Revisiting “A Little-Known Manuscript”

This month we will be looking at 10a 189, Baptista Massa de Argenta’s De fructibus virtutibusDe fructibus is a 15th-century Italian treatise on fruits, their properties, and their medicinal uses.  The Library’s copy also contains a short treatise on how to make barley water.


Folio 1 r. Baptista Massa de Argenta, De fructibus virtutibus, Ferra, Italy. 1471. Call no. 10a 189.

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A Little-Known Manuscript Dated 1471, made for Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara

by Peter Kidd, Wood Institute travel grantee*

Baptista Massa de Argenta, De fructibus vescendis, 1471, Call number 10a 189


In early November 2014 I spent a stimulating morning looking at the medieval manuscripts belonging to the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. One that particularly caught my interest is a small volume of 80 leaves, each about 155×115mm (6”×4½”), whose main content is a treatise in 27 chapters on edible fruits, from figs and grapes to pumpkins and capers. It was an appropriate acquisition for the College because it discusses each fruit under various headings, giving their general medical and other properties, and their effect on various parts of the body.

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