Quintus Serenus, Liber medicinalis

13th century

The British Library

The British Library
London, United Kingdom

In ancient times, the incantation ‘Abracadabra’ was believed to be a charm with healing powers. It is first recorded in the Liber Medicinalis (‘Book of Medicine’) written by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, physician to the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Serenus prescribed the charm ‘Abracadabra’ as a cure for malaria. The word should be repeatedly written out, each time omitting one letter. The charm was then worn as an amulet around the neck, in order to drive out the fever. Shown here: ff. 19v–20r


  • Title: Quintus Serenus, Liber medicinalis
  • Date Created: 13th century
  • Location: British Library, London, UK
  • Location Created: Canterbury
  • Type: Manuscript
  • Original Source: Royal MS 12 E XXIII
  • Rights: Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. For more information visit: https://www.bl.uk/help/how-to-reuse-images-of-unpublished-manuscripts

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