My recommendations

Most useful from my library.

A rough count of the journal articles  gives me a number round 1500, so I hope readers will excuse my not including those.

Sources listed each provided me with at least one vital piece for the puzzle – most had more, The list isn’t in alphabetic order, or in order of priority; it’s my idiosyncratic shelf order.

I haven’t included any of the references held in various libraries, or which I consulted online.



The imagery suggests the manuscript should be divided into just four main sections:

  • The plant pictures – which can be called botanical images, but should not – in my opinion – be described as a herbal.
    • inventory/invoice/lading pages (generally known as the ‘pharma’ section)
  •  ‘Ladies’ pages, which divide into two classes: the astro-meteorological and the ‘bathy-‘.
  • The map. (formerly f.86v)
  • text-only. (often mis-called the ‘recipe’ pages).

With few exceptions – and those  individual drawings – each section testifies to the same major phases in the content’s evolution, save the last – the text only pages. What differs, I find, is cultural imprint – which speaks to routes of transmission.

I have defined the chronological strata as:

  • Hellenistic (4thC BC-3rdC AD). The strongest influences in this stratum are not Greek in the strict sense; there is evidence of  Carian, Egypto-Persian and (in my opinion) Phoenician influence.
  • Eastern Hellenistic (c. 1stC BC).  In the Mediterranean, it is the Roman period and thus post-Hellenistic, but in more distant regions free of  Rome,  and particularly in what had been the eastern end of Alexander’s empire, Hellenistic culture survived, even flourishing between the 1st and 3rdC. AD,  though (as the archaeology and epigraphic evidence tells us) with reducing contact with Egypt and with cult centres such as Delos and perhaps Didyma.
  • (intermediate period – evidenced by stylistic habits and stylized forms characteristic of Indo-Asia).
  • Medieval period phase I (11th-13thC). eastern Semitic  rather than Latin or Islamic influence.
    • Medieval period phase II (c.1290-1330) Elements of Latin cultural and iconographic affect. These are plainest in the map’s north roundel; in the centres provided the calendar and just as example, in folio 57v and what used to be called f.86v until the repagination made it  “folio 85v part”.

c.1400-c.1440 – present manuscript made.


Knowing that readers will probably feel most interest in the late, European, phase I start with sources for that period.


Plants and their uses

Pan Garden Guides series:

  1. Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Perennials Vols 1 and 2;
  2. _______________________________ Bulbs;
  3. _______________________________ Shrubs;
  4. _______________________________Roses.
  5. Roger Phillips and Nicky Foy, Herbs

Mrs. M. Grieve, A modern Herbal. edited and translated by Mrs. C. F. Leyel (1931; 1974).

E,A, Wallis Budge, The Divine Origin of the Craft of the Herbalist.

Demetra George, Thessalos of Tralles: On the Virtues of Herbs (2012).

Pedanius Dioscorides of Anarzarbus, de materia medica translated by Lily Y. Beck, Altertumswissenschaftliche: Texte und Studien, Zurich: OLMS (2005).

The Macdonald Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants, (a superb little hand-book, fully illustrated field guide)

Anna Pavord, The Naming of Names (2005)

Spencer, Judith, (trans.), The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti, (1984). Copy of the Tacuinum Sanitatis, translated.

Marsilio Ficino, The Book of Life. A translation by Charles Boer of ‘Liber de Vita’ (or ‘De Vita Tripilici’).  (1980).

Horapollo Niliacus (Author) George Boas (Trans.) The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo (1993).

E.A. Wallis Budge, Syrian anatomy, pathology, and therapeutics; or, “The Book of Medicines”,  2 vols. (1913). Vol. 1 The Syriac text; Vol.2 English translation.

Violetta Thurston, The Use of Vegetable Dyes (1975; 1986)

Harris, Nichola Erin, “The Idea of Lapidiary Medicine: Its Circulation and Practical Applications in Medieval and Early Modern England: 1000-1750 [ce]”, PhD Dissertation, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, 2009.

Thomas William Parritt, Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiac Gems.(1970)

Hunt, Tony, Popular Medicine in 13thC England: Introduction and texts, CUP (1990)

Grattan, J.H.G., and Charles Singer, Anglo-Saxon Magic and Medicine: illustrated especially from the semi-pagan text ‘Lacnunga’, (Publications of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, New Series, no.3 (limited edition) , 1971.

  • Farmanfarmayan, Fatema Soudavar, “Haft qalam arayish: Cosmetics in the Iranian world”, Iranian Studies, Vol.33, No.3/4 (Summer-Autumn, 2000), pp.285-326.

D’Amdrea, David Michael, Civic Christianity in Renaissance Italy: the Hospital of Treviso, 1400-1530, NY: Uni of Rochester Press, (2007)

R.I. Wood, A Handbook of the Yemen Flora (with colour illustrations by Hugo Haig-Thomas), Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens 1997. Contains an appendix of Arabic and scientific names.

  • in connection with the above see ‘Glossary of Arabic agricultural and medical (herbal) terms’ at end of Levey’s article in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new series, Vol.56 No.7 (1966), pp.-130.

Jean-Claude Schmitt, Guinefort, healer of children since the thirteenth century (Cambridge Studies in Oral and LIterate Culture) (1983)


Stars and their Uses

* Jurdak, Astronomical Dictionary. (Arabic and English glosses).  Brilliant resource but v.scarce. I have mine as a photocopy.

Robert Zoller,  The Arabic Parts in Astrology, Rochester, Inner Traditions, 1989. Zoller’s index contains no reference to the lunar mansions, but see pp.126-131

  • Pingree, David, “The Indian Iconography of the Decans and Horas”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol.26, No.3/4 (1963) pp.223-254.

Titus Burkhardt, Mystical Astrology according to Ibn ‘Arabi trans. Bulent Rauf (1977)

Schiaparelli, Astronomy in the Old Testament, (1903).

Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars: A History of an Idea, Oxford: Clarendon Press, (1991). Superb study,

G.P. Goold, (trans.), Manilius: Astronomica, (Loeb edition)

Augustine, Contra Faustum Manichaeum, II.5 (Pl.42:Cols 212-3)

Richard Hinkley Allen, Star Names: their lore and meaning, New York: Dover, 1963 p.331. (Originally published G.E. Stechert 1899 as Star Names and their Meanings. Flawed, but still the only text of equivalent value in English). Neugebauer and other more recent scholars should be checked as you go.

E.G.R. Taylor, The Haven-finding Art: a History of Navigation from Odysseus to Captain Cook, (1957; 1971). [Essential to have the 1971 edition for its essay by Needham].

Emilie Savage Smith, Islamicate celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. (Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology No.46)

_____________________, An Islamic thirteenth-century divinatory device… (which Savage-Smith revisited in an article that is available online).

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines. (1993).

R.B. Serjeant,  Farmers and Fishermen in Arabia, Variorum, (1995).

Daniel Martin Varisco, Medieval Folk Astronomy and Agriculture in Arabia and the Yemen, Variorum (1997).

David Lewis, We the Navigators (1972)

Cicero, On the nature of the Gods and On Divination (various editions)

Jim Tester,  A History of Western Astrology, (1990).

Walter Scott, (ed. and trans.), Hermetica: the ancient greek and latin writings which contain religious or philosophic writings ascribed to Hermes Tresmegistus, (1993). There are newer and better translations. I like his language.

G. R. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in The Indian Ocean before the Coming of the Portuguese, being a translation of “Kitab al-Fawa’id fi usul al-bahr wa’l-quwa’id of Ahmad Ibn Majid Al-Najdi. 



M.J.L. Young, J.D. Latham and R.B. Sergeant, Religion, Learning and Science in the ‘Abbasid period (Cambridge History of Arabic Literature) (1990).

Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 1990. (Start with this, her first book)

Luciano de Crescenzo, The History of Greek Philosophy, (2 vols).

Erdoes, Richard, A.D. 1000: living on the brink of Apocalypse, San Francisco: Harper and Rowe, 1988 pp. 88-9.

Joan Evans, (ed.), The Flowering of the Middle Ages, London, Thames & Hudson Ltd. 1998. (for the illustrations)

____________, (ed.), Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, New York: Dover n/d. First published Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1922.

Nigel Pennick, Games of the Gods: the origin of board games in magic and divination.(1988).  Excellent scholarship; had the editor included index and apparatus and thought up a better title, it would have received its due.

Martial Rose, Stories in Stone: the medieval roof carvings of Norwich Cathedral, (1997)

Jules Heller, Papermaking (1981)

P. d’Ancona, E. Aeschlimann, The Art of Illumination (1969)

Wolfgang Fritz Volbach, Early Christian Art (1961)

Ruth and Vincent Megaw, Celtic Art.  revised and expanded edition (2001)

André Crabar, The Beginnings of Christian Art

  • _______,  ‘L’art de la fin de l’antiquité et du Moyen Age’, Revue des études byzantines Année 1969 27    pp. 350-353.

Oxford History of Art (series).   I commend these highly whether or not you have any background or interest in the history of art.  Especially…

Veronica Sekules, Medieval Art (for its treatment of the interaction of mnemonics mathematics and imagery).


Ways of Life 

C.H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Second edition (1996)

Rousseau, Philip, Pachomius: the making of a community in fourth-century Egypt (1985)

Sebastian Brock, The Luminous Eye (1985)

St.John Climacus, The Ladder of DIvine Ascent (Scala Paradisi) translated by the Archimandrite Lazarus Moore with an introduction by M. Heppell (1959)

Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (1977)

Yuri Stoyanov, The Hidden Tradition in Europe (1994)

Steven Runicman, The Medieval Manichee: a study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (1947; 1996)

Margaret Baker, The Great Angel (1992)


Ways of land and sea.

Hallam, Elizabeth (ed.), Chronicles of the Crusades: eye witness accounts of the wars between Christianity and Islam, London:Guild Publishing, 1989

Dotson, John E.(trans. and ed.), Merchant Culture in Fourteenth Century Venice: the Zibaldone da Canal, New York: Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1994.

Gnosis on the Silk Road.

Sachau, Edward C., Alberuni’s India: an account of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws and astrology of India about 1030ad, edited with Notes and Indices, (2 vols in 1), Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1964. Originally printed, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimhah

Kimble, George H.T., The Rise and Fall of Muslim Geography, London: Methuen &; Co.

Hourani, George F., Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean before the coming of the Portuguese, Princeton University Press expanded edition 1995.

Mookerji, Radhakmud, A History of Shipping: maritime activity from the earliest times, London: Longmans, Green &; Co., 1918 p.19.

Divine, David, The Opening of the World, London: George Rainbird, 1973.

Severan, Tim, The Brendan Voyage [various publishers and editions].

Taylor, E.G.R. and Richey, M.W., The Geometrical Seaman: a book of early nautical instruments, London: Hollis & Carter for the Institute of Navigation, 1962.

John E. Dotson, Merchant Culture in Fourteenth century Venice: the Zibaldone da Canal (1994)

Green, Tamara, Harran: City of the Moon God: religious traditions of Harran, Leiden: Brill 1992. esp. section on Sumtar Harabesi p.65sqq

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China or The History of Rabban Sawma and Mar Yahbh-Allaha (1928)

Rosamond J. Mitchell, The Spring Voyage: The Jerusalem Pilgrimage in 1458 (1965)

Tim Mackintosh-Smith (ed.), Travels of Ibn Battuta (2003)

Teresa Waugh (trans.) The Travels of Marco Polo: a modern translation from the Italian by Maria Bellonci (1982; 1984).

