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London, British Library, Harley 6258B

Present Location: 
Medieval Provenance: 
Decoration Description: 

There is no decoration and brown ink, that varies from dark to light, is generally used. Red colour occurs in some marginal annotations, that are sometimes framed in brown or red, in the initials (they are accompanied by faint guide letters in margins) that span two lines high, rarely three (fol. 2v/5), and in chapters and texts headings. Red is often very faded and the letters are rewritten in brown ink. Brown majuscules are used to mark the beginning of some chapters. Indexical letters run at the tops of most of the folios, and occasionally besides the text, from A (fol. 1) to X (fol. 44), corresponding to the alphabetical arrangement of the Herbarius in this manuscript.


There are only few later additions.

    • The title "A Saxon Herball" that appears on fol. 1r has been identified with Thomas Cotton's hand (1594-1662) by C. Tite (information kindly provided by Laura Nuvoloni).
    • The word arthemisia in the top margin of fol. 1r and eganne dryb (eye drop?) on the right margin of fol. 10r seem of the same seventeenth-century hand.
    • The other additions consist of curatorial interventions. Stamping: the ownership of the manuscript by the British nation is proclaimed by the insertion of bright red stamps throughout. Usually at the beginning and end of the manuscript (see Prescott 2006, p. 473), here on the fifth front flyleaf and fol. 65v probably because the first and last folios are darker than the rest and the stamp would be hardly visible, are large square red stamps, reading 'MUSEUM BRITANNICUM' and dated to the eighteenth century. A smaller stamp with the words 'BRITISH MUSEUM' around a small crown, is placed in the margins throughout the manuscript (e.g. fols 8v, 26v, 32v). Notes on allocation on the top margin of fol. 1r the Harley shelfmarks '6258.b.' in dark brown ink and '2/III A' in pencil, the latter being also found on the endleaf of Harley 585, another medical manuscript because Harleian manuscripts were shelved according to subject classification in Montagu House. On the back of front cover, low left corner, '49.9.' is written in pencil.
    • De Vriend (1984, p. 62) suggests a later hand for the addition to torenijen in the top margin of fol. 36r. The hand seems, however, the same but varies slightly in being a little less compressed, as in the annotation of the lower margin of fol. 32r.
    • The title of fol. 20r millefolio added in the top margin is very similar to the main hand, but the colour is very black and millefolio is added in the middle of the ninth cure of the chapter, thus suggesting that it may have been added later, perhaps after the loss of Quire 2 which contains the beginning of the chapter.
Binding Description: 

Outside leaves, front and back, are darker than the rest, suggesting that the manuscript was unbound for a long period. It has then been bound at least three times.

Cockayne (1866, I, p. lxxxv) mentioned the substitution of an earlier binding just after his publication of the manuscript, in 1866. The nineteenth-century binding is described as a small volume bound in brown leather; on the front and back covers, the coats of arms of the Harley family, gold-tooled; on the spine the title 'DE MEDICINIS HERBARIUM DE FERIS MEDICAMENTIS ETC. ANGLICE, MUS. BRIT. BIBL. HARL. 6258B PLUT.XLIX G.' (De Vriend 1972, p. xxvii).

The shelfmark 'PLUT.XLIX.G' is also recorded on the last front leaf; it relates to the moving of the manuscripts from Montagu House into the Manuscripts Saloon in 1824 (see Prescott 2006, p. 513).


    The modern British Library binding is made of 3/4 red leather, the remainder being of textured red cloth with the Harley arms in gilt on the front and back covers. The title 'HERBAL BRIT. MUS. HARL. MS 6258B' is labelled on the spine.

    Accompanying Material: 

    Added modern paper flyleaves at the beginning and end of the manuscript. The last three front leaves and first three endleaves are of slightly different paper and were very probably part of the earlier binding described by De Vriend 1972.