Bodies in the almanac: metaphysical principles in the medieval medical folded almanac
Legacy, Jessica Lee
Folded almanacs are fascinating manuscripts that display astrological content relevant to the practice of medicine. However, due to the lack of primary evidence demonstrating the almanac in practice, it is difficult to ascertain their actual use. Medieval Scholars have therefore concentrated on the almanac’s sources, materiality and contextual evidence of apparent medical purpose. My thesis examines the metaphysical principles within the folded almanac, which exemplify the micro/macrocosm inherent in medieval astro-medicine. I argue that the folded almanac, as a material object and compilation of medical knowledge, situates the physician, patient and constellations within metaphysical ideas of body, time and space. Using the yet unstudied folded almanac from the National Library of Scotland, Acc 12059.3 (the Borthwick almanac) as a primary model, I demonstrate how this physical object, in dealing with the corporeal body, exhibits the unity of body, time and space. This approach reveals that the folded almanac (1) is a performative object that establishes medical authority, (2) tracks the progress of health and illness using Aristotelian and Thomist concepts of time, (3) maps the intersection of celestial and human bodies onto practical textual spaces. The culmination of these findings illustrates that the folded almanac engaged with a very technical but abstract branch of medieval medicine which sought to explain how, why, when and where illness was manifested, and also operated as an interventional tool for aiding in the restoration of health.