June 16, 2016

The Book of the Pillow on Medicine

Abu al-Mutarrif ʻAbd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad Ibn Wafid was an Andalusian physician and courtier who lived and worked in Toledo during the first half of the 11th century. In Kitāb al-wisād fī al-ṭibb (The book of the pillow on medicine), Ibn Wafid discusses the medicaments to be used for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including dizziness, swellings, boils and skin ulcers, paralysis, and tetanus. In his biography of Ibn Wafid, the 13th century physician Ibn Abi Usaybi‘ah wrote that Ibn Wafid devoted himself to the study of the works of Galen and Aristotle, thereby becoming the foremost expert on the topic of simple (as opposed to compound) drugs. The result of this research, which reportedly took 20 years to complete, was Ibn Wafid’s Kitāb fī al-adwīya al-mufrada (Book on simple medicines), which was translated into Latin in an abridged version by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century and is considered by some historians as a companion work to Kitāb al-wisād. In addition to these two titles, Ibn Abi Usaybi‘ah lists Tadqīq al-naẓar fī ‘ilal ḥassāt al-baṣar (Observations on the treatment of the illnesses of the eye) and Kitāb al-mughīth (Book on assistance), both of which have been lost, among the works by Ibn Wafid. Ibn Abi Usaybi‘ah also names Mujarrabāt fī al-ṭibb (Medical experiences) as another work by Ibn Wafid. The title suggests a lost book about medical treatments that have been tested and verified with regard to efficacy. It is possible, however, that Mujarrabāt is merely an alternate title for Kitāb al-wisād, as is suggested by the manuscript shown here, in which the word Mujarrabāt appears in the title page. Another work by Ibn Wafid, De balneis sermo—a book on balneology (the treatment of disease by bathing and medicinal springs)—survives only in Latin. The curious nature of the title Kitāb al-wisād fī al-ṭibb has prompted one modern historian to suggest a misreading of al-wisād for al-rashshād, thus proposing Kitāb al-rashshād fī al-ṭibb (The guide to medicine) as the correct title. The production of the manuscript appears to have experienced unforeseen difficulties, as the script becomes increasingly less legible near the end of the work. It concludes in a scrawling script in Persian, with the scribe stating his difficulties in obtaining reliable versions of the manuscript to conclude his work.

The Luminance of Explication and Mysteries of Proof in the Understanding of the Paradigms of the Science of Weights and Measures. Part Four

This alchemical manuscript consists of part of treatise three through treatise eight of the fourth part of Anwār al-bayān wa asrār al-burhān fī fahm awzān ʻilm al-mīzān (The luminance of explication and mysteries of proof in the understanding of the paradigms of the science of weights and measures). It was composed by the Persian alchemist Aidamur ibn ʻAli ibn Aidamur al-Jaldaki (also seen as al-Gildaki, died circa 1342). The author's name indicates that he was born in Jaldak, in present-day Afghanistan. Over the course of 17 years, al-Jaldaki traveled to Iraq, Asia Minor, West Africa, Egypt, Yemen, Hejaz, and Syria. These journeys are recounted in another of his works, Nihāyat al-ṭalab fī sharḥ kitāb al-muktasab (The limits of pursuit in regard to the explanation of the book of acquired [knowledge]). Al-Jaldaki is considered one of the last outstanding Islamic alchemists. The first part of his book concerns the relationship between the Creator and the created world, as well as the relationships between the higher and lower planes of existence in their various manifestations. This part also contains information on the relationship of metals to their corresponding planets and other chemical information. The second part is on ʻAli (the Prophet’s son-in-law and a central figure to the esoteric traditions of Islam) and the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana. The third part is a commentary on Nihāyat al-ṭalab wa aqṣā ghāyāt al-arab (The utmost pursuit and the remotest scheme) by the Persian-born Jabir ibn Hayyan (circa 737–circa 815). The fourth part of the work is described by the author as “On that which we have promised in our books and on what we have indicated … to those endowed with gnosis.” It treats alchemical topics such as the properties of metals and of their associated planets. The manuscript presented here includes a portion of the esoteric knowledge contained in this part of the work. It commences with the latter part of the third treatise (“On plants” and “On minerals”) and proceeds to the eighth treatise, which serves as the concluding section of the entire work and deals with the elixir of life. The manuscript was sumptuously produced and is illuminated throughout. The text is interspersed with esoteric alchemical symbols and contains an illustration of a laboratory apparatus. The space for several tables was left blank and never filled. The manuscript was created in 1797.

