October 28, 2011

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.

The Full Moon and its Illumination of the Operations of the Sun and the Moon

The author or compiler of this manuscript, Alī ibn Sālim ibn Muhammad, introduces himself as a student of Dāwūd al-Antāki, and further attributes the text he is presenting to the famous eighth-century authority on science, Jābir Ibn Hayyān. The text is divided into three main sections followed by a conclusion. The first section is on mines, and discusses the association between various mines and celestial bodies. The second section covers stones; the third section discusses plants and herbs. There is an additional folio with some information not contained in the treatise itself. The present manuscript, completed in Dhu al-Qa’ida AH 1300 (September 1883), is not particularly old. The original manuscript had been in the library of Khedive Mustafa Pasha.

The Book on the Properties of Precious Gems

The title page identifies this manuscript as a copy of Kitab khawas al-jawāhir (The book on the properties of precious gems), written by Yaqūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī in the ninth century. The work has 25 chapters, which are titled “On the knowledge of gems in general,” “On knowledge of rubies,” “On knowledge of emeralds,” “On knowledge of lapis,” and so forth. Each of these chapters gives basic information about these precious stones and their properties, as understood at the time. Information on the pricing of gems and the location of mines adds to the appeal of the work. The manuscript also contains a separate work on minerals by al-Kindi entitled Kitāb fi al-ahjār (The book on stones).

Ixcatlán, Santa María, Mexico

This map from Ixcatlán, Santa María, in the present-day state of Oaxaca, Mexico, is from the Relaciones Geográficas collection in the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Dating from between 1578 and 1586, the Relaciones Geográficas are responses to a questionnaire initiated by the Spanish crown in 1577, requesting information about Spanish-held territories in the Americas. The questionnaires covered such topics as demographics, political administration, languages spoken, physical terrain, and vegetation. The crown received 191 responses to these questionnaires. Of the 167 responses known to exist, 43 are in the Benson Latin American Collection. The others are held at the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, and the Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid. The relaciones contain important historical, cultural, and geographical information about New Spain during the 16th century. Many of the questionnaires are accompanied by maps and pictures. These both convey information about such topics as the colonial economy and the spread of European religion in New Spain and are artifacts for the study of the history of Latin American art and manuscript painting. This map, dated October 13, 1579, has glosses in Spanish.

Cholula, Tlaxcala, Mexico

This map from Cholula in the present-day state of Puebla, Mexico, is from the Relaciones Geográficas collection in the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Dating from between 1578 and 1586, the Relaciones Geográficas are responses to a questionnaire initiated by the Spanish crown in 1577, requesting information about Spanish-held territories in the Americas. The questionnaires covered such topics as demographics, political administration, languages spoken, physical terrain, and vegetation. The crown received 191 responses to these questionnaires. Of the 167 responses known to exist, 43 are in the Benson Latin American Collection. The others are held at the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, and the Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid. The relaciones contain important historical, cultural, and geographical information about New Spain during the 16th century. Many of the questionnaires are accompanied by maps and pictures. These both convey information about such topics as the colonial economy and the spread of European religion in New Spain and are artifacts for the study of the history of Latin American art and manuscript painting. This map dates from 1581 and has glosses in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and in Spanish.

Welcome to Rainbow Springs

“Welcome to Rainbow Springs” is an example of the traditional tour guide performances delivered by guides at Florida’s natural springs, which were the first tourist attractions widely promoted in the state’s long history as a tourist destination. The speech is part welcome message, part folk song, and part tall tale, and demonstrates how African Americans were integral to the early tourist trade in Florida. The performance style is evocative of the minstrel songs and theatricals of earlier years. Rainbow Springs boat captain Skipper Lockett gives his recitation while conducting a glass bottom boat tour. This piece was recorded on May 4, 1956 by Foster Barnes of the Stephen Foster Center at the 1956 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs.