hallowe'en session, Natalie Lawrence supplied us with some highly appropriate passages from Ulisse Aldrovandi's Monstrorum historia, first published posthumously in 1642. It describes various strange races, half man half beast, which are said to roam faraway regions. The printed text is very readable and is freely available as a digital version here. Enjoy the hairy strangeness, and please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. Felix vesper omnium sanctorum!


Ulisse Aldrovandi, Monstrorum historia cum Paralipomenis historiae omnium animalium (Bologna, 1658), pp. 21–24.

[p. 21]

To this should be referred other species of wild men listed by Lycosthenes, such as those extremely fat women seen in the Indian Ocean who have an unnaturally long neck, arms joined to the legs, donkeys' shinbones and feet of a different form. He describes males like the women but much smaller. Likewise, to be listed in this place are the women found in the Libyan desert with breasts hanging down to their knees, lacking the power of speech, but vociferating vehemently. There are others besides living in the Libyan mountains which have bovine legs, human faces and feet, vulpine tails, goat udders, and a humped back like a camel's. But since Lycosthenes told of monsters rather through hearsay than facts, and sometimes fanciful figments, we therefore deliberately leave all those aside, and turn for our part to disseminate the image of those hairy men in whom it is implanted by nature to advance by crawling. And therefore, they could be called herpiszanthropoi by the Greeks and manugradi (handwalkers) by the Latins; the picture is this.

[p. 22]

[Marginal note:] Ice like a protection against weapons.

To the preceding could be added the Cynomulgi (dog-muzzled), or Cynocephali (dog-headed), equally hairy, whose head and mouth mark them out as beasts more than men. These according to Lycosthenes have a human body elegantly shaped except for the head which resembles the muzzle of dogs, and they live in Northern Ethiopia. Moreover, in Vincent [of Beauvais]'s Mirror of History this race roams the regions of Tartary without fear, because in the bitter winter, it plunges into the water, then immediately rolls in the dust, until the dust mixed with water freezes. This is repeated several times, until the thickness of the ice can resist the impact of weapons and arrows. Having done this, this race advances on the Tartars with great force, for then the arrows hurled at them return whence they came, and likewise, they cannot in any way be harmed by other weapons.

On that account those Cynocephali, attacking the Tartars unharmed [p. 23], wound many of them by biting. Likewise Marco Polo claimed that this race, which has canine muzzles, wanders about the Angaman island, and rounds up and devours any visitors. In fact we think that these are vanities and that the truth has been corrupted by many a foolishness. There are in fact certain dog-headed tribes of very cunning monkeys who approach human intelligence, and which have been dealt with at greater length in the history of quadrupeds with fingers. We do not deny that there have been and can be men with canine muzzles, but it seems that they should be recorded among the monsters. It will not be offensive to show the picture of the supposed Cynocephali for the benefit of the reader.

By many [people], Satyrs, Tritons, Nymphs, Nereids and Sirens are deservedly placed together on the list of wild people; besides it will be worth the effort to deal with them all in this place one by one.

[p. 24] Concerning the Satyrs, so called from the noun sathe, meaning the male member, because they are always inclined to lust, we will first place before you the opinion of antiquity. Pliny reports in many places that there is a region in the Eastern mountains of India which is called Cartadulorus where Satyrs, namely horned, hairy and most pernicious men, live, with a human appearance, goat feet, having no human morals, and frolicking in hiding places in the woods. They cannot be caught on account of their speed, unless by chance they are sick or old. Pomponius Mela adds that those men are half wild, who have nothing human about them besides the appearance, and elsewhere [he] claimed that beyond the Atlas mountain of Mauritania lights are very often seen by night, and the clashing of cymbals and the song of pipes are heard, and nothing is found by day. It is held for certain that these are Fauns and Satyrs.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Carolus Clusius's Armadillo

We spent the first couple of sessions of this term examining a curious beast: the armadillo.  Here's an introduction to the text, courtesy of Natalie Lawrence:

The armadillo first arrived in Europe in the early 16th century, it was one of the cache of animals that naturalists encountered demonstrating the wonders of the New World. Their hard shells and relatively small sized made them very transportable and easy to preserve, and, as we can see in this text, they were relatively common in collections by the end of the century.

Clusius references several authors who were seen as 'authorities' on New World fauna, such as Oviedo, de Acosta, and Monardes. He had been exposed to a great deal of Americana as a result of his translation work on some of the big titles of natural history, and his ideal position in Leiden University. Here, there was an influx of goods from all over the world, providing Clusius with a wealth of new material. Though the armadillo was not a very new creature, therefore, Clusius was able to re-present it and provide new information about it.

As always, we first present the Latin text, followed by our draft translation.  Comments and suggestions welcome!

Carolus Clusius, Exoticorum libri decem (1605) 

Lib. V. Cap. XV, p.109-10 :: Armadillo, sive Tatou genus alterum

In epistolâ quam Jacobus Plateau, cujus in hac Exoticorum historiâ crebra sit mentio, Novembri mense anno millesimo sexcentesimo secundo à Christi nativitate ad me scribebat, inter alia significabat, se tria illius animalis, quod Hispani ab armis quibus tectus est, Armadillo appellant, Gallis verò voce Brasilianicâ Tatou dicitur, in suo Museo diversa habere genera: unum quidem valde magnum, ejus formae cujus illud erat, quod in scholio ad Nicolai Monardes caput de Armadillo, Libro de Medicamentis simplicibus ex Occidentali India delatis, ante aliquot annos exhibebam et nunc denuò exhibeo: aliud item illi ferè simile, sed minus: tertium, ab illis  forma diversum, cujus quidem Iconem coloribus expressam illo tempore ad me mittebat, sed ejus magnitudinem non adscribebat: de qua re monitus, illius longitudinem et crassitudinem insequente Iunio etiam addebat, Hujus forma, quum ab ejus generis animalibus quae mihi conspicere licut, sit diversa, nec à quopiam exhibitam putem, in tabella delineandam et sculpendam curabam, ut huic capiti adponeretur, additâ brevi ejus, quam ex picturâ concinnare potui, historiâ, Recentiorum quorumdam testimonio confirmatâ.

