The Exquisite Book on Effective Spices


This 17th-century manuscript by Zawraq al-Maghribī is a treatise on the uses of herbs and animal body parts. Based on the teaching legacy of his father, Ḥafṣ Īsā ibn Husayn, the author states that he personally has tested all the information contained in the book. The work is divided into 12 sections, methodically arranged with reference to the human body, literally from head to toe. Chapter 1 covers headaches; Chapter 2, the digestive tract and the chest; Chapter 3, the stomach, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder; Chapter 4, the stomach and intestines, including the use of laxatives; Chapter 5, the reproductive organs; Chapter 6, joints; Chapter 7, wounds and infections; Chapter 8, chronic diseases; Chapter 9, various fevers; Chapter 10, poisoning; Chapter 11, talismans; and Chapter 12, assorted topics. The author states that he prefers the use of science and experimentation to the casting of spells, not because belief in spells may be baseless, but because mistakes may be made in calculating auspicious times and other problems associated with their use. He thus combines discussion of magical talismans, incantations, and the like with his discussion of empirical observations, an aspect of the text makes it of the utmost interest to the historian of science. Completed on Monday 20, Muharram, AH 1073 (September 4, 1662), the manuscript is dedicated to Dawūd ibn Malik Mansūr, a local ruler. The manuscript is in two hands. The first runs through folio 58; a second hand begins on folio 59 and continues through 63; the first hand resumes on 64 and continues to 82; the second hand resumes on 83 and continues to the end of the work.

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Title in Original Language

الدرة المنتخبة فى الادوية المجرب

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Physical Description

13.5 x 18.5 centimeters with a 10 x 14 centimeter text block of 17 lines. 126 leaves with red text on the title page and black main text and subtitles in red. Contains tables. Modern binding from linoleum and cardboard. Pages show signs of humidity.

Last updated: November 8, 2013