Lecker, Michael, Jews and Arabs in pre- and early Islamic Arabia (Variorum 1999).

J. Innes Miller, The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire 29bce to641 ad, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969

de Romanis F. and Tchernia, A. (eds.), Crossings: early mediterranean contacts with India, New Delhi Manohar; Centre de Sciences Humaines 1997.

Pearson, M.N., Spices in the Indian Ocean World, Variorum [An Expanding World series Vol.11], 1996

Mukherjee, B.N., External Trade in early North-Eastern India, New Delhi: Vikas, 1992

Davarm Firoze Cowasji, Iran and India through the Ages, London: Asia Publishing House, 1962

Janaku, V.A, The Commerce of Cambay from the earliest period to the nineteenth century, Baroda: Mahaaja Sayajirao University, Dept of Geography, 1980.


Hakluyt Society publications:

KOSMA AIGUPTIOU MONACOU CRISIANIKH TOPOGRAFA / The Christian Topography of Cosmas, an Egyptian Monk. Translated from the Greek, and Edited, with Notes and Introduction, by John W. McCrindle – Author of a series of works on Ancient India, as described by the Classical Authors, including the “Indica” of Ctesias, Megásthenes, and Arrian; the “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea”; Ptolemy’s “Geography of India”; and the “Invasion of India by Alexander the Great”. (1897)

George T. Staunton (ed.), The History of the great and mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof. Compiled by the Padre Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza, and now Reprinted from the early Translation of R. Parke.  Vol. 1 (1853); Vol. 2 (1854)

R. H. Major (trans. and ed.), India in the Fifteenth Century. Being a Collection of Narratives of Voyages to India in the Century preceding the Portuguese Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope; from Latin, Persian, Russian, and Italian Sources, now first Translated into English. (1558) Haklyut Society. 1857. The travels of Abd-er-Razzak, Nicolò Conti, Athanasius Nikitin, and Hieronimo di Santo Stefano.

Clements R. Markham (trans.),  Narrative of the Embassy of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to the Court of Timour, at Samarcand, A.D. 1403-6. Translated, for the First Time, with Notes, a Preface, and an Introductory Life of Timour Beg, 1859/1860 – contains a map.

Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East, by Friar Jordanus, of the Order of Preachers and Bishop of Columbum in India the Greater, (circa 1330). Translated from the Latin Original, as published at Paris in 1839, in the Recueil de Voyages et de mémoires, of the Society of Geography, with the Addition of a Commentary, by Colonel Henry Yule, C.B., F.R.S.G., late of the Royal Engineers (Bengal). 1863 (1862). Pages 4, 8, iv, xvii, 68.

The travels of Ludovico de Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508. Translated from the Original Italian Edition of 1510, with a Preface, by John Winter Jones, Esq., F.S.A. And Edited, with Notes and an Introduction, by George Percy Badger, late Government Chaplain in the Presidency of Bombay, Author of “The Nestorians and their rituals,” etc, etc, etc. 1863 (1864 [sic]). Pages cxxii, 321 + 2 maps.

Henry Yule (trans. and ed.), Cathay and the Way Thither… . . . New Edition, Revised throughout in the Light of Recent Discoveries, by Henri Cordier, D.Litt., Hon. M.R.A.S., Hon. Cor. M.R.G.S., Hon. F.R.S.L., Member of the Institut de France, Professor at the École des Langues Orientales Vivantes, Paris. Volume II Odoric of Pordenone. 1913. Pages xiii, 367 + 1 map, 6 illustrations. [Numerous volumes and editions]

The Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger, a Native of Bavaria, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, 1396-1427. Translated from the Heidelberg MS edited in 1859 by Professor Karl Friedrich Neumann, by Commander J. Buchan Telfer, R.N., F.S.A., F.R.G.S. With Notes by Professor P. Bruun of the Imperial University of South Russia, at Odessa, and a Preface, Introduction and Notes by the Translator and Editor. 1879 (1878). includes map.

