Unfurling a banner with a timeline of medieval medical highlights, this volume from the "Medieval World" series embarks on a journey not only of horrors, but also of absorbing information on diseases, practitioners, herbs, medicines, and techniques. Readers do not need to be future doctors or scientists to enjoy the colored medieval paintings and prints that are lavishly sprinkled throughout the text on spreads (doctors and surgeons get four pages each). There are often surprises; for example, though women were not admitted to medical schools, many practiced medicine, treating women specifically. Textbooks came from Greek, Arabic, and Persian sources, while healing herbs were gathered and used effectively. Readers may be interested to learn that a corpse was first dissected in 1315 in Bologna, Italy. And, yes, the Black Death is explained and its distressing symptoms described; though Elliott's definition of danse macabre is dubious, with a large painting showing the sufferers inside a house while outside, the shrouded bodies of the dead are collected in a cart. The author includes a number of other topics in this large-format, glossy-covered book: operations (even of eye surgery and trepanning), medieval surgical instruments, hospitals of several types, and customs concerning death and burial. With its lively text and its appealing illustrations, this reference book is hard to put down. One mysterious picture, a plague doctor in his beaked mask, appears on the back cover without a caption, but it, and much else inside, could entice curious readers to further research. 2006, Crabtree, and Ages 9 up.
Barbara L. Talcroft