The Key to Ibn al-Nafis’s “al-Mūjiz”

Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Aqsaraʼi, a 14th century Shafiʻi scholar from Anatolia, wrote on a number of topics, including Sufism, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and tafsīr (exegesis). His Ḥall al-mūjiz fī al-ṭibb (The key to al-Mūjiz) is a medical work consisting of a commentary on al-Mūjiz by Ibn al-Nafis (circa 1210–88). Al-Mūjiz was the epitome or abstract written by Ibn al-Nafis on his own commentary of al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb (The canon of medicine) by Ibn Sina (i.e., Avicenna, 980–1037). Ibn al-Nafis’s work consists of four sections called fann (art). The first fann contains the principles of the theory and practice of medicine. The second fann is a study of materia medica and foods followed by a treatise on compound drugs. The third fann deals with diseases specific to each organ, as well as their causes, symptoms, and treatments. The last fann is on symptoms that are not specific to certain organs, such as fevers and swellings. Al-Aqsaraʼi’s commentary is interspersed within Ibn al-Nafis’s original text using the formula qala … aqul (“He has said … I say....”). In the introduction to his work, al-Aqsara’i credits a number of earlier authors as influences, including Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (circa 865–925), Ali ibn al-Abbas al-Majusi (died 994), and Najib al-Din al-Samarqandi (died 1222). In addition to al-Aqsara’i’s work, several other commentaries were written on Ibn al-Nafis’s epitome. Two well-known commentaries on the Epitome of Medicine are in the World Digital Library, Sharḥ al-mūjiz, by Sadid al-Din Kazaruni, and Ḥall al-mūjiz by Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Aqsara’i. The appellation al-Aqsara’i refers to the city of Aksaray (in present-day Turkey) and Jamal al-Din’s association with this city (perhaps as the place of birth). In his Hadiyyat al-‘ārifīn, Ismaʻil Basha Babani (died 1920 or 1921) states that al-Aqsara’i was a descendent of the great Persian philosopher Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (died 1210) and that he died in 771 AH (1369 –70); however, he died in 1389. The present manuscript is undated. It has sustained notable damage but has been expertly repaired and rebound. Copious marginal notes in Persian and Arabic, including many medicinal preparations, suggest that this manuscript served as a reference for practicing clinicians.

Epitome of Medicine

This manuscript is a copy of the well-known al-Mūjiz fī al-ṭibb (Epitome of medicine), by Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (better known as Ibn al-Nafis, 1210 or 1211‒88). Ibn al-Nafis studied medicine in Damascus but spent a great deal of his professional life in Cairo where he served, among other things, as the personal physician to the Mamluk ruler Baybars (circa 1223‒77). Credited as being the first to discover the pulmonary circulation of blood, Ibn al-Nafis wrote about his finding in his commentary on al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb (The canon of medicine) by Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980–1037), where he clearly described the passage of blood from the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery to the lungs and back to the left atrium via the pulmonary vein (in circa 1242). This observation was in contradiction to Galen, who had insisted on the passage of blood across the central membrane of the heart, the septum. Al-Mūjiz fī al-ṭibb is commonly thought to be an abstract of Ibn al-Nafis’s commentary on The Canon of Medicine, although it does not contain a reference to Ibn al-Nafis’s discovery. Al-Mūjiz fī al-ṭibb has the same structure as Ibn al-Nafis’s Sharḥ al-Qānūn (Commentary on the canon). Each work consists of four sections, with the first section containing the principles of the theory and practice of medicine; the second section a study of materia medica and foods, followed by a treatise on compound drugs; the third section treating diseases specific to each organ, as well as their causes, symptoms, and treatments; and the last section treating diseases that are not specific to certain organs, such as fevers. Ibn al-Nafis’s Epitome of Medicine was a popular text and was translated from Arabic into several other languages, including Turkish and Hebrew. It engendered a number of commentaries, including those by Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Suwaydi (1203 or 1204‒91), Jalal al-Din al-Qazwini (1267 or 1268‒1338), and Muzaffar al-Din Abu al-Thana Mahmud ibn Ahmad ’Ayntabi al-Amshati (1409‒96). Two well-known commentaries on the Epitome of Medicine are in the World Digital Library, Sharḥ al-mūjiz, by Sadid al-Din Kazaruni, and Ḥall al-mūjiz by Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Aqsara’i. Ibn al-Nafis was reputed to have relied on his own observations and deductions rather than on the authority of reference books. His discoveries regarding the circulatory system are perhaps even more remarkable by virtue of the fact that his personal beliefs made him averse to the dissection of animals. Parts of the present manuscript have been annotated heavily in Arabic. The end-leaf contains a sardonic Persian verse by an unknown scribe urging forbearance in the face of oppression.