The Travels of Pietro della Valle in India. From the old English Translation of 1664, by G. Havers. Edited, with a Life of the Author, an Introduction and Notes, by Edward Grey (late Bengal Civil Service). Volume I. 1892 (1891). Volume II. 1892 (1891).

The Voyage of Sir Robert Dudley, afterwards styled Earl of Warwick and Leicester and Duke of Northumberland, to the West Indies, 1594-1595, narrated by Capt. Wyatt, by himself, and by Abram Kendall, Master. Edited by George F. Warner, Assistant-Keeper of Manuscripts, British Museum. 1899. Pages lxvi, 104, 20 + 1 map, 2 illustrations.

Book of the Knowledge of All the Kingdoms, Lands, and Lordships that are in the World, and the Arms and Devices of each Land and Lordship, or of the Kings and Lords who possess them. Written by a Spanish Franciscan in the Middle of the XIV Century. Published for the First Time / with Notes by Marcos Jiménez de la Espada, in 1877. Translated and Edited by Sir Clements Markham, … . 1912. Pages xiii, 85, xxxvi + 20 illustrations.

The Desert Route to India / Being the Journals of Four Travellers by the Great Desert Caravan Route between Aleppo and Basra / 1745-1751. Edited by Douglas Carruthers. 1929 (1928). Pages xxxvi, 196 + 1 map, 6 illustrations

The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires / An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515 / and The Book of Francisco Rodrigues / Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East before 1515 / Translated from the Portuguese MS in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris, and Edited by Armando Cortesão.  Containing the translated Books I-IV of the Suma Oriental. The main pagination of this and its following volume is continuous.

The Pilgrimage of Arnold von Harff / Knight / from Cologne, through Italy, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Ethiopia, Nubia, Palestine, Turkey, France and Spain, which he Accomplished in the years 1496-1499 / Translated from the German and edited with notes and an introduction / by Malcolm Letts. 1946. Pages xxxv, 325.

Some Records of Ethiopia / 1593-1646 / Being Extracts from The History of High Ethiopia or Abassia by Manoel de Almeida / Together with Bahrey’s History of the Galla / Translated and Edited by C. F. Beckingham and G. W. B. Huntingford / 1954. Pages xcviii, 267 + 5 maps, 5 illustrations. The selections from Almeida describe the country and its people and the journeys of Jesuit missionaries attempting to enter or leave Ethiopia.

The Travels of Leo of Rozmital / through Germany, Flanders, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy / 1465-1467 / Translated from the German and Latin and Edited by Malcolm Letts, … / Cambridge, 1957 (1955). Pages xv, 196 + 2 maps, 5 illustrations. From the German account by Gabriel Tetzel, with supplementary passages from the Latin versions (printed in 1577, 1843 and 1951) of the lost account in Czech by Václav Sasek, both having been Rozmital’s companions.

Ethiopian Itineraries circa 1400-1524 / Including those Collected by Alessandro Zorzi at Venice in the Years 1519-24 / Edited by O. G. S. Crawford, C.B.E., Litt.D., F.B.A. Cambridge, 1958 (1955). Pages xxix, 232 + 22 maps, 1 illustration. Zorzi’s Italian text with translation by C. A. Ralegh Radford. Includes a gazetteer for Fra Mauro’s map.

A Regiment for the Sea / and other Writings on Navigation / by William Bourne of Gravesend, a Gunner (c. 1535-1582) / Edited by E. G. R. Taylor, … / Cambridge, 1963 (1961). Pages xxxv, 464 + 7 maps, 9 illustrations. Reprints Bourne’s two almanacks and the Regiment (1574). Appended are the surviving portion of John Dee’s navigational tables, the wills of Bourne and his wife, and a bibliographical description of Bourne’s manuscript and printed works by D. W. Waters and R. A. Skelton.


  • that’s probably enough.