Non-Book Review: Dragon’s Blood & Willow Bark

Dragon’s Blood & Willow Bark: The Mysteries Of Medieval Medicine, by Toni Mount

As someone who frequently reviews books for the De Re Militari [1], occasionally I see an odd book that is waiting to be reviewed and I decide to myself that I am a suitably odd person to review such an odd book. Such is the case with this book, which I received last night, with its front woodcuts suggesting centaurs tasteful male nude figures, something according to my taste and the back cover woodcuts suggesting a medieval druggist’s office, something more to my taste, even if it requires a translation of the Latin text on some of the elements in order to be understood. In briefly flipping through the book, without reading it yet, there appears to be about 250 pages worth of core material, and lengthy endnotes, looking at the procedures of Medieval medicine, from leeches and roasted cat (!) to the search for mythical beasts like unicorns and dragons, from the use of anaesthesia and antibiotic treatments after surgery to malpractice lawsuits to battlefield medicine. It looks like an intriguing and informative read, to say the least.

As is often the case when I read a book, especially an unusual book like this one, I often ponder the sort of audience that would be best for a book like this. As someone who occasionally reads medical history [2] books, and who reads a great deal about the military history and culture of the Middle Ages, I am clearly part of the target market for this book, as is anyone who shares an interest in either of those areas. Those who have a taste in alternative medicine, or who are working on background for any novels about the Middle Ages would also likely find something of interest here. I hope that it proves to be a read that is both instructive as well as thought-provoking, and perhaps even somewhat drily entertaining, as is my fashion. Clearly the author has a sense of humor, as the front inset of the dust cover has the following comment to close the introductory text: “N.B. No animals, large, furry, or mythological, were harmed during research of this book.” If only all authors could say the same.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Non-Book Review: Dragon’s Blood & Willow Bark

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