Lamentable days – recommended reading

Recommended reading – ‘Egyptian Days’

(Connects to versified instructional texts).

Robert Steele noted that Voynich manuscript’s vellum was ‘unusually coarse, even for the thirteenth century’.  Lynn Thorndike constantly expressed his opinion, as an expert on medieval manuscripts of scientific, pseudo-scientific and alchemical matter, that the Voynich manuscript contained nothing of use to our study of those subjects. He was as openly contemptuous of Mnishovsky’s attribution of the work to Roger Bacon, of Wilfrid Voynich and of the manuscript itself.

Robert Steele, Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi, Fasc. VI, Compotus Fratris Rogeri … (Oxford, 1926).  cited by Thorndike (infra, ‘Computus’ p.224.)

Lynn Thorndike, ‘Computus’, Speculum, Vol. 29, No. 2, Part 1 (Apr., 1954), pp. 223-238.

_________ , ‘Unde Versus’, Traditio, Vol. 11 (1955), pp. 163-193.

_________ , ‘Notes upon Some Medieval Astronomical, Astrological and Mathematical Manuscripts at Florence, Milan, Bologna and Venice’, Isis, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Mar., 1959), pp. 33-50.

and also:

John Hennig, ‘Versus de Mensibus’, Traditio, Vol. 11 (1955), pp. 65-90.

Don C. Skemer, ‘ “Armis Gunfe”: remembering Egyptian Days’, Traditio, Vol. 65 (2010), pp. 75-106.

If the rhymed instructional works appeal, you might look into the subject of a tenth-century monk called Hucbald (aka Hugbaldus, Ubaldu, Uchubaldus).  Try..

William J. Diebold, ‘Changing Perceptions of the Visual in the Middle Ages: Hucbald of St. Amand’s Carolingian Rewriting of Prudentius’, in Reading Images and Texts: Medieval Images and Texts as Forms of Communication. Papers from the Third Utrecht Symposium on Medieval Literacy, Utrecht, 7-9 December 2000. pp. 161-175.


Julia M. H. Smith, ‘ A Hagiographer at work: Hucbald and the library at Saint-Amand’, Revue Bénédictine, Vol.106 ( 2017) Issue 1-2, pp. 151-171.

– or you could just read the entry for Hucbald in the Catholic Encyclopaedia.



  1. Skemer (n.80) mentions a manuscript obtained from the estate of Wilfrid Voynich and which includes Sacrobosco’s abbreviated key to the ‘Egyptian days’. ( New York, Columbia University Western Add. MS 1, fol. 49v. )No great excitement should meet this information. Sacrobosco’s work, like Grosseteste’s was a standard school text and calculation of ‘unlucky days’ was routine.


  2. Robert Steele also wrote on the ‘Dies Egyptiaci’ but the perfection of modern studies is surely László Sándor Chardonnens, Anglo-Saxon Prognostics, 900-1100: Study and Texts, Vol. 3 in Han van Ruler ( ed.), Brill’s Texts and Sources in Intellectual History, [Vol. 153 of Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History].
    Dies Egyptiaci – manuscripts, texts, stemmae and translations – pp.130-392.

    I think that it should be possible, if one were so inclined, to identify the particular tradition known to the ‘overseer’ by counting the number of menstruating figures in each month. Different sources had a different number (on which see Chardonnens). I note too that some older secondary sources describe the ‘dies Egyptiaci’ as those days when moon and tide were both full – which is an interesting point, given that the Vms includes a diagram which I’ve identified as a means to calculate the position and time of tide-rise.

    For those who’d still like to read Steele’s paper:
    Robert Steele, ‘Dies Aegyptiaci’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 1919; Vol. 12(Supplement): pp. 108-121.
    I see that it is available through Europe PMC


  3. quote
    Medieval calendars precisely identified the days that were to be considered inauspicious, on which no project or enterprise should be begun: 1 and 25 January; 4 and 26 February; 1 and 28 March; 10 and 20 April; 3 and 25 May; 10 and 16 June; 13 and 22 July; 1 and 30 August; 3 and 21 September; 3 and 22 October; 5 and 28 November; and 7 and 22 December. It was considered especially important that doctors should not let blood on these days.

    from world wide words.


  4. Some manuscripts with Egyptian Days
    London, British Library Harley 3017 (9thC) 58v-60r
    __________________, Cotton Vitellius A.XII (last quarter of the 11thC) fol.44r.
    __________________, Cotton Caligula A.XV (11thC) fols. 120-153
    __________________, Cotton Titus D.XXVI + XXVII (“Prayerbook of Ælfwine”)

    Vatican City, BAV Pal. lat. 485 (Germany 9thC)

    – these from a page posted by McGill University as comparison for its MS 17.


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