The Liber Uricrisiarum in Wellcome MS 225 and the Adaptation of Source to Audience

Joanne Jasin
1994 Acta Medico-Historica Rigensia  
114 practitioner as well as the academically trained physician, influenced both the form and the content of the resulting texts: typically, the practical needs of the lay members of the audience take precedence over theoretical concerns!' Consequently, the translator or compiler revises, edits, and adapts his sources, even when he may announce to the audience that he has translated his source virtually word for word into the vernacular.9 ' Such a declaration appears in Welcome MS 225
more » ... e MS 225 (hereafter, MS 225), in the Middle English treatise on uroscopy occupying the bulk of the manuscript and entitled Liber Uricrisiarum (literally, "the book of the decisions of urine").'°Yet an assertion on the part of the compiler appearing near the end of the treatise, that he has rendered the De Urinis by Isaac ludaeus "nerhand word for worde' inlo English," misrepresents what the compiler has in fact done with his principal Latin source." The relative brevity of the De Urinis, when compared with the sheer length of the Middle English Liber Uricrisiarum, suggests that the compiler of the Middle English text offers his reading audience an elaboration rather than a literal translation of the original Latin text." In many instances, the compiler seems to have both expanded and condensed the material in his main source, adding explanation to provide context for a point presumably unfamiliar to his audience, or deleting information he apparently considered less relevant to the pragmatic concerns of lay practitioners. The overriding principle governing the compiler's treatment of his source material in MS 225 is his attention to the lay members of his audience, his desire to communicate learned medical knowledge as clearly to them as possible." А comparison of the resulting Middle English treatise with its Latin source implies that the compiler may have envisioned a lay audience relying principally on knowledge gained through experience and the reading of vernacular texts in its practice of uroscopy, since it lacked the formal education in medicine that a course of study at university would have provided. Indeed, the compiler's own statement of rhetorical purpose appearing in MS 225 shows that he had precisely this audience in mind: *mg all l wald undo in common speech, bat all meg might understand & know, 3yf only mag wald fund me my sustenance" (p.142). This statement specifying both rhetorical purpose and audience (as well as the compiler's own financial predicament) other is one key factor distinguishing the Liber Uricrisiarum in MS 225 from other uroscopies in Middle English." In addition, MS 225 presents a complete text of the Liber Uricrisiarum; it does not lack portions of the treatise as do other 115 Middle English versions.'°As a uroscopic text it cannot be classified according to origin exclusively with popular medical literature (e.g., some recipe books) on the one hand or with university texts on the other, but more accurately represents the middle ground between these "poles of a continuum", as Linda Voigts and Michael R. Mcvaugh have suggested concerning uroscopic texts in general." In using the De Urinis of Isaac Judaeus as his main source and citing Isaac frequently throughout, the compiler of the Liber Uricrisiarurn clearly draws on academic medical literature, yet the resulting Middle English text shows his efforts to adapt his source to the uneducated members of his audience. Selected corresponding passages from the Latin and Middle English versions demonstrate that the compiler engages in both minor and major revision of his source, deleting portions of the original text, replacing precisely worded statements with generalizations, and adding explanation of points in the original treatise. This latter feature in particular represents the compiler's emphasis on drawing connections among points and in general providing for his audience a sense of context for the technical knowledge being conveyed. Even the examples of minor editing show generally consistent and purposeful application of the compiler's guidelines for revision that we can infer from the text, as the following passages indicate. In the Latin text, Isaac ludaeus cites a statement by Galen on the kind of urine that signifies the health of an individual, in that the urine has little or no hypostasis (a type of sediment in urine). The statement appears in Chapter One of De Urinis: hoc est hypostasis, unde Galienus: "Urina in sanis pauxillam aut nullam habet hypostasim, cum in vase diu remanserit, quod est propter virtutem membrorum expellentium superfluitates ciborum per poras corporum." Hypostasis ergo monstrat quantitatem actionis naturae in tertia digestione in membris existente, monstrat et qualitatem coctionis chimorum in raritate membrorum, qui generativi sunt morborum. '3 The citation from Galen is followed by a statement by Isaac on the importance of hypo stasis in revealing the proper functioning of the body both the "quantity" or degree of bodily function in the third digestion and the quality of the "cooking" of the stomach fluids. The corresponding passage in the Middle English treatise, appearing in Book One, Chapter Five, renders the original Latin as follows: And bgrgforg says Galien pa_t uryn of bg heyle folk, when it has standyn & restyd, hyt has bod lytyll ypostasis or ellys паша, & bis is bg philosophy, iģ e_s_t bis is bg skyll. For bg kynd is myghty in hymself & cachys owt bg 116 supe_2_rfluiteis be be poris of body. And l;a_rgforg eve_r wheg ypostasis apperys b_e bg uryn__e, it tellys how mykyll kynd & be humogrs [are] wyrkyngç in bg 3lrd| digestion. (pp. 64-65.) The compiler has indeed translated the citation from Galen literally; the phrases added by him ("bis is bg philosophy, id_ g his bg skyll") merely serves the stylistic purpose of highlighting the explanation that follows, as if to ensure that the reader pay more attention to it. Minor revision is evident, though, in the Compiler's imprecise translation of lsaac's comment on Galen's statement (respectively, the last sentence in each quoted passage above). The Middle English version has lost some of the specificity of the original Latin quantity and quality arg two separate and distinct enti- ties, yet only the first is retained in the vernacular ('how mykyll");'9 furthermore, "humogrs" and "chimorum" (stomach fluids) are not identical but the resulting simplifying and generalizing of the original statement shows even on a small scale the Compiler's tendency to "uncomplicate" his source material for the lay reader. The corresponding passages in both treatises describing the urine flask and its proper use show a greater degree of departure from the original text than the previous example, a departure that takes the form not of simplification but of elaboration or expansion of the source.
doi:10.25143/amhr.1994.ii.07 fatcat:eco7s6r4lfewnnjfbssprvqgum