The Comprehensive Book on Medicine


One of the earliest pioneers in the history of medicine, Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyā al-Rāzī  (also known by the Latinized version of his name, Rhazes or Rasis, circa 865–circa 925) was a Muslim Persian polymath, physician, and philosopher. He was born in the city of Rayy, near present-day Tehran, Iran, and spent most of his life between his birthplace and Baghdad, the capital city of the Abbasid caliphate. He taught medicine and was the chief physician in both cities. He made major and lasting contributions to the fields of medicine, music, philosophy, and alchemy and was the author of more than 200 books and treatises. Kitāb al-Ḥāwī fi al-ṭibb (The comprehensive book on medicine), also known in Latin as Continens Liber and in English as The Virtuous Life, is a large medical encyclopedia. It contains notes on diseases, therapy, and pharmacology, as well as al-Razi's notebooks on his reading and his clinical observations. This copy is in a rather small naskh script and was made in about 1674 by the order of Sulaymān I, shah of Iran (reigned 1666–94), for his chief physician Muḥammad Riz̤ā Ḥakīm. Red ink is used in catchwords and headings, with small blue and gold titles on glazed paper. The manuscript was a gift of Harvey Cushing (1869–1939), a Yale-educated neurosurgeon, whose collection of rare medical books forms a key part of the Medical Historical Library in the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University.

Last updated: April 3, 2018