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 In the 1930s, centuries after the Materia medica had been superseded as a medical manual, Arthur Hill, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, saw an elderly monk with his treasured copy of it on Mount Athos.


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


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