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amulet-ring

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    AF.1023

  • Description

    Gold amulet-ring; projecting oval bezel set with "toadstone"; thin hoop of triangular section with raised rosette at back and on each shoulder, where there are also panels of engraved conventional ornament. Engraved reserved inscription with rosettes between words on two outer faces and underside of bezel.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 14thC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 1.12 inches
    • Length: 0.53 inches (bezel)
    • Weight: 72 grains
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        hoop
      • Inscription Content

        +IEXVS AVTEN TRANSIENS PER MED/IUN ILLORUN IBAT ET VERBUM CARO
      • Inscription Comment

        Reserved.
      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        bezel(underside)
      • Inscription Content

        HACTUN EST ET.
      • Inscription Comment

        Reserved.
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Dalton 1912:
    The toadstone ('crapaudina, bufonius lapis, batrachites, etc.') was supposed to be carried by the toad in his head, whence it might be cut out, or to be thrown out of the mouth if the creature was placed upon a piece of red cloth. In fact the ' stones' to which this fictitious origin was ascribed are formed of the palatal teeth of a fossil ganoid fish called 'Lepidotus', common in our own oolitic and wealden strata, and receiving their coloration from the iron salts present in the rock. This colour it may have been which brought them into connexion with the gem described by Pliny as 'batrachites', and thus originated the superstition.
    A silver toadstone ring is mentioned by Rabelais as worn on the thumb of the right hand: "un gros et large anneau d'argent, et un palle duquel était enchassée une bien grande crapaudine." The stone was believed to be efficacious against kidney disease and to protect new-born infants. Joanna Baillie, in a letter to Sir Walter Scott often quoted in this connexion, states that one belonging to her mother was often borrowed for the latter purpose.
    E. Ray Lankester, 'Recreations of a Naturalist', 1911; 'Notes and Queries', 4th series, vii (1871), pp. 399, 484.

    The words 'Verbum caro' are part of a text (John i. 14) which has also occurred on 1872,0604,377 and WADD 231. Without precise evidence, such as direct association with a magical formula, we need not suppose that all rings bearing this legend are magical. But in the present case there can be no doubt; and the text is also found in the charm for paroxysms in the already quoted MS. in the Chapter Library at Canterbury (cf. 'Archaeological Journal' xviii, p. 64), a charm intended to be written on parchment or paper, folded, and worn on the person as an amulet. For other rings bearing the 'Iesus autem transiens' inscription see AF1011, and cf. nos. 1853,0218,13 and AF 568.

    For other rings with toadstones see 'Archaeological Journal' xvi, p. 363; xix, p. 189; 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London', 1st series, i, p. 278.

    A ring in the Waterton Collection ('Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London', 2nd series, ii, p. 229) combines the toadstone with ass's hoof. See also 1872,0604,969.

    Supplementary information to Dalton 1912:

    Handwritten note in Dalton:
    Cf. also Friar Odoric's use of these words as a charm (Yule H. 'Cathay and the way thither', II, 265, 2nd ed. 1913, Hakluyt Soc.)

    Text from Ward, Cherry et al, 'The Ring from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century,' London 1981, pl.149:
    This ring combines an amuletic stone with an amuletic inscription. The projecting oval bezel contains a 'toadstone', worn as a protection against kidney disease. The 'stone' is in fact, the tooth of a fossilised fish (Lepidotes) common in limestone and chalk. The hoop of triangular section has a lombardic legend reserved in the metal. This reads: +IEXUS (sic) AUTEN (sic) TRANSIENS PER MEDIUN (sic) ILLORUM IBAT ET VERBUM CARO and continues on the back of the bezel: FACTUM EST ET. The first part (LUKE IV: 30) is a common inscription (Pls. 145, 147), but the second part of the inscription from: ET VERBUM CARO ('And the Word was made flesh', John I: 14) is less common. It was a charm used against paroxysms. This ring would have been worn to protect its wearer against fits, thieves and kidney trouble.

    See also R. Kieckhefer, 'Magic in the Middle Ages', Cambridge 1990, p. 219.
    For another ring with a toadstone see Chadour 1994 no 738.

    For further discussion of toadstone rings, see Chistopher J. Duffin, 'Fossils as Drugs: pharmaceutical palaeontology', Ferrantia (Travaux scientifiques du Musée national d'histoire naturelle Luxembourg), no. 54, Luxembourg 2008, pp. 42-44. See also C. Duffin 'The Toadstone - a rather unlikely jewel', Jewellery History Today, Issue 8, Spring 2010, pp. 3-4, where this ring is mentioned.

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  • Bibliography

    • Ward et al 1981 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1976 370a bibliographic details
    • Tait 1986a 510 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1912 895 bibliographic details
  • Location

    G1/fc20i

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2014-2015 20 Oct-20 Feb, Paris, Musee de Cluny, Travel during the Middle Ages PROMISED
    1999 8 Feb-2 Apr, London, Wellcome Institute Library, Renaissance Medicine

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1897

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    AF.1023


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Object reference number: MCM1053

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