Doctor Deynman (d. 1500/01) and his books

1. Peterhouse, portrait of Thomas Deynman M.D.

We likely know more about Thomas Deynman, M.D. (d. 1500-01) than we do about other physicians active during the reign of Henry VII. He was admitted to Peterhouse as a Fellow in 1473, and was Doctor of Medicine by 1485-86. He was nominated by the Fellows to be Master of Peterhouse in November 1500 but had died by 17 March 1501, possibly before he could assume office. He died in Cambridge and was buried there. This painting of him survives at the College.

Accounts of his attendance on the King’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509) survive, as do records of the generous rewards he received from the monarch in 1494, which included his appointment as Master of the London hospital Saint Mary, Bethlehem. Deynman’s will survives in Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Sede Vacante Register CCA-DCc/Register F, f. 25r-v (dated 12 July 1500, proved 17 March 1501). In it, Deynman requested burial at Saint Mary, Bethlehem and made generous bequests to the hospital along with gifts to Peterhouse and to various kin.

Deynman’s will also specified that twenty of his better books (volumina meliora) should go to Peterhouse. While the books are not identified in his will, they must have included eight manuscripts belonging to him now in the Peterhouse collection, as well as University Library manuscript MS Ff.2.37 (Gilbertus Anglicus, Compendium Medicina containing Deynman’s usual signature on the last leaf, f. 189v). I suggest below that certainly one and probably a second Peterhouse incunable containing inscriptions similar to those in his manuscripts may also have come to the College through his bequest.


The manuscript images here represented display the characteristic ways Deynman wrote his name, often in the formula ‘Constat Thome Deynman’ preceded by an elongated paragraphus mark. In some codices he annotated texts in the margins, often with his characteristic paragraphus. In both manuscripts and printed books where texts were of particular interest to him he also supplied running headlines. Descriptions of Peterhouse manuscripts can be found in the valuable catalogue by R. M. Thomson (2016), with examples of Deynman’s signatures. See Thomson’s plates 53 (MS 87, f. 194v) and 69 (MS 182, f. 173v).

2. Peterhouse MS 87, f. 1


3. Peterhouse MS 87, ff. 121v-2

A compendium of standard Italian late-medieval medical works on medications with a text on fevers and a  short Commentary on Avicenna, Canon IV, all written 1400 in Padua by Cornelius of Brussels, and containing three signatures and running headlines by Deynman. For the explicit, f. 194v, see also Plate 74 in Thomson.


4. Peterhouse MS 95, f. iii verso

A fourteenth-century Italian compendium of nine Latin texts (beginning with a French extract), by a range of European physicians, most addressing medicines, also including a text on weights and measures and another on the election of times. It was formerly owned by the Peterhouse doctor and Royal Physician, Roger Marchall (1417-1477); Deynman supplied his name seven times in the codex and added the recipe ‘contra pruritum’ on f. 1.


5. Peterhouse MS 139, f. 117v

A fourteenth-century French or Italian volume containing the lengthy and widely circulated treatise on medical therapy, Lilium by Bernard of Gordon, and two shorter extracts by Walter Agilon and Gerard of Cremona. I agree with Thomson that this text of a poem by Thomas Sutton occurs in a section of the manuscript apparently added by Deynman.


6. Peterhouse MS 146, f. 1

The second of two volumes, MSS 145 and 146, of late fifteenth-century commentary by Jacques Despars on Avicenna, Canon, in a single French hand. Deynman supplied his name twice in each volume.


7. Peterhouse MS 168, f. 32v

Late fifteenth-century English copy (one of two surviving) of William Holme, O.F.M. (early fifteenth century), De simplicibus medicinis, a lengthy alphabetical compendium containing excerpts from twelve famous medical writers.

No image is here provided for Peterhouse MS 182. For this fourteenth-century Italian compendium of medical remedies, see Plate 69 in Thomson, showing ‘Constat thome deynman medico’, one of two instances where Deynman recorded his name in MS 182.

8. Peterhouse MS 250, f. 108v

A fifteenth-century English astronomical manuscript with Deynman’s name on f. 2 and his extensive marginal annotation. This codex is a radical departure from the previous examples, which are almost entirely medical and focus largely on medical therapy. This manuscript, bound with a 1484 (Venice, Ratdolt) printed copy of two astrological works attributed to Ptolemy, contains fifteen astronomical and astrological texts, two of English origin: the Canons of William Reed (d. 1385) on the Alfonsine tables as calculated for Oxford; and Robertus Anglicus’ Commentary on De Sphera of Sacrobosco (late thirteenth century). On this Robertus Anglicus text see, Lynn Thorndike, The ‘Sphere’ of Sacrobosco and Its Commentators (Chicago, 1949). In Lectio 1, the text reads, ‘Non enim potest medicus curare, si ignoret causam egritudinis, que quidem causa sciri non potest, si ignoretur motus et dispositio corporum supercelestium que est causa cuiuslibet dispositionis istorum inferiorum.’ Deynman’s extensive annotations of this text suggest its importance to him.

Printed books

9. Peterhouse O.8.20, Lumen apothecariorum (Lyons: Mathias Huss, ca. 1498), f. 2v

Deynman has here supplied the marginal note on a confection made with honey as advocated by Mesue and signalled it with an elongated paragraphus.


10. Peterhouse O.6.13, Bartholomaeus Montagnana, Consilia medica (Padua: Fridericus Johannis Teutonicus, 1476), ff. 4v-5


11. Peterhouse 0.6.13, Bartholomaeus Montagnana, Consilia medica (Padua: Fridericus Johannis Teutonicus, 1476), headline for Consilium 46

Although the example of what appears to be Deynman’s annotation on f. 5 shows a slender paragraphus, it is not so elongated as those found in many of his manuscripts and in the Lumen apothecariorum, and the matter of John Argentine’s signature at the end of the book also calls into question the certainty of Deynman’s involvement. Nonetheless, the careful running headlines throughout the book, which give the consilium number on the recto of a leaf and the title on the verso, resemble closely the running headlines in Peterhouse MS 87.

Puzzles remain about Deynman’s life and deserve further investigation. They include the question of where he studied on the Continent. In 1473 he had been allowed to incept as M.A. at Cambridge because he had received the bachelor of medicine degree at an unidentified European university. The matter of his death sometime between November 1500 and March 1501 also merits consideration of the high mortality in England from epidemic disease during those months. Additionally, a question remains about the recipe ‘Pille contra pestem secundum ordinacionem Magistri Thome Phisici’ in BL Harley MS 1628, f.2 on a leaf containing other recipes for Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Nonetheless, there is much to be learned about Doctor Deynman’s curiosity, knowledge, and medical practice from a study of his participation in Peterhouse manuscripts and incunables.

Further Reading:

Thomson, R. M., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts in the Library of Peterhouse, Cambridge (Cambridge, 2016). See especially the entries for MSS 87, 95, 139, 145-46, 168, 182, 250. See also CUL MS Ff.ii.37.

Emden, A. B., A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (Cambridge, 1963), ‘Deynman alias Dynman, Thomas’, 187.

Rawcliffe, Carole, ‘Denman, Thomas (d. 1500/01)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004).

Talbot, C. H. and E. A. Hammond, The Medical Practitioners in Medieval England (London, 1965), 339-40.

Jones, Michael and Malcolm Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort (Cambridge, 1992), 168, 272.


By Linda Ehrsam Voigts


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