As chief herbalist at the time of writing in 635 AH/1237-38 AD, the manuscript must have been produced under the patronage of al-Malik al-Kamil (r.1218-38 AD), rendering it a distinguished early copy, and to the best of our knowledge, the only known volume written in the hand of the author.
Probably one of the most important botanists and pharmacists of the Medieval Islamic period, Ibn al-Baytar was born in the late twelfth century in Malaga, Spain. He studied in Seville with Abu'l 'Abbas al-Nabati, Abdullah ibn Salih and Abu'l-Hajjaj, before travelling east across North Africa to Egypt, Syria and Anatolia, circa 1219 AD. While in Egypt he was appointed chief herbalist to the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-Kamil and later moved to Damascus, where he worked under the patronage of al-Malik al-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub (r.1240-49 AD). He died there in 1248 AD.
Ibn al-Baytar's two most famous texts are the Kitab al-jamiʿ li-mufradat al-adwiyah al-mufradah ('The Ultimate in Materia Medica') and Kitab al-jamiʿ li-mufradat al-adwiyah wa'l-aghdhiyah ('The Compendium on Simple Drugs and Foodstuffs'). 'The Compendium on Simple Drugs and Foodstuffs' is an influential manual on medicine and botany and the first major text written by al-Baytar. The Compendium lists over 1,400 medicaments and foodstuffs, all collated – as mentioned in its preface- from more than two hundred and sixty previous medical and botanical authorities. This text was an abridgment of all the previous medical texts and remained one of the principal sources of botanical and pharmaceutical knowledge in Medieval times.
'Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn al-Baytar, second only to Dioscorides in the universality of his genius, but surpassing even that great man in his insatiable thirst for knowledge, had collected in his Jami' li-mufradat al-adwiyah wa'l-aghdhiyah all that the ancients knew of plants and herbs, 1,400 items of samples, animal, vegetable and mineral, based on his own observations and on over 150 authorities. Ibn al-Baytar, devoting himself to botany and materia medica, produced a work which served as a guide in these sciences until a very late period. His descriptions of some of the more valuable drugs, such as myrrh, asafoetida, squill and their different preparations are deserving of great praise. The efficacy of several remedies which he recommends has been admirably confirmed by later experience, such as elm bark in skin diseases, male fern against worms and the use of infusion of the leaves of the willow tree to relieve pain in the joints. The compiler of the Grete Herball (printed by Peter Treveris at Southwark in 1526) noted that "the iuce of the leves of wilowe is good to delay the heate in fevers yf it be dronken"; if he could return now, and see the extent to which drugs based on salicin found in the willow leaves are used for this purpose and for the purpose of relief of pain he would feel that his statement had been confirmed to an extent of which he could scarcely have dreamed". (M.J.L. Young, J.D. Latham and R.B. Sergeant, Religion, Learning and Science in the Abbasid Period, The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, Cambridge, 1990, pp.362-3). Salicin, or salicilic acid, is the active ingredient in aspirin and other analgesics.
The present manuscript lists the remedies listed between the letter sin and qaf.
Although Kitab al-jamiʿ li-mufradat al-adwiyah wa'l-aghdhiyah is usually thought to have been dedicated to the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub (r.1240-49 AD), Emilie Savage-Smith has published a copy in the Bodleian Library bearing a colophon dated 612 AH/1215 AD (MS Huntingdon 432, previously misread as 812 AH/1312 AD), produced in Tabriz. This places its production well before al-Baytar left Spain for the Near East. The fact that already in 1215 AD copies were produced as far afield as in Persia indicates the enthusiasm for this work and its importance as one of the pillars of Medieval botany. Another four copies of Kitab al-jami li-mufradat al-adwiyah wa'l-aghdhiyah are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, whilst a further dated 925 AH/1519 AD is in the British Library (IO Islamic 1142). A copy dated 963 AH/1555-56 AD was sold in these rooms, 3 May 2001, lot 34. See also Brockelmann, GAL I. 492 and S.I 897.
This lot is accompanied with a carbon dating certificate confirming a thirteenth-century date of manufacture.
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