[Margin note: Tatou III genus] Habebat porrò id animal pedis unius et quatuor unciarum longitudinem; corporis verò ambitus erat quatuordecim unciarum, binis videlicet minor longitudine: ejus tegmen durum et testaceum, fuliginosi coloris, quem fortè vetustate et manuum tractatione contraxerat, quodammodo tessellatum, a collo ad medium corpus quasi orbiculatae figurae tessellis variè pictis distinctum, medio autem corpore, ternis ordinibus quadrangularum tessellarum variè etiam picturam insignitum, postrema tegminis pars similibus orbibus distincta erat, qualibus pars anterior: totum etiam caput ad nares usque similibus testis tectum: aures patentiores, nec adeò mucronatas habebat, ut illud quod in scholio ad Monardem exhibitum: cauda brevis erat, duobus digiti humani extremis articulis non major, tota etiam orbiculatis tessellis tecta: ventrem nullâ crustâ tectum fuisse, sed villis dumtaxat obsitum, pictura repraesentabat, quaemadmondum etiam crurum posteriorem partem, atque guttur, et nates: posteriores pedes ternis digitis et calcari praeditos fuisse pictura fidem faciebat, anteriores verò dumtaxat binis et calcari, nisi à pictore fuerint praetermissi: penem satis longum et exertum habebat.

Ceterùm istam varietatem oriri arbitror è Provinciarum, in quibus hoc animal vivit, diversitate: è variis enim regionibus adferri certum est.

Qui de hoc animali scripserint, Consalvum Ferdinandum Oviedum primum fuisse comperio: reliqui enim qui aliquid de illo tradiderunt, ab ipso desumpsisse videntur. Is igitur cap. XXII sui Summarii Bardato appellat, hoc est, panopliâ, sive integrâ armaturâ tectum, et [greek text], his verbis quae ex Italico sermone Latina faciebam.

[Margin note: Greek text, Bardato]. [Greek text], sive undique armis munitus, vel, ut Italicum exemplar habet, Bardato, animal est aspectu admirabile, valde diversum ab iis quae aut in Hispania, aut in aliis Europae regionibus conspiciuntur. Quadrupes est animal, totumque corpus cum cauda corio tectum habet simili cortici Lacerti, de quo infrà sumus dicturi [Crocodilum Americanum intelligit] coloris inter album et cineraceum mixti, ad album tamen magis accedentis. Ejusdem verò est formae cum equo undique armis munito; caniculae autem vulgaris magnitidine: non est animal noxium; domiciliumque habet in terrenis tumulis, pedibusque, terram egerendo, sua latibula fodit cunicolorum instar. Capiuntur haec animalia vel retibus, vel balistis petita occiduntur, magna autem ex parte sementis tempore, quando stipulae aduruntur, aut agri coluntur ut gramen producant in boum et animantium pabulum. Aliquoties me hoc animali vesci contigit, ac sanè melioris saporis quàm hoedos, et salubrem cibum esse comperiebam. Ceterùm si haec animalia in iis Provinciis conspecta fuissent, in quibus equos undique armaturâ muniendi consuetudo originem sumpsit, ex hujus animalis aspectu exemplar desumptum opinari quis posset. Haec Oviedus.

Licet porrò hujus animalis saporem adeò commendet Oviedus, Iosephus tamen à Costa Historiae Natural. et Moral. Indiae Occidentalis lib. IV. cap. XXXVIII. non est ejus opinionis, longeque Yvanae carnem praefert, animalis de quo proximè sequente quarto capito agemus.


In the letter which Jacob Plateau, of whom in this history of Exotica there is frequent mention, wrote to me in November of the 1602 year from the birth of Christ, he indicated, amongst other things, that he had in his museum three different kinds of this animal, which the Spaniards call Armadillo, from the armour with which it is covered, and by the French it is called Tatou taken from the Brazilian name: One very large one indeed, with the same form as the one in the notes of Nicholas Monardes, in the chapter concerning the Armadillo, in the book ‘Medical simples brought from the West Indies’ and which I now publish anew: a second one, mostly similar to that one but smaller; a third, different in form from these, of which indeed he sent me an image at that time, depicted with its colours, but he did not indicate its size: having been advised about this matter, the following June he added its length and thickness. The form of it seems to be different from the other animals of this kind that I have been allowed to observe, and I do not think anyone has represented it before, I have taken care to draw and engrave it in a plate, so that it may be placed alongside this chapter, I have added a short history to it, which I have been able to put together from the picture, and that has been confirmed by more recent testimony.

[Margin note: Tatou III genus]

Furthermore, that animal had a length of one foot and four inches, but the circumference of the body was truly 14 inches, that is to say, two less than the length: his hide was hard and tiled, a sooty colour, which was perhaps the result of the handling it had received as a result of its age, it was somewhat tesselated; from the neck to the middle of the body were round tiles distinguished with a variegated pattern, but in the middle of the body were three rows of quadrangular plates also distinguished with different patterns; the rear part was marked out with similar discs like the front portion: the whole head was covered to the end of the nose with similar plates: it had more prominent ears, but less pointed than that which was published in the notes of Monardes; the tail was short, no bigger than the two outer articulations of the human finger, and it was wholly covered with round plates: the picture shows the stomach was not covered with any shell, only covered with hairs; just like the back part of the leg, and the throat and the buttocks; the back legs were furnished with three digits  and a spur as the picture shows; the front ones have two spurs, except that they have been excluded from the picture; it had a reasonably long and extruded penis.

For the rest, I reckon that their variety arises from the diversity of the provinces in which this animal lives: for it is certain that it has been brought from different regions of the world.

Of those who have written about this animal, I think Ferdinand Oviedo Gonzalo de Cordoba to have been the first: for others who say anything about it seem to have taken it from him. In chapter 22 of the 'Summarii' he calls it Bardato, that is, covered with a panoply or full armour, and cataphracton [armoured horse], in these words, which I translated from Italian tongue into the Latin. 

