On Keeping Shop: A Guidebook for Preparing Orders
This highly informative work, compiled by a Jewish apothecary in 13th century Cairo, provides a wealth of information on his craft as practiced at the time. The author, Abu al-Munā Ibn Abī Nasr Ibn Hafāż, known as Cohen al-Isra’ī'lī al-Hārūnī, completed the work in 1260 (AH 658), shortly after the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, an event that reverberated throughout the Arab world. The manuscript contains notes by the author, to be passed to his son and descendents, who would be taking over the apothecary shop after his death. The title page has information about the pricing of spices which, however, may have been added at the time the work was copied and as such might not accurately reflect prices in 13th-century Cairo. The 250 folios that follow are divided into 25 chapters, and provide detailed recipes for preparing a wide range of potions, infusions, pills, and other kinds of medications. Taking as a starting point the central idea of the need to maintain and where necessary restore balance among the four basic “natures” in the human body, the treatise covers both the fundamentals of treatment and the arts that an expert apothecary would need in practice, without presupposing an apprenticeship. A physician named Shaykh Sadīd ibn Bayān, who may have been a near-contemporary of Abu al-Munā, had previously prepared a guidebook for use in hospitals, al-Dustur al-Maristani (The Maristani Guide), which contained some information on the art of apothecary, or the art of aromas and potions. Abu al-Munā notes that Sadīd’s exemplary book had been meant for expert physicians, and not for the uninitiated. Referring to Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyā al-Razi’s well-known 9th–10th-century Man la yahduruhu al-tabīb (Medical manual for those without access to a physician), Abu al-Munā declares his goal to be to collate the content of related works that were known to him and to expand on them by adding his own observations and findings. He covers simple and composite spices, and proudly claims that no book on the subject had hitherto accomplished what he has achieved in his treatise. The emphasis in this 13th-century text on empirical trial and experimentation is most significant for the history of science.
Title in Original Language
منهاج الدكان ودستور الاعيان
Type of Item
Last updated: May 25, 2012