This manuscript (Codex Vindobonensis 2396) is defined by scholars as a Tacuinum Sanitatis, a book on the theme of health in tabular form. These kinds of books drew their inspiration from the 'Taqwin As-Sihha', a medical handbook penned by Arab physician Ibn Bôtlan, in mid-11th century Baghdad. The original Arabic text was subsequently translated into Latin: the translation was likely commissioned by King Manfred of Sicily (1258-1266).
The Tacuinum Sanitatis: 294 Exceptional Illuminations
This Tacuinum Sanitatis is possibly the most complete and accurately crafted collection of medical cures from the central Middle Ages. Meant for domestic use, each one of its 82 pages includes 4 depictions that flank and explain the corresponding text. In the Tacuinum, the reader can find both curious healing methods (some of which are still valid nowadays), but also particularly entertaining quotations.
The Medieval Composition of Matter
According to Classical tradition, mainly found in the works of Aristotle and Plato, matter is made up of four elements, which physics nowadays term 'aggregation states'. The theory of the four elements (earth, water, air and fire) later transitioned into the 'theory of the four humours': in it, an illness was thought to the be the consequence of a turmoil in the body's fluids. Therefore the healing methods, just like the ones found in the Tacuinum Sanitatis, aimed at restoring the 'humoral balance' in the body..
For the modern reader, the Tacuinum Sanitatis is still incredibly efficacious. In it, he/she can find a wealth of information regarding the best ways for leading a healthy life which seems to have been written only a few years ago. Tough the works of the old "meysters" have long fallen into oblivion, the Tacuinum is a mirror to continuity between the Medieval world and modern times.