[Margin note: Cataphractus, Bardato ] Cataphracton, or as the Italian has it, Bardato, is an animal of impressive appearance, very different from those which are seen both in Spain and in other regions of Europe. It is a four-footed animal, and has its whole body and tail covered with skin similar to the skin of a lizard, concerning which below we are about to speak (he means the 'American crocodile'), of a colour mixed between white and ashen, but more tending towards the white.  Indeed, it is of the same form as a horse, protected with armour on all sides; moreover it is the size of a common puppy: it is not a harmful animal; it has its home in mounds of earth, and with its feet, moving the earth out of the way, it digs its dens like rabbits.  Having been sought, these animals are either captured in nets or killed with guns, particularly at sowing time, when the stubble is burnt, or when the fields are ploughed to produce grass for cattle and livestock fodder.  A few times it happened that I ate this animal, and I found it to taste much better than goat-kid and to be a nourishing food.  For the rest, if these animals had been seen in those regions in which the custom of armouring horses on all sides took its origin, someone might think the example was taken from the appearance of this animal.  This much from Oviedo.

Although Oviedo recommends the taste of this animal so highly,  Jose de Acosta on the other hand, in book 4, chapter 38 of his Natural and moral history of the West Indies, is not of that opinion, and far prefers the meat of the iguana, an animal that we shall discuss in the following fourth chapter.


Jacob Plateau or Jacques Plateau: A collector who sent many specimens and exchanged much correspondence with Clusius. In return, he received many mentions in Clusius's work.

Nicholas Monardes (1493–1588), a Spanish Physician and Botanist, who published his Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales ("Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions") in various editions, the first being in 1565. Clusius translated this work from Spanish into Latin in a volume: De simplicibus medicamentis ex occidentali India delatis quorum in medicina usus est. A revised version of this translation appeared in the Exoticorum libri decem in 1605.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478 – 1557), a Spanish historian and writer, acted as secretary to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba. Oviedo's La General y natural historia de las Indias Las Quinquagenas de la nobleza de España was one of his principal works, but was only published in part in 1535. A summary, ('Summarii') was published at Toledo in 1526: La Natural hystoria de las Indias.

José de Acosta (1539-1600), a Spanish Jesuit missionary and naturalist in Latin America. His Historia natural y moral de las Indias  was published in 1590, and Clusius included a revised translation of this work in the Exoticorum.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Wellcome Library Field Trip

The Latin Therapists ventured outside Cambridge for the first time this year, for our termly field trip on 9th May.  We took a trip to London to visit the Wellcome Collection.

Debby telling us about MS.46.
We were welcomed, and enthusiastically and knowledgeably guided, by the Wellcome's medieval manuscript specialist Dr Elma Brenner (herself formerly a member of the Latin Therapy Group).  We got to see 8 medical and astronomical manuscripts.

MS.405, a 15th-century leech-book
We started by gathering around to examine a rare 11th-century Anglo-Saxon medical manuscript (MS.46).  We moved on to look at a single leaf from a 15th-century folding almanac (Elma has blogged about another almanac in the Wellcome Collection here).  And we pored over a tiny 15th-century leech-book, whose author vented his frustrations by demanding liquid payment in two languages!
Nunc scripsi totum pro christo / da michi potum. now haw y vryt alle ghyf me / drynk of gode ale
We broke into smaller groups to look at the other manuscripts, which included some fascinating astronomical texts.  I found the tree of species in MS.306 (see below) rather intriguing!

Tree of species from MS.306

Many thanks to Elma and her colleagues for hosting us, and to Natalie for providing tea, cake and a glimpse of her cabinet of curiosities afterwards!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Field Trip to the UL Manuscripts

Once in a while we Latin Therapists come out from our corner of Free School Lane and set off to explore the wider Latin world.  For this term's field trip we took a trip to the Manuscripts Room of Cambridge University Library, in the company of their medieval manuscripts specialist Suzanne Paul.

Suzanne showing us a medical text
Suzanne kindly brought out 8 fascinating and beautiful manuscripts for us to browse.  They were:
  • a 14th-century astronomical treatise, Peterhouse 75.I (which I've blogged about here)
  • an 11th-century song book, Gg.5.35
  • two medical texts from the 12th and 13th centuries, Peterhouse 231 and 251
  • Gerald of Wales' description of Ireland, Mm.5.30, which we read in the group last term
  • a mysterious 16th-century book of magic, Add.3544
  • and two absolutely gorgeous 13th-century bestiaries, Ii.4.26 and Kk.4.25.
Marvelling at a bestiary
We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours browsing through the manuscripts and deciphering the script, as well as enjoying beautiful illustrations in the bestiaries (like the one below).  In most cases one of the members of the group had worked on that manuscript, so was able to introduce everyone to its most interesting features.

We're very grateful to Suzanne for giving so generously of her time and expertise.  We all went away inspired to work more closely with manuscripts - and in some cases, to carry out further investigations into some intriguing aspects of the manuscripts we'd just seen!

We'll continue blogging with more Latin translations next term.  For now, we hope you enjoy this beautiful image!

Kk.4.25 f.58r

Monday, 10 March 2014

Bede's Bones

Bede, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
Last week we looked at a medical text that had the large title Bedae Presbyteri.  It wasn't by Bede.  It wasn't even by Pseudo-Bede.  We weren't sure about the date either (probably 12th-century).

Anyway, we hope you enjoy it, as well as this lovely picture of Bede.  Come back soon for pictures of our exciting excursion with the priceless manuscripts of Cambridge!

As always, we present the Latin first, followed by our translation.



     Qui in septem nascitur mensibus, si sit masculus, triginta diebus formatur, in quadraginta movetur. Femina, in triginta quinque formatur, in septuaginta movetur, ducentis decem diebus completur.
     Decern mensium masculus, quadraginta quinque formatur diebus, et nonaginta movetur. Femina, in quinquaginta formatur, in centum movetur., in trecentis nascitur.
     Novem mensium masculus in quadraginta formatur, in octoginta movetur. Femina, in quadraginta quinque formam suscipit, in nonaginta motum, ducentis septuaginta diebus nascitura. Masculus ideo citius completur, quia sperma unde nascitur, fortius atque calidius est.

