Balsamo Locatelli

Lodovico Locatelli, Teatro d’Arcani, 1644, Frontispiece

A recurring term in the Italian manuscripts in Arundel Castle is Balsamo Locatelli. In the recipes, numerous variants for the production of the apparently very popular healing ointment are listed. The ointment was primarily used as an antidote against the plague and invented by a contemporary of Lady Arundel, Lodovico Locatelli (d. 1657).

Locatelli wrote several pharmaceutical compendia, including the Trattato della Peste, published in Venice in 1629 and in a German translation in Zurich in the same year (M. G. Levi, Enciclopedia delle Scienze Mediche: Patologia Medica 1837). His main works is the Teatro d’Arcani, first published in 1644 in Milan in octavo format, followed by the Lucidario Chimico. A short entry on Locatelli’s life and work is contained in Donato Calvi’s Scena Letteraria de gli Scrittori Bergamaschi from 1664. The Teatro d’Arcani was reissued in Venice in 1667.

According to his mentions in the manuscript, Lodovico Locatelli lived in the household of Lady Stafford, Lady Arundel’s daughter-in-law, in London: “Vera ricetta del Balsamo del Dottore Lucatelli in Londra, servo d’mylad. d’Stafford iudicata 25. costesso et sue virtu al balsamo casta (…) Alora ricetta del Balsamo del Dottore Lucatelli my lady. Stafford.”

One of the authors of the Italian manuscript was friends with Locatelli, who, according to the recipes, worked closely with Lady Stafford: “Balsamo del Dottore Lucatelli mio amico in Londra” (MD 339).

Many of the recipes name Lady Arundel as the inventor of special forms of this balm, suggesting that Locatelli was already working with her in her household in Tart Hall before Lady Arundel’s exile in 1641: “Balsamo di Lucatelli Mad.a Arondell (.. .) Balsamo Lucatelli Da. Arundell (…) Balsamo artificial raro che S Maestà d’Inghilterra haveva et Mad.a la Condessa Arundel (…) Balsamo tanto nominato di Mad.a la Contessa di Arundel con quale il D. Lucatelli in Inghilt. ne faceva grand cure. “

The recipe collections, starting with the one of Anne Dacre, Countess of Arundel (Wellcome 213), to the print version published in 1655 advertising with Lady Arundel’s portrait, to the loose manuscript pages in Italian in Arundel Castle, bear witness to a long-living tradition of medical and most of all pharmaceutical expertise which connected the women of the Arundel family for generations. The interest in Balsamo Locatelli crossed boundaries of language, nation, religion and generations.


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