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Catalogue: Alchemy

Blue arrow pointing to the right [Alchemical and Astrological Notes]   (MS A 87, item 1)

These are various anonymous and untitled alchemical and astrological notes. They concern a variety of topics, mostly alchemical with some astrological tables on fols. 2 and 3.

No other copy has been identified.

Physical Description

Arabic. 3 leaves (fols. 1a-3b). Dimensions 23.2 x 15.8 (text area ca. 21 x 14, variable) cm and 21.5 x 15.8 (text 20 x 14.5, variable); lines per page variable.

The copy is undated. The general appearance of the paper, ink, and script suggests a date of the 18th century.

The text is written is a very inelegant small naskh script with many ligatures, using black ink with some headings in red on the charts on fol. 2 and 3. The text is written at several different angles.

The ivory paper of fol. 1 is thick and stiff, with visible vertical laid lines and single chain lines and watermarked. It is dampstained and soiled through thumbing. Fols. 2 and 3 are of different paper from fol. 1 and from the paper used in most of the rest of the volume (but identical to that used for fols. 125-132); they are a slightly smaller size and the paper is brown and brittle with no chain lines.

The volume consists of 186 leaves. It is a mixed volume with 18 different items in it, copied by at least two different copyists. Item 1 (fols. 1a-3b) is an anonymous alchemical fragment here catalogued, item 2 (fols. 4a-54a) is the abridgement of a treatise called al-Bayān by Ibn Jazlah (MS A 87, item 2), and item 3 (fols. 54b-64b) extracts from al-Bayān [by Ibn Jazlah] (MS A 87, item 3). Item 4 (fols. 65b-68a) is an anonymous, untitled essay on stones (MS A 87, item 4), item 5 (fols. 68b-74a) an anonymous collection of therapeutic procedures (MS A 87, item 5), and item 6 (fols. 74a-75b) on regimen for infants, extracted from Kitāb al-Bayān [? Ibn Jazlah] (MS A 87, item 6). Item 7 (fols. 76a-96b) is the anonymous treatise on materia medica (MS A 87, item 7); item 8 (fols. 97a-100a) an anonymous tract on medicinal oils (MS A 87, item 8), and item 9 (fols. 100b-121a) a magical-medical treatise by Ibn Tūmart al-Maghribī (MS A 87, item 9). Item 10 (fols. 121b-125a) is an anonymous alphabetical list of medicaments (MS A 87, item 10), and item 11 (fols. 125b-140b) is the commentary on an identified "poem on the principles of the art of medicine" (MS A 87, item 11). Item 12 (fols. 140b-142a) contains selections from Kitāb al-āwī fī ‘ilm al-tadāwī by Najm al-Din al-Shirazi (MS A 87, item 12), and item 13 (fols. 142b-157b, 159a-172a) is an untitled anonymous treatise in five chapters on medicine, magic, and divination (MS A 87, item 13). Item 14 (fols. 172b-174a) is an anonymous tract on divination (MS A 87, item 14), item 15 (fols. 174b-175a) untitled extracts from medical writings (MS A 87, item 15), and item 16 (fols. 175a-181b) is an anonymous astrological treatise (MS A 87, item 16). Item 17 (fols. 182a-184b) is an anonymous treatise titled Dā'ir muibb fī ‘ilm al-ibb , on magical medicine (MS A 87, item 17), while the final item, item 18 (fols. 185a-186b), is an anonymous essay on the numerical values of letters and magic squares (MS A 87, item 18).


The volume is bound in pasteboards covered with brown leather, over which light-brown paper has been placed on the covers. There is a recent brown leather spine. The paper pastedowns are contemporary with the manuscript and are covered with miscellaneous notes.


There is an owner's signature dated 1268 [= 1851-2] on fol. 3b of the volume, and there are several owners' notes on fol. 4a, none apparently dated.

The volume was purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library from A.S. Yahuda, who acquired it from a dealer in Sanaa, the Yemen (ELS 2369).


Schullian/Sommer, Cat. of incun. & MSS., pp. 326-7 entry A87; this item not mentioned.

NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-129 no. 4

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