De ossibus 
     Omnia corporis ossa sunt quadraginta unum et ducenta: septem capitis, quatuor paria, quatuordecim maxillaria, dentium sedecim, unum pali, duo menti, dentiurn suorum sedecim, spondiles viginti quatuor, coxarum tres, ani tres, costae viginti tres, teneritudines octo, spatulae duae, capitum spatularum duo, fercularum duo, armorum duo, cubitorum superiorum duo, inferiorom duo, raschae manuorum sedecim, pectinis in manibus octo, digitorum triginta, ancharum duo, calcaneorum duo, navicularum duo, raschae pedum decem, pectinis in pedibus octo, digitorum triginta.

De nervis et dentibus  
     Omnes nervi pares atque impares sunt triginta.    Dentes sunt quasi quaedam plantaria, ossibus et mento insita, qui sunt triginta duo, sedecirn enim in maxillaribus sunt positi, quorum quatuor in parte anteriori, pares vocantur et quadrupli, lati et acuti, incisores dicti a medicis, sunt enim necessarii ad incisionem cujuslibet cibi. Duo vocantur canini collaterales quadruplis, in summitate acuti, in radice vero lati, duris cibis commolendis apti. Sunt et decem alii utrinque quini collaterales quadruplis, lati atque grossi: hi molares sunt vocati, ad molendum enim et frangendum cibum fuerunt necessarii. Iste idem dentium numerus in mento est intelligendus : hi omnes sunt furcati, sed in eis sunt quidam diversi, alii enim quatuor, alii tres, alii duos, alii enim habent furculam, quadrupli atque pares idem molares tres, ulteriores quatuor, primi molares infra positi, duas habent, ultimi tres.
     Tres dies et noctes sunt in quibus si vir natus fuerit, corpus ejus sine dubio integrum manet usque in diem judicii : hoc est in vi Kalend. Februarij, et. iii Kalend. et Idus Febr., et suum mysterium mirabile est valde.
     Die Dominica hora diurna, sive nocturna, qui natus fuerit, magnus erit et splendidus.
Feria secunda, fortis erit.
Feria tertia, cupidus erit, et de ferro moritur.
Feria quarta, tractator regni erit.
Feria quinta, affabilis erit et honorificus.
Feria sexta, rivalis erit et multum luxuriosus.
Sabbato, raro utilis erit.

Little Book concerning the birth of infants by Bede the Priest

The one born in seven months, if he is male, is formed in thirty days, and after forty days moves.  A female is formed in 35, moves in 70, and is completed in 210 days. The male of 10 months, is formed in 45 days, and moves in 90. The female is formed in 50, moves in 100, in 300 is born. The male of 9 months is formed in 40 and moves in 80.  The female takes her form in 45 days and her motion in 90, to be born in 270 days. The male, therefore, is completed more quickly because the sperm whence he is born, is stronger and hotter.

Concerning the bones
All the bones of the body are 241: seven of the head, four paired ones [i.e. the temples?], fourteen of the jaw, sixteen of the teeth, one of the palus [possibly membrum virile? though it’s in the wrong place in the sequence], two of the chin, sixteen of its teeth, 24 vertebrae, three of the hips, three of the tail, 23 ribs, 8 of the soft parts, two of the shoulder blade, two of the heads of the shoulder[blade]s, two of the collar bone [lit. litters or biers], two of the upper arm, two of the upper forearm [ulna], two of the lower [radius], 16 of the base of the hand [carpals], eight of the comb in the hand [metacarpals], 30 of the fingers, two of the ankles, two of the heels, two of the instep [navicula], ten of the base of the foot [tarsals], 8 of the comb in the foot [metatarsals], thirty of the toes.

Of the nerves and the teeth
All of the sinews, the paired ones as well as the non-paired ones are thirty. The teeth are like little saplings, planted into the bones and the chin, which are 32. Sixteen are placed in the jaws, of which four in the front part are called paired, and they are fourfold, broad and sharp, they are called incisors by the medics, for they are necessary for cutting food of all kinds. Two are called canines, alongside the fourfold ones, they are sharp at the point but broad at the root, and are suitable for breaking up hard food. There are also 10 others, five on each side beside the quadruple ones, broad and fat: these were called grinders, for they were necessary for grinding and breaking up food. The same number of teeth should be noted in the chin: these are all forked, but there are different ones among them, for some have four, some have three, some have two, and some have one prong, the fourfold ones and the same paired molars have three, the back ones four, the first molars placed below, have two, and the last ones three.

There are three days and nights in which if a man is born his body will beyond doubt remain intact until the day of judgement, these are on 6th Kalends of February (27th January), and the third Kalends (30th January) and the Ides of February (13th), and its mystery is quite remarkable.

He who is born either in the daytime or nighttime of Sunday, will be great and splendid.
On the second day (Monday), he will be brave.
On the third day (Tuesday), he will be avaricious, and will die by the sword.
On the fourth day (Wednesday), he will be a servant of [or a traitor to?] the kingdom.
On the fifth day (Thursday), he will be affable and honourable.
On the sixth day (Friday), he will be quarrelsome and very lecherous.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Pangolin, Part 2

Here is the second of two translations of  texts about the pangolin (you can find the first one here).  This one is by Jacobus Bontius.  Thanks to Natalie Lawrence for the following introduction to him:

Jacob de Bondt (Jacobus Bontius) was a Dutch East India Company official, living in Java in the early seventeenth century. He produced a great deal of material on the medicines and nature of the region, collected himself and from native informants. The Historia naturalis et medica Indiae orientalis was published posthumously by Willem Piso from de Bondt's previous publications and manuscripts.

The pangolin here is obviously an animal that de Bondt encountered himself, because he relies very little on Clusius's description (see Part I), but produces an entirely new one from a specimen he may have possessed. The very strange and boundary-crossing nature of the animal seems to have made it difficult to place in relation to other creatures, it is both a lizard and an anteater, insect and mammal, inscrutably armoured.

As always, we present the Latin first, followed by our translation.  Please let us have any comments, suggestions or alternative translations via the comments box below!

