The Book of Wealth and Wishes


Little is known about the life Abu Mansur al-Hasan ibn Nuh al-Qumri, a physician living in Bukhara during the reign of the Samanids, the Persian-speaking dynasty that ruled Central Asia and Iran from 819 to 999. Several modern historians have placed the year of Abu Mansur’s death at around 999. Ibn Abi Usaybiʻah, the 13th century physician and biographer, emphasizes the great importance and respect that was afforded to Abu Mansur during his lifetime and also implies that he served as court physician to several Samanid rulers. The celebrated philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037) was said to have sought Abu Mansur as a teacher of medicine. Abu Mansur’s medical text al-Ghinā wa al-munā (Wealth and wishes) is perhaps his most popular book and is often referred to by a variant title Kunnāsh Ḥasan or (in Persian) Kunnāsh-i Abū Manṣūr. The word kunnāsh refers to a genre of medical writing consisting of a compilation of medical theory and practice to be used by clinicians. Abu Mansur wrote al-Ghinā wa al-munā in three sections: the first on diseases “from the crown of the head to the feet” in 120 chapters; the second on external diseases and superficial conditions (such as those affecting the skin and hair) in 43 three chapters; and the third, on fevers, in 27 chapters. Abu Mansur and Ibn Abi Usaybiʻah both mention another medical work, the ʿIlal al-ʿilal (The causes of disease) that appears to be lost. The manuscript presented here is missing a considerable part of the original text, including the introduction and the colophon. It contains many marginal notes in Arabic and Persian, including medical preparations and corrections to the text, indicating that it was used by practicing clinicians. The surviving parts of the manuscript include portions of all three sections, although it is clear that the book lost its binding and was reassembled haphazardly after its useful life as a reference was over.

Last updated: June 16, 2016