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Catalogue: Pharmaceutics

Blue arrow pointing to the right Kitāb al-Aqrābādhīn   (MS A 3/II, item 2)
(Book on Compound Remedies)
كتاب الاقراباذين
by Abū Bakr āmid Ibn Samajūn (2nd half of 10th century)
ابو بكر حامد ابن سمجون

Ibn Samajūn, working in Spain in the second half of the tenth century, composed an Arabic formulary that, until the manuscript at NLM was discovered, was thought to be lost. The 13th-century physician and historian, Ibn Abi Usaybi‘ah (our only source of biographical information regarding Ibn Samajūn), records a formulary by the title Kitāb al-Aqrābādhīn as one of the two compositions of Ibn Samajūn (see IAU, vol. 2, p. 52 line 6). Extracts from this formulary are preserved in NLM MS A 3/II, item 2, where the unnamed compiler states that he found these recipes in Ibn Samajūn's Kitāb al-Aqrābādhīn (Book on Compound Remedies).

The treatise begins with recipes useful for forgetfulness (which was the topic of the preceding item in the volume). Subsequent recipes are said to be useful for a wider range of ailments, though complaints of the head and brain dominate.

Ibn Samajūn is primarily known for an important compendium on materia medica titled al-Jami‘ li-aqwal al-qudama' wa-al-muhdathin min al-atibba' wa-al-mutafalsifin fi l-adwiyah al-mufradah (The Compendium on Simple Drugs with Statements of Ancient and Modern Physicians and Philosophers). In it, the medicinal substances are presented in alphabetical order, and the treatise is notable for the large number of authorities quoted by the author.

No other copies of this formulary are recorded. For copies of the treatise on material medica by Ibn Samajūn, see Ullmann, Medizin, p. 267 note 4; Sezgin, GAS III pp. 316-317 and GAS VII p. 388; and Paul Kahle, ‘Ibn Samajūn und sein Drogenbuch. Ein Kapitel aus den Anfängen der arabischen Medizin', pp. 25-44 in Documenta Islamica Inedita (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1952). A facsmile of portions five manuscripts containing the treatise on material medica (Oxford, Bodleian, MS Hunt. 159, MS Bruce 47 and MS Bruce 48, London, British Library OIOC, MS Or. 11614, and Istanbul, Topkapi Sarayi, Ahmet III MS 2121) was published in four volumes in 1992 (Frankfurt: Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science, Series C, Facsimile Editions vol. 54, 1-4).

Kitāb al-Aqrābādhīn [extracts from] MS A 3/II, item 2


Folio 4b of MS A 3/II which begins Kitāb al-Aqrābādhīn (Book on Compound Remedies) by Abū Bakr Ḥāmid Ibn Samajūn. The opaque fibrous biscuit paper is water damaged near the edges. The text is written in a medium-small, compact naskh script. There is a note in the top right corner margin of the folio.
MS A 3/II, fol. 4b [old 3b]

The beginning of a collection of drug recipes extracted from the Aqrābādhīn (Formulary) of Ibn Samajūn, who worked in Spain in the 2nd half of the 10th century. In the margin and across the top, a later owner has cited related material from the treatise on simple and compound remedies titled Minhāj al-Bayān by Ibn Jazlah (d. 1100/493). Undated copy, probably 13th-14th century.

Physical Description

Arabic. 2 fols. (fols. 4b [old 3b] to 7a [old 6a]). The text ends at line 14 of fol. 7a. Dimensions 17.2 x 13.1 (approx. text area 16 x 11) cm; 17-20 lines per page. No title is given. The compiler of the recipes is not named. Ibn Samajūn is named throughout the text, and on fol. 4b [old 3b], line 1 illus, the anonymous compiler states that they are extracted from Ibn Samajūn's Aqrābādhīn.

The copy is undated and unsigned. The appearance of the paper, script, and ink suggests a date of the 13th or 14th centuries.

The text is written in a medium-small, compact naskh script, possibly by a different (though closely related) hand from the first item in the volume. The hand appears to change slightly in the middle of fol. 5a [old 4a]. The text area has not been frame-ruled and the lines are irregularly positioned. It is written in brown-black ink. Many of the diacritical dots are missing.