Historia naturalis et medica Indiae orientalis
Jacob de Bondt, 1658
(In Willem Piso's De Indiae utriusque re naturali et medica libri Quatuordecim), p.60-61

Appendix. De Lacerto Indico, Squamoso

Admirabilis hujus exenterati Lacerti iconem, quam exhibeo, ejusdem speciei, sed non ejusdem magnitudinis, est, cujus Carol. Clusius exuvium in exoticis dedit. In Insulae Tajoán silvis frequens est. Nomen ejus vernaculum hactenus nobis incognitum; verum ne quid pubi nauticae nostrae innominatum esset, placuit quibusdam

Porcum, aliis vero Diabolum de Tajoán, appellare, fortassis ob miram et horridam squamarum conformationem, quas irritata erigit. Animal est duorum pedum longitudine, Vulpis magnitudine. Totum corpus ab oris ad caudae et pedum usque extremitates, perpetuis squamis nigricantibus, rigidis, et mucronatis, coopertus, except gutture, ventrisque, et crurum infima parte, quae durioribus pilis leporinis vestiuntur. Iidemque pili hinc inde erumpunt in dorso ex ipsis squamis. Magnitudo squamarum pro diversitate partium corporis discrepant; omnes ad exortum striatae, et ad finem quasi laevigatae. Cauda est valida, fere pedem longa, prae caeteris membris mira squamarum textura ornatur: earum enim, quae ejus latera utrimque claudunt, forma prorsus à reliquis dissimiles, nam planae non sunt, aliarum instar, sed cavae quasi incurvatae, quia pronam et supinam laterum partem tegunt. pedes breviusculi palmam circiter longi, posteriores quinque unguibus brevioribus, anteriores tribus oblongis, crassis, sed imbelle curvis, armantur, sicut in Brasiliensi Tamandoá, quibus, aeque ac illa, Formacarum et Vermium latebras detegit, praedamque qualemcumque mordicus tenet. Capite et promuscide non est porcino, ut Armadilho, sed tenuiori et actiori, more Talparum, quo terram commodius evertat. pastum iturus, Lacertis, aliisque Insectis, insidiatur, quibus pinguescit. Unde caro ejus vesca non solum, sed sicut magnae illae Lacertae Brasilienses Leguánae et Tatu, inter epulas ab omnibus passim incolis expetita.

Now here's our translation:

Jacob de Bondt, Historia naturalis et medica Indiae orientalis, 1658
 (In Willem Piso's De Indiae utriusque re naturali et medica libri Quatuordecim)

Appendix. De Lacerto Indico, Squamoso

The image of the disemboweled Lizard that I show here is of the same species, but not of the same size, as that which produced the pelt that Carolus Cluisus presents in his work on exotics. It is frequent in the woods of the Island of Taiwan [Insulae Tajoán]. Its vernacular name is unknown to us at present, but, lest anything should be unnamed for our ships’ boys, some like to call it the 'Pig' or the 'Devil of Taiwan,' perhaps on account of the wonderful and horrible form of its skin, which it raises when aggravated. The animal is two feet long, of the size of a Fox.

Caption: LACERTUS SQUAMOSUS (Scaly Lizard)

The whole body, from the mouth to the extremities of the tail and feet, is wholly covered with continuous, blackish, rigid, and pointed scales; except the throat, stomach and the lower part of the legs, which are clothed with stiffer hairs like a hare. Here and there on the back these hairs grow from the scales themselves. The magnitude of the scales differs on different parts of the body. Near where each scale emerges it is grooved, and near the end almost smooth.

The tail is very strong, robust and about a foot long, furnished with a more wonderful arrangement of scales than found on the other parts: the form of those which line its flanks is completely unlike that of the rest [of the scales], because they are not flat like the others, they are hollow or concave and turned upwards to cover the flanks of the tail region.

The feet are quite short, roughly the length of a palm. The rear [feet] have five short nails, the front ones have three, which are thick and of a pretty good length, and gently curved, just like [those of] the Brazilian Tamandua [Tamandoá], with which it uncovers the nests of ants and worms and sharply bites whatever prey it finds. 

The head and the snout is not swinish, as it is in the Armadillo [Armadilho], but narrower and pointier in the manner of a mole, more suited to overturning soil. When it wants to eat lizards and other insects it lies in wait for them, by which it grows fat. Hence its flesh is not only delicious, but, like those great lizards of Brazil, the Iguana [Leguánae] and Armadillo [Tatu], they are highly prized amongst dishes everywhere by all the natives. 

Pangolin, Part 1

Here we present the first of two translations of natural history texts provided by Natalie Lawrence (the second is here).  They both concern that strange and marvellous beast, the pangolin.  The first is by Carolus Clusius.

Natalie writes: This is one of the very first descriptions of a pangolin (an mammal essentially like a scaly Old World anteater) in Europe. The animal was described and classified as a lizard, despite its similarity to the anteater and armadillo of South America, primarily because of its striking scaly appearance. 

In this volume, Clusius includes the animal amongst other reptiles such as the iguana. Specimens do not seem to have been difficult to access, due to Dutch East India Company activities in the Far East, where several species of pangolin are still found, though little information about the living animal seems to have been brought back to Europe with the skins. Despite this fact, the animal remained without a strong identity in natural history well into the eighteenth century.

As always, we present the original Latin, followed by our translation.  Any comments or suggestions welcome!

Carolus Clusius, Exoticorum Libri Decem (1605), p.374


Admirabile erat peregrini Lacerti exuvium, quod anno Christi millesimo sexcentesimo quarto apud honestissimum virum Christianum Porretum pharmacopoeum Leydensem diligentissimum conspiciebam cuiquùm similem ab aliquo descriptum non arbitrer, non inutilem operam me navaturum confidebam, si illius qualemcumque historiolam cum icone ad exuvii formam expresà hic subiicerem.

