Book on the Soul

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn al-Sayigh, better known as Ibn Bajjah or by his Latinized name, Avempace (circa 1095–1138 AD), was an Andalusian Muslim polymath, who was born in Zaragoza, Spain, and died in Fes, Morocco. He was also a politician and served as a vizier (minister) for the Almoravids, the Islamic rulers of southern Spain and North Africa circa 1062–1150. Ibn Bajjah is best known for being the first commentator on Aristotle in Spain and is one of the earliest known representatives of the Spanish Arabic Aristotelian-Neoplatonic philosophical tradition. He wrote extensively on a wide range of topics, including astronomy, logic, philosophy, music, botany, medicine, psychology, and poetry. Kitab al-Nafs (Book on the soul) is a philosophical treatise focused on psychology and principles of logic and reason. Although the treatise draws parallels with, and is often compared to, Aristotle’s De Anima (On the soul), it is not an explicit commentary on that work. Ibn Bajjah was an influence on Ibn Rushd (also called by the Latinized name, Averroes, 1126–98 AD), the Andalusian philosopher known as “the Commentator on Aristotle.”

Lives of the Physicians

Muaffaq-addin Abu Al-Abbas Ahmad Ibn Al-Qasim Ibn Khalifa Al-Khazraji, better known as Ibn Abī Usaybiah (died circa 1269 AD), was an Arab physician and historian, who was born in Damascus, Syria. The son of an oculist, he studied medicine in Syria as well as in Egypt. Uyūn ul-Anbā fī Ṭabaqāt ul-Aṭibbā (Lives of the physicians) is an encyclopedia containing biographies of known Greek, Roman, Indian and Muslim physicians from ancient times to around 1245 AD. The work is divided into 15 chapters, the first of which is a general treatment of the medical profession. Ibn Abī Usaybiah lists some of the moral qualities required of physicians, such as complete discretion, intelligence, sound personal ethical standards, and the like. The remaining chapters of the book identify and classify physicians, such as the Persian polymath Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (commonly known as Rhazes), and philosophers not primarily thought of as physicians, such as Aristotle and Pythagoras.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami, better known as Omar Khayyam (1048–1131 AD), was a Persian Muslim mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet, whose interests also included music, mechanics, and geography. He was born and died in Nishapur, Iran, where he taught the philosophical theories of Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna, 980–1037), among other disciplines. Although Khayyam is known to later generations mainly as a poet, his work on algebra, mathematics, and calendar reform were of great importance. Khayyam is known for his rubaiyat (quatrains), which are two-line stanzas with two parts. The term “rubaiyat” is derived from the Arabic root of the word “four.” Shown here is a collection of Khayyam’s quatrains, the interpretation of which has been a contentious issue. While some see the work as a call to enjoy and celebrate life, others view it in a mystical context. Still others contend that it reinforces pessimism and nihilism. These interpretations have been greatly influenced by the varying translations of the collection. The exact number of Khayyam’s quatrains is unknown, as many are thought to have been added to the original collection by later poets. Still, some 1,200 to 2,000 quatrains have been attributed to Omar Khayyam.

The Method of Medicine

Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi (also known by his Latinized name Albucasis, circa 936–1013 AD) was an Andalusian Muslim surgeon, who was born in El Zahra (known today as Medina Azahara), near Cordoba, Spain. He is considered by some to be the father of modern surgery and is best known for his medical encyclopedia Al-tasreef liman ajiza an al-taaleef (The method of medicine). This work became a standard text in Europe for five centuries under its Latin title, Liber Alsaharavi de cirugia, after it was translated from the Arabic in the mid–late 12th century by Gerard of Cremona. The encyclopedia consists of 30 chapters or treatises, which cover such topics as the doctor–patient relationship, various areas of medical specialization, nutrition, the link between diet and disease, diagnosis by examination, pharmacology, and classification of diseases and their symptoms. The last section deals with surgery, and in it, al-Zahrawi argues that the surgeon requires knowledge from all other medical areas before operating. The book also contains diagrams and illustrations of the medical and dental tools that al-Zahrawi used, some of which he himself devised.

Razi's Philosophical Treatises with Surviving Pieces from His Lost Books

One of the earliest pioneers in the history of medicine, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (also known by the Latinized version of his name, Rhazes or Rasis, 865–925 AD, 251–313 AH) 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. This work is a selection of Al-Razi’s philosophical treatises. It discusses topics that include spiritual healing, metaphysics, divine knowledge, and concepts of time and place.

