Apr 24, 2018

The Construction and Function of a Physician’s Folding Almanac: British Library Harley MS 937

Julie Maseka

Leather case of Harley MS 937
Harley MS 937 is plainly catalogued by the British Library as a physician's folding almanac; however, this description fails to capture the uniqueness of this seemingly simple, yet intriguing, manuscript. In general, folded almanacs contain “calendrical, astrological, and medical elements” thought to have been used by both medical practitioners and laypeople (Carey, "What is the Folded Almanac?" 482). Harley MS 937 stands out in this category of manuscripts due to its distinct construction and interesting textual content. The manuscript is folded and enclosed in a leather pouch bound with a braided string, which offers both protection and portability. The text is in English vernacular, although Latin would be commonly expected of astrological-medical documents of this time period. While the text poses questions about the owner(s) of the manuscript and how they may have practically used it, this post will focus on how the physical format of Harley MS 937 influences its transportability and readability, leaving the discussion of the intended owner and the manuscript's application in medieval daily life for a later date.