Breve autem fuisse ejus lacerti corpus videbatur: nam à collo sive illius parte cui anteriora crura jungebantur, usque ad caudae initium, undecim uncias dumtaxat erat longum: corporis autem ambitus circiter novem unciarum aut dodrantis fuerat, quantum conjecturâ assequi licebat: collum ab anterioribus cruribus cum capitis quae restabat parte (illud enim integrum non erat, nec qualis fuerit ejus forma pronunciare queo) tres uncias erat longum, valde tamen exiguum fuisse videbatur: caudam verò à posterioribus pedibus ad extimum ejus mucronem usque longissimam habebat, ut quae duorum pedum cum semisse mensuram expleret. Totum corpus, excepto gutture, et ventris infimâ parte, atque anterioribus etiam cruribus, squamis latis, magnis, rigidis, striatis et mucronatis munitum erat: illae verò quae collum et capitis supremam partem tegebant, semiunciam non erant longae: at quae mediam corporis partem inter crura comprehensam muniebant, binas uncias longae et sescunciam latae: quae deinde per caudae longitudinem spargebantur, adeò amplae non erant, sed sensim versus ejus extremum procedendo minuebantur, ut extremam caudam occupantes, iis quae collum regebant vix ampliores essent: earum autem quae caudae latera utrimque claudebant forma, prorsus reliquis dissimilis, nam planae non erant aliarum instar, sed cavae et veluti geminatae, quia pronam et supinam laterum partem tegebant: praeter illas, totius caudae prona tamen minoribus nec adeò amplis, quibus deinde conjunctae laterales illae geminatae: anteriora crura paullo breviora erant posterioribus, eaque supremâ dumtaxat parte quibusdam squamis tecta, horum deinde reliqua pars cum pedibus, nigris villis obsita; pedes  autem quatuor unguibus praediti, quorum secundus aliis multo major, unciam videlicet longus, crassus, uncus, et niger, alii verò candicabant: at posteriora crura pedum tenus squamis erant obsita, et supinam dumtaxat illorum partem pili vestiebant, horum similiter pedes quatuor unguibus praediti, sed minoribus quàm anteriores, parvum insuper calcar interiore parte adjunctum habebant: animalis guttur, et ventris ima pars, nigris villis obsita.

Unde porrò allatum esset illud Lacerti exuvium, ignorabat qui id redemerat, et porpter raritatem inter alia exotica retinebat.

Similem etiam habuisse Jacobum Plateau, conjecturam faciebam ex una aut altera squama quam ad me mittebat: cujus verò magnitudinis fuerit, mihi ignotum. Alium praeterae illi non dissimilem, sed longè minorem, antea videbam Amstelredami apud quendam, qui rerum peregrinarum mercimonia exercebat.

Now here's our translation:

The foreign lizard hide which I saw in the year of Christ 1604, at the shop of the very honourable Christian Porrett, the very hardworking apothecary of Leiden, was amazing; I don’t think a similar one has been described by anyone, [so] I was confident that I was not performing a useless task by adding here some little description of the hide with a picture made in its likeness.

Caption: Lacertus Peregrinus Squamosus [scaly foreign lizard]

It seemed that the body of this lizard had been short: it was no more than eleven inches from the neck, or that part where the forelegs were attached, to the start of the tail; the body, moreover, in circumference was around nine inches or ¾ of a foot, inasmuch as it was possible to conjecture; the neck indeed seemed to have been meagre, being three inches long from the front legs to what remained of the head (for this was incomplete, nor can I tell you what its shape might have been). It had a tail that was very long, measuring two and a half feet from the back legs to its furthest tip. 

The whole body, except the throat, the under-belly, and also the front legs, was armed with large, broad, rigid, furrowed and pointy scales. Those scales which protecting the neck and the upper part of the head were less than half an inch long, but those which covered the middle of the body, between the [two sets of] legs, were two inches long and an inch and a half wide. Those which then spread along the length of the tail were less broad, but got gradually smaller as one moved towards the tip, so that the ones that covered the tip were hardly bigger than those which protected the neck. However, the form of those that covered the sides of the tail on both sides were altogether unlike the other scales, for they were not flat like the others shown in the image, but doubled over, concave and hollow, one side covering the prone, the other the supine parts. Apart from these scales at the sides, the prone part of the tail [is covered with] smaller and narrower scales, with which the folded side ones were then paired. 

The forelegs were a little shorter than the rear legs, and their upper parts at least were covered with scales, while the remaining part [of the forelegs], with the feet, was covered with black hairs. The feet were provided with four claws, of which the second was much bigger than the others: that is to say, an inch long, hooked and black, while the others were whitish. The hind legs were covered with scales down to the feet, while hairs clothed their upper parts; their feet [were] similarly endowed with four claws, but smaller than the ones [on the fore-legs]. In addition, they had a small spur joined to the inner part [of the limb]. The animal's throat and the innermost part of its belly were covered with black hairs. 

From whence the skin of the lizard was originally brought was not known to he who purchased it, but because of its rarity he kept it among his miscellaneous exotica. 

Jacob Plateau also had [a skin] like this, or so I suspected from a couple of scales which he sent to me.  Of what size it may have been, however, I did not know. In addition, before this, I saw another [skin] not dissimilar but far smaller, in Amsterdam, at the premises of a man who traded in foreign goods.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Poison or plague in St Petersburg?

This week's rather grisly translation comes courtesy of Dr Clare Griffin.  She writes:

Seventeenth-century Russian court medicine was imported: before 1654 all official medical practitioners were from Western Europe, and even after this date Westerners dominated court medicine.

Beautifully be-hatted boyars
One of the duties of these men was to produce reports on a variety of topics of interest to the court, including examinations of purchased medicines, injured service-persons, proposed treatment regimes for the royal family, and autopsies.

As none of the physicians spoke Russian, and few Russians knew Western languages, physicians composed reports in Latin and they were then translated into Russian for use by Russian bureaucrats.

Below is our translation of one such report, an autopsy of a Russian noble, prince Ivan Alekseevich Vorotynskii, who had died soon after being in council with the tsar. Autopsies were commonly conducted when the individual in question was themselves important, when they had been in close contact with the tsar before their death and may have infected him, or when plague was suspected. As Vorotynskii's skin discoloured after death, then thought to indicate a plague death, all three points here contributed to the decision to conduct an autopsy.