The Book of Compilation

Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi (also known by his Latinized name, Alpharabius, circa 870–950 AD) was a Muslim philosopher and scientist, who also had interests in political philosophy, logic, cosmology, music, and psychology. Although his origin is unconfirmed, it is generally agreed that al-Farabi was of Persian origin and that he was born either in Faryab in present-day Afghanistan or in Farab in present-day Kazakhstan. He was called the “Second Teacher,” a deferential reference suggesting he was second in philosophy only to Aristotle. Shown here is Kitab Al-majmu' (Book of compilation), which describes Al-Farabi’s philosophical views and reflects his meticulous studies of ancient philosophy. It comprises eight treatises dealing with Greek (Plato and Aristotle) and Islamic philosophy, in addition to Islamic mysticism. It is said that this work of Al-Farabi’s helped Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980–1037) to master Aristotle’s metaphysics.

A Map of the World

While under nearly two centuries of restricted foreign contact during the Edo period (1600-1868), the Japanese people still maintained a curiosity in foreign cultures. World maps in particular are indications of how the Japanese perceived their country and its position in the international community. Many were published in the port city of Yokohama and popularized for both informational and entertainment purposes. This map, a woodcut dating from the second half of the 19th century, depicts an enormous archipelago representing Japan at the center of the world. Images of a Russian soldier and an American soldier and the brief history of each country are placed in insets. Different kinds of ships dot the seas. The map is also accompanied by a table showing the distance from Nagasaki to various foreign countries, such as China, India, and the Netherlands. On the bottom right are the names of feudal lords who were assigned the duties of guarding the coast.

Kuropatkin on His Knees amid Ruined Battleships Appealing to Saint Andrew, the Patron Saint of Russia, Who Is Holding a Large Sword and Shield

The Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) was documented in various forms of media, such as woodblock prints, photographs, and illustrations. The victories of the Japanese military in the early stages of the war inspired propaganda prints by Japanese artists. Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915) contributed this farcical single-sheet print to the series, Nihon banzai hyakusen hyakushō (Long live Japan: 100 victories, 100 laughs). Kiyochika, known for producing woodblock prints using Western painting methods, had been under the brief tutelage of Charles Wirgman (1832–91), an English cartoonist for the Illustrated London News. Kiyochika also became a full-time political cartoonist for a Japanese magazine in 1882–93. The satirical writer Honekawa Dojin (pseudonym of Nishimori Takeki, 1862–1913) supplied each illustration with an accompanying humorous description. The narrative of this print is in the form of a conversation between General Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin, the Russian Imperial Minister of War, and Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Russia, who reprimands the general for bringing back a fleet full of holes.

The Tale of the Rooster

The Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) was documented in various forms of media, such as woodblock prints, photographs, and illustrations. The victories of the Japanese military in the early stages of the war inspired propaganda prints by Japanese artists. This print forms part of the series, Rokoku seibatsu senshō shōwa (The expeditionary war against Russia: tales of laughter). The illustrator is Utagawa Kokunimasa, also known as Baidō Bōsai or Utagawa Kunimasa V (1874–1944). The satirical writer Honekawa Dojin (pseudonym of Nishimori Takeki, 1862–1913) supplied each illustration with an accompanying humorous description. The series mocked the Russians for their perceived military weakness, conceit, and cowardice. The text is littered with puns that play on Chinese characters that indicate negative meaning, such as death and suffering, or names of battle locations. In this print published in 1904, three Russian soldiers are shown by a campfire with a rooster, their tents in the background. They discuss the military strength of Japan using various references to birds.


After nearly two centuries of restricted foreign contact, Japan was increasingly exposed to Western culture in the 1850s, as new trade agreements prompted cross-cultural interaction. The influx of unfamiliar technology and customs incited anxiety as well as awe among the Japanese populace, and their strong curiosity is evident in the detailed depictions of foreign subjects by ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) artists. Hiroshige II (circa 1826–69) was the pupil and adopted son of the great landscape master, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), and produced this work in 1860. In this print, a woman representing America is shown wearing a feathered headdress and riding sidesaddle on a horse in a snowy landscape.