The Seven Books on the Therapeutic Method, Which Is the Art of Curing, by John of Damascus from the Decapolis, Major Medical Authority among the Arabs


Yúhānnā Ibn Serapion was a ninth-century Nestorian physician known in the West as Serapion. He wrote two medical compendia (al-kunnāsh, in Arabic) in his native language of Syriac, the first in seven sections (al-kunnāsh al-ṣaghīr) and the second in 12 sections (al-kunnāsh al-kabīr). The larger of the two compendia is preserved in Istanbul as MS Ayasofya 3716. The shorter work was translated into Arabic by the secretary Mūsā b. Ibrāhīm al-Ḥadīthī on behalf of the physician Abu ’l-Ḥasan b. Nafīs. Al-kunnāsh al-ṣaghīr was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona under the title Practica Joannis Serapionis aliter breviarium nuncupata. The Latin in turn was translated into Hebrew by Mōshē ben Mazliaḥ. The seven treatises of al-kunnāsh al-ṣaghīr deal with diseases of the body and nerves; diseases of eye, mouth, lung, breast and heart; diseases of stomach, intestines, and those caused by worms; diseases of liver, spleen, kidneys, and bladder, and gout; skin diseases, wounds caused by a bite, and gynecological diseases; fever; and composite medicines (aqrabādhīn). The Latin edition presented here is a paraphrase and adaptation of Gerard’s translation by Albano Torino (Alban Thorer, 1489–1550). Although it has seven parts, these parts do not correspond to those in the original. The first treatise, for example, is a collection of medical aphorisms, while the second deals with the various types of fevers. Appended to the main work is a Galen-inspired work by Albano Torino that provides an alphabetized list of pairs of medical ingredients that can be exchanged for each other when necessary. Al-kunnāsh al-ṣaghīr was printed in multiple Latin editions. It was published in Venice in 1479 under the title Breviarium medicinae and in Milan in 1473 and Venice in 1479 under the title Liber aggregatus in medicinis simplicibus. Albano Torino dedicates this edition to William IV, duke of Bavaria (died 1550). It was printed in Basel, in March 1543, in the shop of Heinrich Petri (Henricus Petrus, 1508–79).

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Heinrich Petri, Basel


Title in Original Language

Iani Damasceni Decapolitani summæ inter Arabes autoritatis medici, Therapeuticae methodi hoc est, curandi artis libri VII

Type of Item

Physical Description

516 pages ; 29 centimeters

Last updated: June 17, 2014