Canon Medicinae Avicenna

Ms. 2197 - Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Canon of Medicine, Kanon der Medizin

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Canon of Medicine
Kanon der Medizin

Type
Extent / Format

1,064 pages / 43.5 x 30.5 cm

Origin
Date
First half of the 15th century
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Abû Ali al Husaya Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) (980-1037)

Illustrations

10 full-page miniatures and 498 pages with floral and animal motifs

Short description

The so-called Canon Medicinae is a Hebrew translation of the Arabic medical standard work. The original text was written ca. 1000 by the Persian polymath Abū Alī al-Husain ibn Abdullāh ibn Sīnā and remained a standard work of medicine until the 17th century.
The edition at hand is a Hebrew translation of the masterpiece, which was made in Italy sometimes in the first half of the 15th century. It is the most beautiful, unbelievably-charmingly-illustrated edition of this historically significant manuscript.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Canon Medicinae

The science of medicine has been practiced since the beginning of time and is constantly modernized with new findings. A whole series of medical manuscripts have been handed down to us, whose origins can sometimes be placed in antiquity. A handwritten codex, which is concerned with practical medicine, has had an immeasurable influence on the modern medicine of our time. It is the so-called Canon Medicinae, a medicinal treatise from the Middle East. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, this historically significant texg was a standard work of medical training up until the 17th century. It was translated into Latin in the early 15th century and has been innumerably reproduced. Some editions of the medical treatise were furnished with captivating, colorful miniatures. In the first half of the 15th century, unbelievably talented artists in Italy made what is probably the most beautiful edition thereof.

A Persian Renaissance Man

The Canon Medicinae is the most famous work by Avicenna (Latinized), a Persian doctor, physicist, philosopher, poet, lawyer, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and music theorist. His full name is Abū Alī al-Husain ibn Abdullāh ibn Sīnā and he came from the historical region of Greater Khorasan, a region in Central Asia between northeast Iran and northwest Afghanistan in the area of the modern states of Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Avicenna lived sometime between 980 and 1037 and is counted among the most famous personalities of his time. He measurably influenced the history and development of medicine in particular. A few of his philosophical treatises were later adopted by mystics of Sufiism. In the 12th century, the Canon Medicinae was first translated from Arabic into Latin by Gerhard of Cremona **. The work, which already existed throughout the occident in some 15-20 Latin editions since 1470, **was considered to be the most important medical textbook up until the 17th century.

The Standard Work of Medicine

The comprehensive manuscript is strictly divided into five groups of text. The sections address, in the following order, the general principles (theory of medicine), the alphabetical listing of medicines (remedies and their mode of action), illnesses, which only effect specific organs (pathology and therapy), illnesses, which spread to the entire body (surgery and general medicine), as well as the production of remedies (list of antidotes). In his work, Avicenna presented diagnoses, which dealt with the treatment of infectious and non-infectious diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis, clarified the influence of the climate and the environment on one’s health, correctly described the anatomy of the eyeball, and gave information about various medicines and anesthetics. Avicenna was not only the first scholar to establish rules for how a new medicine was to be tested before it was administered to a patient, he was the first to uncover the connection between the emotions of a person and their physical health**, and stumbled upon the positive physical and psychological effects of music on patients. His service to modern medicine in this work is incomparable with any other.

A Rich Image Program

The edition before us of the comprehensive medical handbook was made during the first half of the 15th century in Italy. Unbelievably talented illuminators, who remain anonymous to this day, furnished the codex with a incredibly diverse image program. Ten pages of the manuscript are completely illuminated. They show scenes of various medical treatments, as performed by people in Italian garments and in typically Italian houses. The full-page miniatures are framed by fantastical, diversely-patterned bordure depictions in all forms and colors with richly-applied gold leaf. The elaborate book adornment continues across 498 pages of the manuscript. Small miniatures depicting motifs of plants and animals illustrate the informative medical text, which did not lose its significance for centuries.

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