Mandrake Illustration from Herbal illustrated in Italy, ca. 1520 (LJS 46)

From this morning’s Coffee with a Codex, we ran across an illustration of a mandrake—yes! the very same plant you’ve probably heard of from the Harry Potter books and movies. Complete with a man covering his hears for fear of dying from the cries.

page 16r of a manuscript with a colored illustration of a naked man representing the roots of a plant. The man's feet are tied together and attached to a dog which is pulling the plant from the ground as nearby a man covers his ears with his hands.
page 16r of Herbal illustrated in Italy, ca. 1520 (f. 2r-53v)

In one superstition, people who pull up this root will be condemned to hell, and the mandrake root would scream and cry as it was pulled from the ground, killing anyone who heard it. Therefore, in the past, people have tied the roots to the bodies of animals and then used these animals to pull the roots from the soil.[2]
Wikipedia citing John Gerard (1597). “Herball, Generall Historie of Plants”. Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Archived from the original on 2012-09-01.


Dot Porter did a more thorough tour of MS Codex 1248 today compared to our prior glimpse.

Today I learned that the phrase “run the gamut” comes from Γ ut or gamma ut, which is the lowest note of the hexachord system on the Guidonian hand and is also used to describe all the possible notes.

And for some somewhat related musical fun via John Carlos Baez:

Guillaume Dufay (1397 – 1474) is the most famous of the first generation of the Franco-Flemish school. (This first generation is also called the Burgundian School.) He is often considered a transitional figure from the medieval to the Renaissance. His isorhythmic motets illustrate that—their tonality is dissonant and dramatic compared to typical Renaissance polyphony.