Here's the original Latin:

                       Actum d. 24 Julii 1679.
          Illustrissimus Knesius ac Dominus, Dn. Johann Alexewitz Waratinsky, Consilii intimioris Regii Senator, in consessu preconum male sese incipit habere et de summa cordis angustia conqueri: unde monitus domum transvehitur, malo subinde aucto, et succedente vomitu pauculae materiae phlegmaticae subito concidit et violenta morte exstinguitur, citra stertorem statim succedente colore faciei et unguium livido, totiusque corporis frigore.
          Quaesiti de genere atfectus, ex quo Illustiss, hic princeps tam subito fuit exstinctus?
          Respondemos, malum hoc aliud non fuisse, quarn Syncopen Cardiacam ex subita interceptione venarum et arteriarum ad cor pertingentium, unde calor nativus et spiritus vitalis subito fuit suffocatus et exstinctus, malo procul dubio exorto ab insigni cruditate circa hypochondria haerente, quae cruditas frequens est hodiernae Suffocationis Hypochondriacae.
          De caetero aullam hic neque veneni accepti neque maligni et contagiosi esse suspicionem ex Artis fundamentis certi sumus, ad hanc visitationem reduisiti.
                     Laurentius Blumentrost D. mp.
                     Sigmund Sommer. Mpp.

Source: Mamonov, N. E., Materialy dlia istorii medistiny v Rossii [Materials for the History of Medicine in Russia], 4 vols (St Petersburg: M. M. Stasiulevich, 1881), 1304.

And here's our translation.  The italicised text above and below the report is taken from the Russian translation.

          24th July 1679. According to the order of the Great Lord Tsar and Grand Prince Fedor Alekseevich, autocrat of all the Russias, the physicians Lavrentii Blumentrost and Simon Sommer were sent to examine boyar Prince Ivan Alekseevich Vorotynskii.           And on the 25th of July Doctors Lavrentii and Simon presented a report in Latin about their examination of boyar prince Ivan Alekseevich Vorotynskii, signed by their own hands.
And according to the translation of that report by the Diplomatic Chancery translator Stakhei Gadzalov, it was written:

          Most illustrious Prince and Lord Ivan Alekseevich Vorotynskii, member of the privy council of the Tsar, during a session of advisors began to feel ill and to complain of extreme tightness of the heart: thus warned, he was carried home, with the illness getting worse, and having vomited a little phlegmatic material, he suddenly collapsed and died a violent death, and the death rattle was immediately followed by a blue colour of the face and nails and a coldness of the whole body.
          [We were] asked concerning the type of illness which so suddenly carried off this most illustrious prince. 
          We respond, that this illness was none other than Cardiac Syncopy from sudden blockage of the veins and arteries leading to the heart, whence the natural heat and vital spirits were suddenly stifled and extinguished. The illness no doubt arose from remarkable undigested matter sticking to the abdomen, which matter these days often causes stifling of the abdomen.
          Concerning the other question put to us about this examination, on the basis of our expertise we have formed no suspicion of poison taken nor of malice nor contagion.

          Doctor Lavrentii Blumentrost (signature)
          Doctor Simon Sommer (signature)

25th July 1679 the Great Lord was made aware of this report by kravchii Prince Vasilii Fedorovich Odoevskii.

We hope all that undigested matter hasn't put you off your lunch!  As always, any comments welcome.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cannabis cures coughs

This week we finished translating John Ray’s entry for Cannabis sativa in Catalogus plantarum Angliae (1670, pp. 52–53).  Many thanks to Dr Chris Preston for providing and introducing this text, and for editing the translation.

C.  Cannabis sativa C.B.  mas & fœmina J.B.  sativa mas & fœmina Park.  1, seu mas & 2, seu fœmina Ger. emac.  Hemp the male and Female, or Winter and Summer Hemp.  It is sown in fields.

Woodcut of John Ray, 1693
N. 1.  The seed, if consumed rather copiously, inhibits conception. Boiled with milk, it relieves a cough. The emulsion of its seed is beneficial for jaundice, but it fills the head with vapours and it causes delirium if it is eaten excessively.

2.  The juice of the plant, dropped in, is said to cure earaches produced by obstruction.  This juice is also certain bane to cut-open innards and the sources of rotten wounds.  Meanwhile, besides what we have gathered about Cannabis, look in the Cambridge Catalogue*, lest we should be compelled to repeat the same things here. 

3. The medics claim all too confidently that the seed of the plant suppresses conception, when rather it is an aphrodisiac. The Persians certainly roast not only the seed of cannabis for this purpose, and eat it mixed with salt, for a second course, but are also accustomed to eat the herb when it is not fully ripe, the leaves dried in the shade and ground into powder then made with honey into little balls the size of a pigeon’s egg, as Olearius reports. This observation I owe to Master Lister.

* Ray’s Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabigiam nascentium (1660) includes four notes on Cannabis dealing with the difference between the male and female plants, the use of Cannabis as bird food (“small birds …. are so fattened by it that it either kills them or takes away their eagerness to sing”) and a reference to a group of eminent people killed by drinking water polluted by hemp-retting which had made its way “thorough hidden windings and subterranean passages” into a “limpid fountain”.

Adam Olearius, by Jürgen Ovens
Adam Ölschläger (1599–1671), who latinised his surname to Olearius, was a scholar in the service of Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. He was appointed Secretary to ambassadors sent by the Duke to Moscow and Isfahan, Persia, between 1633 and 1639. His account of his travels, first published in German, was translated into English as The voyages and travels of the ambassadors sent by Frederick, Duke of Holstein, to the Great Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia (London, 1662). Olearius (p. 320) describes how the Persians “use all imaginable inventions to stir themselves up to lust” including “the seed and leaves of Hemp, to revive languishing Nature … To prepare this Drugg, they gather the leaves before they come to Seed, dry them in the shade, beat them to powder, which they mix with Honey, and make pills thereof, about the bigness of a Pidgeons Egg. They take two or three of them at a time, to fortifie Nature. As to the Seed, they fry it, put a little salt thereto, and eat it by way of Desert.”

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Tender Liver's Itch

Last week I posted the results of our intial efforts to translate an excerpt from De bello troiano, by the 12th-century poet Joseph of Exeter.  We didn't get very far, but we persevered.  Below I'll paste the excerpt again, and our complete prose translation.

