A Collection Dealing with the Medical Profession


The manuscript presented here comprises seven different texts dealing with medicine, particularly the profession of medicine. The texts begin with an urjuzah (type of Arabic poem) by Persian polymath Abu ʻAli al-Husayn Ibn Sina (known in the Latin West as Avicena, 980–1037) on the effect of the seasons on health. This is followed by an alphabetically-grouped glossary of medicinal terms, and an alphabetically-grouped glossary of weights and measures, both taken from Minhāj al-dukkān wa-dustūr al-aʻyān (On keeping shop: a guidebook for preparing orders) by Dawud ibn Abi Nasr al-Attar al-Haruni (active 13th century). The fourth text, on the digestive system and bodily liquids, is by ʻIsa ibn Yahya al-Masihi (died 1010 or 1011), a Christian Persian physician from Gorgan (in present-day Iran) and the teacher of Ibn Sina. The essay is likely taken from al-Masihi’s Kitab al-Miʼa fī al-ṭibb (100 essays on medicine). The fifth text is Kitāb burʼ al-sāʻa (The book of instant recovery) by prominent physician Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (circa 865‒circa 925). The work consists of 24 short sections, which list the remedies for afflictions ranging from epilepsy to scorpion stings. The sixth text, a general-use medical manual entitled Nuzhat al-adhhān fī iṣlāḥ al-abdān (The excursion of the mind in the fixing of bodies), is by Daʼud ibn ʻUmar al-Antaki (died 1599), a leading physician and pharmacist who was born in Antioch and served as a chief physician in Cairo. The final text is a manual in question-and-answer form on human anatomy, diseases, nutrition, hygiene, medications, and other topics. It is attributed to Abu Nasr ibn al-Masihi (died 1223) who was the physician of Abbasid caliph al-Nasir (reigned 1180–1225). Three of the medical texts were copied between 1663 and 1670, with one colophon revealing that a physician named Zain al-Din al-Tabib copied the text in Dar al-shifaʼ (House of healing), a medieval hospital in Cairo. This, together with the copious notes on some of the marginal texts, suggests the collection might have been a medical reference book used by Zain al-Din and other physicians in the hospital.

Last updated: November 6, 2017