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Daniel, Henryfree

(fl. 1379)
  • John Harvey

Daniel, Henry (fl. 1379), Dominican friar and horticulturist, was skilled in the medical and natural science of his time. His surviving works include a treatise on diagnosis from urinoscopy, De judiciis urinarum, based on the work of Ysaac Judaeus (d. c.955), preserved in several manuscripts in the British and Bodleian libraries (among them BL, Royal MS 17 D.i, and Bodl. Oxf., MS Ashmole 1404); an extensive herbal known as Aaron Danielis (BL, Arundel MS 42; BL, Add. MS 27329), which includes a virtually complete English translation of the Circa instans of Platearius (d. 1161); and a translation of a Latin treatise on rosemary with an original supplement dealing with the plant's cultivation (Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.1.13, fols. 77v–82v; BL, Royal MS 17 A.iii, fols. 13–17; Bodl. Oxf., MS Digby 29, fols. 295v–297).

The clinical book is dated to 1379, when it was finished during the summer after three years of work, hindered by Daniel's obedience as a friar and by serious illness. The herbal was evidently begun soon afterwards and exists in two forms: a detailed but incomplete draft in BL, Arundel MS 42, rich in personal asides; and the regularized but somewhat abridged final version of BL, Add. MS 27329. The latter is divided into two parts, the first covering herbs and the second trees, fruits, and animal and mineral substances used in medicine.

What little is known of Daniel's life is derived from autobiographical remarks in his works. They record that he had in his 'young years … worked seven years to learn', and had possessed a garden at Stepney beside London, in which he grew 252 kinds of herbs. By 1380 he must have reached a considerable age and had over thirty years' experience of growing rosemary. He had detailed knowledge of the region around Stamford and mentions journeys in Wiltshire, to Bristol, and in Kent and East Anglia. Many accounts of plants in the herbal display a remarkably deep interest in plant ecology and include some of the earliest records of individual species. He also distinguished between wild and garden plants and provided vernacular as well as Latin names.


  • C. H. Talbot and E. A. Hammond, The medical practitioners in medieval England: a biographical register (1965)
  • J. Harvey, Medieval gardens (1990), 118–19; 189–62
  • J. H. Harvey, ‘Henry Daniel: a scientific gardener of the fourteenth century’, Garden History, 15 (1987), 81–93


  • BL, Arundel MS 42
  • BL, Add. MS 27329
  • BL, Royal MS 17 A.iii, fols. 13–17
  • BL, Royal MS 17 D.i
  • Bodl. Oxf., MS Ashmole 1404
  • Bodl. Oxf., MS Digby 29, fols. 295v–297
  • Trinity Cam., MS O.1.13, fols. 77v–82v