Medieval drawing from the margins of a medical manuscript
Ink drawing in the margins of a treatise on wounds to the head
Medieval medical books could be theoretical or practical in
content, but few included illustrations of any sort. Where
illustrations did occur they tended to be either symbolic or
decorative, such as images of philosophers or teachers incorporated
in an historiated initial, or schematic, as in zodiac figures or
uroscopy diagrams. The concept of illustration as supporting and
explaining the text was largely alien.
Here the scribe has resorted to a third type of illustration, a
marginal doodle. This picture of an arrow wound is inserted in the
margins of a treatise on wounds to the head. The picture serves no
practical purpose and does not form part of any illustrative
programme, being relegated to the margin. It serves merely to
entertain, perhaps principally to provide light relief for the
scribe in his laborious work of copying.