To what medical uses did medieval practitioners put dove faeces, fox lungs, salted owl or eel grease? How might one aid a man with a weak bladder or swollen testicles, or a woman with ‘grinding the womb’ or who ‘travaileth of child’?

Thanks to a £500,000 Research Resources Award from Wellcome, historians of medicine and health will soon be able to investigate such questions (and many others besides), on a scale not easily achieved hitherto, using the rich and diverse collections of medieval manuscripts in Cambridge. Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries will conserve, catalogue and digitise 186 medieval manuscripts that contain unedited, unpublished medical recipes. In order to make the contents of these valuable witnesses to medical knowledge and practice more accessible to researchers, the project will harness the cutting-edge Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology of Transkribus to produce full-text transcriptions of over 8,000 recipes. Building on the successful collaborations of the recently completed Polonsky Foundation Greek Manuscripts project, the Curious Cures manuscripts are drawn from collections across the University. As manuscripts are added, they can be found at the collection page on the Cambridge Digital Library.

Comment: Should such data be held by the Wellcome Trust?