The Book of Wealth and Wishes

Little is known about the life Abu Mansur al-Hasan ibn Nuh al-Qumri, a physician living in Bukhara during the reign of the Samanids, the Persian-speaking dynasty that ruled Central Asia and Iran from 819 to 999. Several modern historians have placed the year of Abu Mansur’s death at around 999. Ibn Abi Usaybiʻah, the 13th century physician and biographer, emphasizes the great importance and respect that was afforded to Abu Mansur during his lifetime and also implies that he served as court physician to several Samanid rulers. The celebrated philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037) was said to have sought Abu Mansur as a teacher of medicine. Abu Mansur’s medical text al-Ghinā wa al-munā (Wealth and wishes) is perhaps his most popular book and is often referred to by a variant title Kunnāsh Ḥasan or (in Persian) Kunnāsh-i Abū Manṣūr. The word kunnāsh refers to a genre of medical writing consisting of a compilation of medical theory and practice to be used by clinicians. Abu Mansur wrote al-Ghinā wa al-munā in three sections: the first on diseases “from the crown of the head to the feet” in 120 chapters; the second on external diseases and superficial conditions (such as those affecting the skin and hair) in 43 three chapters; and the third, on fevers, in 27 chapters. Abu Mansur and Ibn Abi Usaybiʻah both mention another medical work, the ʿIlal al-ʿilal (The causes of disease) that appears to be lost. The manuscript presented here is missing a considerable part of the original text, including the introduction and the colophon. It contains many marginal notes in Arabic and Persian, including medical preparations and corrections to the text, indicating that it was used by practicing clinicians. The surviving parts of the manuscript include portions of all three sections, although it is clear that the book lost its binding and was reassembled haphazardly after its useful life as a reference was over.

Kiowa Insults

The story presented here is from a compilation of Native American tales gathered by Hugh Lenox Scott (1853‒1934), a cavalry officer in the United States Army, who in 1892 was assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as commander of Troop L of the Seventh Cavalry, an all-Indian unit comprised of Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. A West Point graduate who served at various posts in the western United States between 1876 and 1897, Scott developed a great interest in the region’s indigenous populations and became an astute practitioner of Plains Indian sign language, a non-verbal method of communicating with hand signals. Familiarity with sign talk enabled Scott to undertake “an intensive study of every phase of the Indian and his customs.” In particular, he set about collecting stories from the Kiowa and other Native Americans who resided in the vicinity of Fort Sill. Many of the stories were gathered firsthand by Scott, while others were brought to him by Indians with whom he worked. Scott credits I-See-O (formerly Tah-bone-mah, died 1927) with actively searching out new stories. He “would sometimes be sent to outlying places where rumor pointed to another story—sometimes as far as 150 miles up the Washita . . . this went on until Isee-o said it was no use to search further for there were no more stories.” A combination of historical accounts, firsthand observations, and traditional fables, these stories, Scott wrote, “were the means by which their history, philosophy, and moral precepts were handed down to the younger generations by tales as old as the Kiowa tribe.” The stories are preserved in the Hugh Lenox Scott papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Scott led an eventful life that included, in addition to his service in the American West, stints as acting governor of Cuba, military governor of the Sulu Archipelago, Philippines, superintendent of West Point, and U.S. Army chief of staff. Upon his retirement from the army, Scott accepted an appointment to the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1919 to 1929. Details of his life can be found in a lengthy autobiography, Some Memories of a Soldier (1928).