The author of the present manuscript, who is often referred to as al-Sayyid Isma`il, was a nobleman and a famous physician. He moved to Khwarazm, the fertile irrigated region along the lower Oxus River, in 1110 AD. He was quickly attached to the court of the ruler Qutb al-Din Muhammad (r.1097-1127), for whom the Zakhira was written. After a lengthy sojourn in Khwarazm, during which he served Qutb al-Din's successor Ala al-Din Atsiz, he moved to Merv, where he died in 1136 AD.
According to the author's introduction, he wrote the Zakhira to supply a need in the world of medical literature which he himself had experienced as a student - the lack of a comprehensive encyclopaedia which included every aspect of medical science and which would save the student and experienced physician the time of referring to myriad more specialised works. At 450,000 words, the Zakhira was designed to do just that. The work contains 1213 chapters (`Bab') written in ten books (the second and third of which comprise the present text). Each book is prefaced with a list and summary of the chapter titles and contents.
The significance of the Zakhira to the history of Islamic medicine, and more specifically to the history of Persian medicine, was that despite the fact that some of the most illustrious Islamic medical scholars of the early mediaeval period were of Iranian birth (including the apotheosis of them all - Ibn Sina) they had all written their primary texts in Arabic, the language of conquerers and rulers of the Abbasid caliphate. Al-Jurjani, however, wrote the Zakhira in Persian, his own native language and the language of Khwarazmshahs for whom he wrote the original. Although the text was translated into Arabic (as well as Turkish and Hebrew), the present copy is in Persian.
The two earliest copies of this text, dated 603 AH/1206 AD (of which a facsimile was produced by Ali Akbar Saidi, see E.IR., Vol.VI, p.609) and 664-8 AH/1206 AD respectively are in the Oriental Public Library, Bankipore, India (see C.A. Storey, Persian Literature, a Bio-Bibliographical Survey, Vol.II, Part 2, London, 1971). A further copy of the work was sold in these rooms 14 October 1999, lot 21, whilst another copy from the collection of Djafar Ghazi was sold at Christie's London, 13 April 2010, lot 177.
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