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Medieval Medical Recipes : Rāzī, Liber Almansoris

Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyā Rāzī

Medieval Medical Recipes

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript contains a very early copy of a Latin translation of the <i>Liber Almansoris</i> (Kitāb al-Manṣūrī) (The Book of Medicine dedicated to Manṣūr) by Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyā Rāzī (sometimes written as al-Razi, Rases or Rhazes). Rāzī was a doctor, alchemist, and philosopher who was born in the late 9th century in the city of Ray, part of modern-day Tehran. After studying and practicing medicine in Baghdad, Rāzī was invited back to Ray to be the director of its hospital by Prince Mansur ibn Ishaq, the city's governor. Rāzī dedicated two of his books to Prince Mansur ibn Ishaq, the <i>Kitab al-Tibb ar-Ruhani</i> (The Book of Spiritual Medicine) and the <i>Kitāb al-Manṣūrī</i> or <i>Liber Almansoris</i>, i.e., The Book of Medicine dedicated to Manṣūr. The latter was one of Rāzī's earlier works, and it is essentially a medical textbook for students studying medicine: it is divided into ten books on topics such as diagnostics, physiognomy and surgery. The ninth book often circulated independently as the <i>Liber Nonus</i>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Rāzī's <i>Kitāb al-Manṣūrī</i> was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187), probably c. 1180. The demand for access to Arabic medical texts in the medieval west is attested by the activities of such translators as Gerard of Cremona and Constantinus Africanus, who between them produced Latin versions of works by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ishaq Ibn Suleiman (Isaac Iudaeus), Hunayn ibn Ishaq al-'Ibadi (Iohannitus), Ibn Wafid (Albenguefit), al-Farghani (Alfraganus), al-Haytham (Alhazen) and others. The <i>Liber Almansoris</i> remained a popular medical text into the early modern period: for example, the Dutch physician and anatomist Andreas Vesalius wrote his doctoral thesis on the ninth book. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Based on the style of handwriting and decoration, the production of this manuscript has been dated to around the late 12th or early 13th centuries: so, very soon after Gerard's death in 1187. It is not known for whom the manuscript was originally made, whether an individual or a religious house. The manuscript may be English, though Michael Gullick proposed that it was made in France (personal communication to Jayne Ringrose, recorded in the departmental running files at Cambridge University Library). According to Danielle Jacquart, however, the style of translation found in this manuscript differs from that in other works translated by Gerard. This not only prompts doubts about the authenticity of the attribution in this instance, but raises the possibility that the manuscript may have been made at an even earlier date. This is significant in the context of other surviving copies of this work. According to one description of this manuscript (Sotheby's, 6 December 1993), manuscripts of the complete corpus of ten books of the <i>Liber Almansoris</i> are rare, with only a single manuscript of English origin known (Worcester Cathedral, MS Q.60), which dates to the early thirteenth century. Only one copy was recorded in the early fourteenth-century <i>Registrum Anglie</i>, at St Albans, but this is not that manuscript (see Rouse and Rouse (1991)). Lynn Thorndike and Pearl Kibre recorded around a dozen manuscripts of continental origin, and none earlier than the thirteenth century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The earliest, though incomplete, evidence of the manuscript's provenance is found on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(10);return false;'>one of the endleaves</a> at the front of the manuscript. An inscription by a fourteenth-century hand at the top of the page reads 'Liber colegii de [...]', pointing to the possession of the manuscript by a college at one of the universities. The removal of the following word makes a conclusive identification impossible, however it may be that the manuscript belonged to Clare College (then known as Clare Hall): a 'Librum Rasis in Almasorio' is recorded alongside three other books in the 'Master's Old Book' (now Clare College Archives, C, 1/7, p. 17) as having been given to the college by William de Acton/Aketon (d. by Feb. 1391). Linda Voigts has noted that the mnemonic verse in the margin of f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(385);return false;'>188r</a>, in a section of the text dealing with uroscopy, may be by the hand of Roger Marchall (fl. 1436-1477), doctor of medicine, and physician to King Edward IV whose handwriting appears in a number of medical manuscripts now in the possession of various Cambridge Colleges, but that there is no other evidence of his participation in this manuscript.</p>Dr Sarah Gilbert<br /> Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries Project Cataloguer<br /> Cambridge University Library<br /> and<br /> Dr James Freeman<br /> Medieval Manuscripts Specialist<br /> Cambridge University Library

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