Boorde and his ‘Breviary’
Andrew Boorde, sometimes written ‘Borde’ or ‘Bored’ (indeed, he used to call himself Andreas Perforatus), was born in 1490 at Cuckfield, in Sussex, where a house still bears his name.
At an early age he became a Carthusian monk, but finding the discipline too irksome he wrote to his superior stating that he was ‘not able to byde the rigourosity’ of such a religion, and begging to be relieved of his vows.
Andrew Boorde is remembered chiefly for his ‘Breviary of Health’ - a sort of handbook of domestic medicine after the fashion of The Regimen of the School of Salerno. It is said to be the first book by a medical man written and printed in the English language. The Breviary is a household dictionary, with more than 300 items for discussion.
Under the heading ‘Sleep’ we read: ‘Seven hours is enough, and sleep on your right side with your head high, under a thick quilt and wearing a scarlet nightcap.’ Boorde wrote a sequel to his book, and called it the Dietary of Health. It sheds an interesting light upon dietetics in his day.
From diet in health Boorde passes to diet in the sick-room. ‘A good cook is half a physician, and the chief physick doth come from the kitchen; wherefore the physician and the cook must consult together.’
Of his later life there is no clear record. He practised as a physician at Winchester, and was at first highly regarded. Later he fell from grace, and, whether justly or unjustly cannot tell, found himself in Fleet Prison, where he died from gaol fever (as typhus was called) in 1549.
The traveller looks both ways by Douglas Guthrie, MD, FRCS, FRCP.Ed.
The British Medical Journal Vol. 2, No. 5268 (Dec. 23, 1961), pp. 1701-1703
Can be found at https://www.jstor.org/stable/20356054
and The British Medical Journal Vol. 2, No. 3439 (Dec. 4, 1926), pp. 1064-1065
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.