You can compare what we produced with a version by A.G. Rigg.  We hope to put our own version into poetic form soon!

Haut minus insignes latebras secretius ornat
Vitalesque colit thalamus et digerit urbem
Interior natura suam. Cor principe motu
Libratum disponit opus, modulamina lingue
Limat pulmo loquax, modico dipensat hiatu
Splen risum, facili fal castigatius ira
Uritur. At teneri titillat mollius equo
Pruritus iecoris meriteque insignia fame
Mergens natiue titulos incestat amoris.
Hoc monstrum non ales edax, non labile saxum,
Non axis torquens non mendax uicerit unda;
Cum bene fracta tepet moriturque sepulta libido,
Respirant plenis incendia pristina fibris.
Sic Helenam totam pars unica mergit et ipsum
Excitat in cladem regnis certantibus orbem.

By no means less the chamber quite secretly adorns and protects her remarkable and life-giving recesses, and her inner nature shakes apart her own city.  The heart by its principal motion disposes a balanced work, and the loquacious lung polishes the tongue’s melodies, the spleen dispenses laughter through a modest open mouth, the more controlled gall bladder is burned by easy anger.  But the tender liver’s itch titillates more softly than is right and, drowning the signs of her well-earned reputation, defiles the attributes of inborn love.  This monster, not the greedy bird, the toppling rock, the cheating wave, the turning wheel, will conquer; when the well broken and buried lust simmers down, then the original fires breathe again into the engorged entrails.  Thus, the singular part sinks the whole of Helen and stirs up the whole world to ruin in clashing kingdoms.

Anyone know any good rhymes for "gall bladder"?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Helen of Troy's Remarkable Recesses

In the second part of last week's Latin Therapy, we began tackling a rather challenging poem - as you'll see, we didn't get very far!

It was an excerpt from De bello troiano by the 12th-century poet Joseph of Exeter, and was discussed in a paper at the recent conference to celebrate the completion of the final fascicule of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources.

The excerpt is from Book 4, lines 193-207.  I'll paste the Latin below, followed by our attempt at the first few lines.  Any comments or suggestions welcome!  If you need help, you can download a complete translation, by A.G. Rigg, by clicking on this link.

Haut minus insignes latebras secretius ornat
Vitalesque colit thalamus et digerit urbem
Interior natura suam. Cor principe motu
Libratum disponit opus, modulamina lingue
Limat pulmo loquax, modico dipensat hiatu
Splen risum, facili fal castigatius ira
Uritur. At teneri titillat mollius equo
Pruritus iecoris meriteque insignia fame
Mergens natiue titulos incestat amoris.
Hoc monstrum non ales edax, non labile saxum,
Non axis torquens non mendax uicerit unda;
Cum bene fracta tepet moriturque sepulta libido,
Respirant plenis incendia pristina fibris.
Sic Helenam totam pars unica mergit et ipsum
Excitat in cladem regnis certantibus orbem.


No less the chamber quite secretly adorns her remarkable recesses and cultivates the life-giving ones and her inner nature shakes apart her own city.  The heart by its principal motion disposes a balanced work, and the loquacious lung polishes the tongue’s melodies, the spleen dispenses laughter through a modest open mouth, the more controlled gall bladder is burned by easy anger.  (No, that doesn't fill us with pride!)

Stephan Blankaart's Lexicon Novum Medicum

To start the first Latin Therapy session of 2014, we  looked at the preface to the fourth edition of Stephan Blankaart's Lexicon Novum Medicum.  I'll paste below the original Latin, and our attempt at a translation.

An interesting challenge was posed by the "libertam" in the final line.  Does it mean freedom, a former female slave, or something else?!

As always, if you have any comments or think you can do better, please let us know!

Blankaart, Stephan (1690) Steph. Blancardi lexicon novum medicum, Græco-Latinum, cæteris editionibus longe perfectissimum. Lugduni Batavorum: Cornelium Boutesteyn [et] Jordanum Luchtmans
Lectoribus typographum

Hic Habetis hujus Lexici quartam editionem, Lectores; primo ab Auctore editam; secundo in Germania recusam; tertio Londini Anglicè versam; verum quam nunc damus recens revisam, correctam, & uti videtis, auctam. Insuper  adiecti sunt Indices Belgici, Germanici, Gallici et Anglici, addidisset quidam Arabicarum, uti & aliarum Gentium, quæ in hoc Lexico hinc et inde occurrunt, vocabula, imo et Chymicorum Mystica nomina, sed ea vel in opera præcedenti vel explicata sunt, vel ob usum diu obsoletum, studio prætermissa. Leve unicuique forte videbitur Lexica scribere, non negatur: sed arduum sane est de Medicinæ Apicibus tot Chiliadas componere; & si nobis non credas, quæso et ipse faciat quisque periculum, & certè experietur difficultatem. Modus erat ei in hisce rebus colligendis, ideoque breviter omnia tanquam unica mappa, constrinxit; Largiter enim scribere & tædium parit & Auctore & Legenti. Sit ut sit, vix scribitur libertam male, unde non aliquid boni possit decerpi. Vale


The press to the readers

Here, readers, you have the fourth edition of this Lexicon; the first edited by the Author; the second re-forged in Germany; the third turned into English in London; indeed which now we offer recently revised, corrected and, as you have seen, enlarged.  In addition wordlists have been added in Belgian [Dutch], German, French and English, and having also added some words of the Arabs and other peoples, which in this Lexicon appear here and there, and indeed the Mystical names of the alchemists, but those which are either explained by previous efforts or are obsolete through long use, have been left out deliberately.  Writing dictionaries will perhaps seem easy to some people, it is not denied: but it is really hard to compose so many thousands of words of Medicine; and if you do not believe us, let him, pray, take the risk himself, and he shall certainly experience the difficulty.  This was his method in gathering these things together, and therefore he briefly squeezed everything together as if in a single chart; however more broadly to write also seems to provide tedium both to the writer and his reader.  Be that as it may, the book is hardly so badly written, that nothing good may be plucked from it.  Farewell.