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Type of Item
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 ...
The Diary of Mansai
Mansai (1378−1435) was an abbot of the Daigo-ji Temple in the early Muromachi period (14th−15th centuries). Born into an aristocratic family, Mansai was adopted by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and ordained into the priesthood. He served three shoguns, not only as a priest but also as a political adviser and close associate. Mansai witnessed many important events in politics, foreign relations, literature, and society and was privy to the top secrets of the nation. Mansai jugō nikki (The diary of Mansai) is thus an important historical source. The National ...
Duke Albrecht's Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part)
This manuscript is a document of the first importance in the history of Dutch manuscript illumination and contains an important medieval Dutch devotional text. The Tafel van den Kersten ghelove (Table of Christian faith) is a compendium of Christian knowledge written by a learned Dominican, Dirc van Delf. The text is in two parts, one for winter, another for summer. This manuscript is of the winter part and is incomplete, omitting the prologue and chapters 13, 14, and 35−57; chapters 23−24 are in inverse order. The arms of ...
The astronomer ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar al-Sufi, commonly known as al-Sufi, was born in Persia (present-day Iran) in 903 A.D. and died in 986. He worked in Isfahan and in Baghdad, and is known for his translation from Greek into Arabic of the Almagest by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. Al-Sufi’s most famous work is Kitab suwar al-kawakib (Book of the constellations of the fixed stars), which he published around 964. In this work, al-Sufi describes the 48 constellations that were established by Ptolemy and adds criticisms and corrections ...
Encyclopedic Manuscript Containing Allegorical and Medical Drawings
In the Middle Ages, medicine was very much intertwined with astrology and other nonscientific superstitions. This manuscript on vellum, produced in southern Germany around 1410, contains pen and ink drawings with explanatory texts in German and Latin. The first drawing shows the earth and seven planets. It is followed by Zodiac-man, a naked man shown with the 12 signs of the zodiac, each relating to a specific part of the body. Next are four bloodletting charts of the human body. Such bleeding charts or calendars were widely used in this ...
The Yongle Encyclopedia is a large-scale encyclopedia–the largest in pre-modern China--arranged by subject categories traditionally used in China. The entire work is comprised of 22,877 juan (sections) of text proper and a prolegomenon and index in 60 juan, all bound in 11,095 volumes, amounting to about 370 million characters in all. The encyclopedia preserved textual information from about 8,000 texts of all kinds, from pre-Qin times to the early Ming dynasty, covering the works of famous specialists in such areas as astronomy, geography, human affairs, famous ...
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 ...
The Book of the City of Ladies
Christine de Pisan (circa 1364–1430) was born in Italy and came to France at the age of four with her father. Arguably the first woman in Europe to earn a living as an author, she is widely regarded as an early feminist who spoke out for the rights of women and espoused female achievement. She wrote poems and prose texts that were often allegorical and philosophical and that reflected her own original and engaged personality. She prepared the books with the aid of copyists and illuminators and offered them ...
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 ...
Commentary on Ibn Malik's “Tashīl al-fawā'id”
This Arabic manuscript contains the commentary by Muḥammad Ibn Abī Bakr al-Damāmīnī (circa 1362–1424) on the Tashīl al-fawā'id (Simplification of the facts), a grammatical work of the famous Abū ʻAbd Allāh Djamāl Al-Dīn Muhammad, known as Ibn Malik (circa 1204–74). The manuscript is written in a tight Naskh hand and the wide margins have numerous annotations. The codex appears to have been used by Eli Smith (1801–57), an American missionary and one of the Protestant translators of the Bible into Arabic, who worked in Beirut in ...
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 ...
Manuscript of Swordsmiths' Signatures and Sword Connoisseurship
This document is the oldest existing manuscript relating to swordsmiths in Japan. The text contains a description of the year 1316, which indicates that the original was written in the late Kamakura period. However, the postscript gives the date as December 21, 1423, which means this is a copy made in the Muromachi period. The document gives a genealogy of swordsmiths from the most ancient of times to the late Kamakura period, and describes the swordsmiths of the day. The section of the manuscript entitled Kokon shokoku kaji no mei ...
The name commonly given to this work, Biblia pauperum (Paupers' Bible), does not reflect the true importance of this outstanding manuscript, which might be said to contain the summa of the religious knowledge of its time. The work was commissioned, together with another remarkable manuscript of the Rule of Saint Benedict, by Abbot Petrus I of the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria and was completed in 1414–15. To carry out his demanding program of manuscript creation, the abbot engaged artists of note, who were well versed in the ...
The Rule of Saint Benedict, from the Abbey of Metten
Together with the Biblia pauperum (Paupers' Bible), Abbot Petrus I of the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria commissioned another outstanding manuscript, known as the Mettener Regel (literally, The Metten Rule, referring to the rule of Saint Benedict as practiced at the Abbey of Metten) in both Latin and German versions. The abbot had the illuminators, whose style, as in the Biblia pauperum, shows signs of Bohemian influence, paint in color scenes from the life of Saint Benedict at the openings of the chapters. The model for the work was ...