On fol. 4b [old 3b] there is a marginal note that extends across the top of the page and onto the top of fol. 5a [old 4a]. In it the writer cites the treatise on simple and compound remedies, Minhāj al-Bayān, by Ibn Jazlah, who died in 1100/493. There are additional marginalia on fols. 5a, 5b and 6b and some interlinear annotations.

The opaque fibrous biscuit paper has no laid lines or chain lines. It is water damaged, especially near the edges, and there are areas within the text area that are damaged and illegible. The folios have been trimmed from their original size, occasionally cutting off parts of the marginalia.

The volume consists of 8 folios and one end leaf. There is an earlier foliation in Arabic numerals which omits to number the first folio and places Arabic numerals 1-7 on what are fols. 2-8 in the recent foliation. Item 1 (fols. 1a-4a [old [1]a-3a]) is the al-Risālah al-Shāfiyah fi adwiyat al-nisyān by Isāq ibn unayn (MS A 3/II, item 1); item 2 (fols. 4b-7a line 14 [old 3b-6a]) is the item here catalogued; and item 3 (fols. 7a-8b [old 6b-7b]) is the treatise on weakness of vision by Ibn Wāfid al-Lakhmīs (MS A 3/II, item 3). In the middle of fol. 8b [old 7b] there are four lines of poetry written upside down by an unnamed owner. No author is given for this poem, written in mutaqarib meter, but in various collections of poetry it is attributed to the religious and legal scholar al-Shafi‘i (d. 820/204) after whom one of the major legal schools was named, and other religious scholars; see for example al-Safadi, al-Ghawth al-musajjam (Beirut, 1975) vol. 2, p. 53. See also, E. Savage-Smith, 'Between Reader and Text: Some Medieval Arabic Marginalia', in Writing in the Margin: A Context for the Development of Scientific Ideas, from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, ed. by Charles Burnett and Danielle Jacquart (Paris: L'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes, in press).

The end leaf, of slightly different paper, has casually written notes, the first being eight lines, with some words marked out, on an unidentified topic; beneath the eight lines a different hand has written an account (that extends to both sides of the leaf) of a procedure for making an effective purgative (tuhr) employing various earths; the account begins with the date (tarikh) of 8 Rajab 981 [= 3 November 1573].


The collection of three treatises is bound together with another manuscript, copied at the end of the 15th century which contain two items concerned with compound remedies. The 8 leaves of MS A 3/II had separate foliation in Arabic numerals and are considerably older that the manuscript with which it is bound; were the volume to be foliated straight through, then these eight leaves and one end leaf would be counted as fols. 70-78 of the bound volume.

The binding of the volume incorporates the covers from a 15th-century binding made in Egypt/Syria or possibly Persia. The central design of each cover is a scalloped mandorla. The points of the mandorla has extended gilt lines with tiny flower heads, and the edges of the mandorla have been painted gold and there are gold painted radiating lines. The field within the mandorla has a blind-stamped floral and leaf design. The frame consists of a single gold fillet with tiny gold flowerheads at the corners, enclosed by a blind-tooled frame composed of lines either side of a row of small circles. The spine and edges are brown leather replacements. The pastedowns and endpapers are modern. For an illustration of the back cover of the binding, see .


On fol. 8b [old 8b] one al-ājj ‘Abd Allā al-‘Attar (the druggist) has added a note (upsidedown on the page) stating that the financial accounts for one asan al-Khanī were completed up to the end of the month Rabi‘ I in the year [-]39 (the century is not specified). A different later owner has (on the endleaf) dated a procedure for making an effective purgative the 8th of Rajab 981 [= 3 Novembr 1573].

The volume was purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library from A.S. Yahuda, who acquired it from a dealer in Mosul in Iraq (ELS no. 1750; Med. 51).


Schullian/Sommer, Cat. of incun. & MSS., entry A3, p. 298 (this item is not described).

NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-110 no. 3.

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