Just an idea ~ £40

The oft-noticed ’40’ which Nick Pelling interprets (as others, no doubt have before or since)  as ‘quo’ has for a long time reminded me of the quid-pro-quo formulae of medieval pharmacy.

However, though defined and classified by the Theophrastan corpus, as I read it, the Vms plants are not themselves Mediterranean: a Mediterranean species is merely a pointer to classification by ref. to ancient authority.. as I see it.

On the offchance that Baresh’s story of the manuscript is somewhere in the vicinity of true, and that the ‘ancient Egyptian-or-Jewish medicine’ came indeed from the east, it’s looking rather like a script used in the 1stC in a Greco-Bactrian environment shouldn’t be too problematic – especially if that was also the script (tho’ maybe not the language) used to conceal the content from prying eyes. Well…maybe.

Anyway ~ te earliest mention of q-p-q in Europe is thirteenth-century or so, which suits me well since it’s about the time I posit for return of the Vms sources to the Mediterranean world.

Substitutions aren’t a phenomenon limited to medieval Latin pharmacy.

To now, the only mention I’ve made of substitutions in pharmacy was in  post about Montpellier’s faculty controlling the pharmacists of Paris.

Not sure I’ll ever get around to writing up more, so just this note:

Perhaps the text is about how to use, or to substitute, other plants for those in the pictures.

Could the “qo” in annoying qokedy strings be this sort of ‘quo’ and the pictures the ‘quid’?

Perhaps some mnemonic ‘devices’ are keys to the same, to’ I’ve not been struck by any.

I’m talking pure speculation – as if I need say so

Alain Touwaide wrote on substitutions and lists of same, in chapter of a book that was published some time ago.

I noticed today that his chapter  is published as a separate paper now, at Academia.edu

and it’s not £40  of course

  • Alain Touwaide, ‘Quid pro Quo: Revisiting the Practice of Substitution in Ancient Pharmacy’

Lists of substitutions are limited in length, take regular formats and even appear as tables in the western literature.

PS. If, as usual, someone else has mentioned this already in connection with the Vms –  please do let me know!

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