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Medieval Merriment Over Return of Manuscript

When a long-missing medieval manuscript is returned to its collection, what's a library to do?

Have a party, of course. And so, on the evening of May 19, the lords and ladies of NLM, scholars attending the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine in Bethesda, and assorted friends and colleagues donned medieval costumes, ate, drank and made merry. The shindig was sponsored by the association.

Lord and Lady Lindberg (actually NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg and wife, Mary)

"It's always a cause for celebration when a lost book returns home," observed Dr. Elizabeth Fee, chief of the History of Medicine Division at the library. And what a book this is.

Where's the Beef(eater)? Bob Mehnert, chief of NLM's Office of Communications and Public Liaison, stands at attention. While the party is now over, NLM's manuscript exhibit is on view Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through July 14.

The Latin manuscript, Treatises on Medicine, was written in England in the 12th century on vellum (calf skin) and contains some 40 texts by different authors. Like many books of its day, the fastidiously hand-lettered work represents an attempt to compile all medical knowledge of the day.

The work disappeared from the library some 50 years ago and was recently returned in good condition.

Patti page? Actually, this is Patricia Tuohy (l), exhibition program manager in NLM's History of Medicine Division.

In honor of the manuscript's return, NLM mounted an exhibit showcasing it among about 25 other books and manuscripts of the period. Partygoers could view these works in the History of Medicine Reading Room as they enjoyed medieval music performed on period instruments.

An unidentified Viking attending the AAHM conference ponders the NLM databases. NLM also has a new web site devoted to its Islamic manuscripts at

The revelers included knights, ladies, wizards, wenches, queens and kings, courtiers and jesters. An interesting sight was a collection of guests wearing crowns, Viking horns, jester caps and other medieval garb searching the NLM's databases at computers in the Reading Room, one of the party areas. The centuries clashed to produce an indelible image.

NLM Deputy Associate Director for Library Operations Becky Lyon (l) and Dr. Elizabeth Fee, chief, History of Medicine Division, pause for a photo at the May 19 gala.

To learn more about the library's medieval treasures, consult

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