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Historia Plantarum (On plants) is a natural science encyclopedia, in which animals, plants, and minerals are illustrated and described for their medicinal properties, in keeping with the medieval tradition of the tacuina medievali (medieval health handbooks), and from which the codex derives its most common name, Tacuinum sanitatis. The work was first compiled as Taqwim al-Sihhah (The maintenance of health) by the 11th-century Baghdad physician Ibn Buṭlān, and chief among his Greek sources was Dioscorides, a physician in the first century. The court in Sicily commissioned a Latin translation in ...
Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden
Saint Birgitta (or Bridget) of Sweden (circa 1303–73) was known for her revelations, which she reportedly wrote down in Swedish and then had translated into Latin by one of her two confessors. When she took ill, she changed her usual practice, and dictated her revelations to one of the confessors, who then translated them into Latin. In the manuscript collection at the National Library of Sweden is preserved a document that offers a unique insight into the origins of Birgitta’s revelations. It consists of three leaves of paper ...
Prescriptions of the Bureau of the Management and Administration of Pharmacy, in Ten Juan
Tai ping hui min he ji ju fang (Prescriptions of the Bureau of the Management and Administration of Pharmacy) is the earliest book of patent medicine in China and in the world. The work records prescriptions of patent medicines compiled by the official pharmacy of the Imperial Medical Bureau during the Northern Song dynasty (960−1127). It contains 788 prescriptions in 14 categories, and provides, under each prescription, details on the expected cure and components of the medicine. The work serves as a manual, making it easier for physicians and ...
Franc à cheval, John II
The franc à cheval was ordered issued on December 5, 1360 to finance the ransom of King John II (born 1319; reigned, 1350–64), who had been taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War. The ransom totaled a vast 3 million écus, and the fact that the coin was used to secure the release of the king gave rise to the name by which it was known: franc, meaning free. The value of the coin was set at one livre ...
The Book of Taliesin
The Book of Taliesin contains a collection of some of the oldest poems in Welsh, many of them attributed to the poet Taliesin, who was active toward the end of the sixth century and sang the praises of Urien Rheged and his son Owain ab Urien. Other poems reflect the kind of learning with which the poet became associated, deriving partly from Latin texts and partly from native Welsh tradition. This manuscript preserves the texts of such famous poems as “Armes Prydein Fawr,” “Preiddeu Annwfn” (which refers to Arthur and ...
Letters by ‘Alī Ḥamdānī
Maktūbāt-i Sayyid ‘Alī Ḥamdānī (Letters by Ali Hamdani) is a collection letters by the famous Persian scholar, saint, and preacher Sayyid ‘Alī Ḥamdānī (1314–85 A.D.; A.H. 714–87). He came from Hamdan in Central Asia and traveled to Kashmir in 1372–73 A.D. to spread the message of Islam. This is one of the rarest extant manuscripts of letters from the saint to his disciples, directing them how to unravel the secrets of Islamic mysticism. In the letters, Sayyid ‘Alī Ḥamdānī quotes a number ...
The Little Sparkles on the Science of Calculation
The treatise preserved in this manuscript, Al-Luma‘al-yasīra fī ‘ilm al-hisāb (The little sparkles on the science of calculation), deals with Muslim inheritance. Of the social innovations that came with the Islamic conquest, the introduction of the system of fara'id (shares) for inheritances was one of the most radical and socially advanced. The fourth surah of the Qur'an, verses 11–12, criticizes the traditional pre-Islamic system of agnatic succession, under which only men could inherit property, and provides for a proportional division among all the heirs, women included ...
Amplification of the Poem, the Burdah, Or the Expansion of the Bright Stars in the Praise of the Finest of Mankind, the Prophet Muhammad
This manuscript is a copy of the poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, which is popularly known as Qaṣīdat al-burdah (The poem of the mantle). It was written by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (died 694 AH [1294 AD]). The poem has a takhmīs (amplification, or expansion of the poem) by Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Fayyūmī. The amplification and the text of the Qaṣīdat al-burdah were written in Naskh and Thuluth scripts respectively by Riḍwān ibn Muḥammad al-Tabīzī in 767 AH (1366 AD), probably for the Mawlawī (Mevlevi) Library in Konya ...
Book of the Dove
Gregory Bar ‘Ebraya (also seen as Bar Hebraeus, 1226–86) was a Syriac Orthodox bishop and major author in the later Syriac tradition. He wrote prolifically, mostly in Syriac but also in Arabic, on philosophy, theology, spirituality, and history. His works also included commentaries on scripture, devotions, moral treatises, logic, the sciences, poetry, and humorous stories. This manuscript, dated 1360, is an important early witness to his writings. It contains his Ktābā d-yawnā (Book of the dove), which represents Bar Hebraeus’s instructions on how to start and then continue ...
Book on the Division of Geographical Boundaries by Reference to the Stars
Ancient Chinese astronomy was used to make prognostications about human affairs by pairing celestial bodies with states, counties, prefectures, and people. Predictions could thereby be made about favorable developments or disasters that might befall a particular locality or person based on movements of the sun, the moon, or stars. This methodology was called fen ye (division of geographical boundaries by reference to the stars). The methodology and the theory on which it was based existed since the Han dynasty (circa 206 BC–220 AD), and over the centuries the system ...