For the palaeographers. fol.93v

Folio 93v. I identify the plant – fairly tentatively – as Aloe socotrina. (Aloes of Socotra)

folio 93v BeineckeNow, before anyone *sighs* at my recognising another non-Mediterranean plant, let me make the information Euro-friendly.

First, a thirteenth-century document  notarised in Marseilles:

 Marseilles, April 2nd., 1227:

Let it be known that I, al-Hakim, saracen of Alexandria, acknowledge and recognise that I have had and received, by virtue of purchase from you, Bernard Manduel, 2 quintals of Socotran aloes and 1 quintal 80 pounds of cassia bark, and 2 centenaria of coral, for all of which I owe you 135 bezants ..and these bezants… I promise by stipulation to pay fully and to deliver peacefully to you, said Bernard, or to your accredited messenger, in Ceuta within a space of twenty days after the ship ‘Falcon’ arrives there. (from a notarised document, made in Marseilles before witnesses).

quoted in Sarah Arenson, The Encircled Sea: the Mediterranean Maritime Civilization, Constable, (1990) p.128.

Also during the thirteenth century..

I referred earlier (here) to the fact that Aloes were known to Roger Bacon, and cited a paper written in 1932 by Mary Catherine Welborn, ‘The Errors of the Doctors according to Friar Roger Bacon of the Minor Order’, Isis, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jul., 1932), pp. 26-62.

And then  (here) I mentioned  John M. Riddle’s paper,  ’The Introduction and Use of Eastern Drugs in the Early Middle Ages’,  Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften, Bd. 49, H. 2 (JUNI 1965), pp. 185-198. (These days, we’d say ‘Eastern Pharmaceutical materials, but the sixties were a different time).

though the ‘Aloe wood’ in those pharmaceutical recipes may well be a different plant – a tree like that I identified for folio 16v.  I have always been fascinated by the passing mention, in that same paper, of ..

A manual for traders, composed possibly in the 11th century or even earlier, list[ing] ambergris along with camphor, musk, aloes, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. (p190)

But that isn’t why I’m writing this post.

On the leaf-like roots in folio 93v we have some more small writing – not exactly micrographic, but small.

If anyone has spoken about this before, I haven’t found it.  Since I can hardly imagine that they would have escaped notice for a century, I expect there is someone who should be acknowledged, but no idea who.  Do let me know if you happen on any earlier mention, won’t you?

And so,  what do you think?

detail from f.93v

Here they are again, a little larger and in order from left to right. For the largest size, just click, or go to the high res. scan of the full page. (here).

folio 93v vertically

Soqotra lies near the Yemen, and I don’t need much more excuse to show again a lovely old script, which used to be written on palm-leaves:   Sabaic minuscule.  Unlike Voynichese, its glyphs do include an “X”-shape.  (I’m not trying to preempt the palaeographers:)

script Sabaic minuscule detail drawing

Aloes of Soqotra



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