Materia medica (Materials of Medicine)

The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides has been called the father of pharmacology. His Materia medica describes around seven hundred plants and a thousand drugs, and arranges them according to their medicinal properties and physiological effects. It was translated several times into Arabic. This thirteenth-century manuscript is, like many copies of the Materia medica, richly illustrated, suggesting that Dioscorides’ original text had been accompanied by images. As an authority on Mediterranean flora Dioscorides had a remarkably durable afterlife. In the 1930s, centuries after the Materia medica had been superseded as a medical manual, Arthur Hill, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, saw an elderly monk with his treasured copy of it on Mount Athos.

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Translated from the Greek by Istafān ibn Bāsil, revised by Hunayn ibn Ishāq al-ʿIbādī (d. 873 or 877)

Miniatures

In Arabic; 209 leaves, 246 x 166 mm

Nineteenth-century European rebinding incorporating earlier boards: dark red goatskin with blind-stamped centrepiece, blind and gold tooling; remains of original fore edge flap