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Catalogue: Plague Tracts

Blue arrow pointing to the right Risālat al-Shifā’ li-adwā’ al-wabā’   (MS A 77)
(Healing with Plague Drugs)
رسالة الشفاء لادواء الوباء
by Abū al-Khayr ibn Muli al-Din Muafá āshköprüzāde (d. 1560/968)
ابو الخير ابن مصلح الدين مصطفى طاشكوبروزاده

This popular plague tract by āshköprüzāde is composed of an introduction (muqaddimah), two chapters (maslaks), a conclusion (khatimah) and an appendix (tadhyil). The introduction has four subdivisions (matlabs), and the appendix consists of six matlabs. Religious treatises and scholars are the primary source, but the third matlab of the appendix concerns the cause of plague (ta‘un) according to physicians. The final matlab of the appendix is on the treatment of plague and is divided into two maqsid: one on physical treatments and the other on spiritual treatment. For the latter, Abū al-‘Abbas Sharaf al-Dīn Amad al-Bunī is given as a major source, and there are a number of talismanic designs and magic squares illustrated.

The treatise ends with an enumeration, based on the account of the Basran compiler and historian Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī ibn Muammad al-Mada’inī (d. 843/228), of five instances of plagues in Islamic lands: (1) in al-Mada'in in the year 628/6, (2) in 'Amawas (or 'Amwas) in Syria between Ramalah and Jerusalem in the year 640/17-18, (3) the plague called the Plague of the Torrent occurring in Basra in 684/64 in which 300,000 people were said to die during three days, (4) the Plague of the Young Women occurring in 706/87 in Basra, Wasit and Kufah and Syria, and (5) a plague occurring in 749/131. For this chronology of plagues, see L.I. Conrad, "Arabic Plague Chronologies and Treatises: Social and historical factors in the formation of a literary genre," Studia Islamica, vol. 54, 1981, pp. 51-93.

For other copies, see Ullmann, Medizin, p. 249 note 3; GAL, vol. 2, p. 426 (561) no. 12; GAL-S, vol. 2, p. 634 no. 14; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Oriental Collections, MS Ouseley 106, item 1 (see Savage-Smith, "Bodleian"). The text has been printed in Cairo in 1875.

Risālat al-Shifā’ li-adwā’ al-wabā’   (MS A 77)


Folio 1b of Risālat al-Shifā’ li-adwā’ al-wabā’ , by Ṭāshköprüzāde. The thin, ivory, glossy paper has vertical laid lines and single chain lines. The text is written in a small naskh tending toward ta‘liq script (a Turkish hand) using black ink and purplish-red headings and overlinings.
MS A 77, fol. 1b

The opening of a treatise on the history and treatments of plague, Risālat al-Shifā’ li-adwā’ al-wabā’ , by āshköprüzāde (d. 1560/968). The title can be seen in the fifth line of this page. The copy is undated and unsigned, but appears to have been made about 1800.

Physical Description

Arabic. 17 leaves (fols. 1b-17b) Dimensions 21.2 x 14.8 (text area 16.8 x 9)cm; 25 lines per page. The title is given near start of text (fol. 1b line 5). On the title page (fol. 1a) a title has been added in Turkish by a later hand: Kitāb Ta‘un risalesi (Treatise on the Plague). The author's name is given on title page (fol. 1a) as āshköprüzāde, where it also states that he died in 968 (= 1560).

The copy is undated; the appearance of paper, script, and ink suggests a dating of about 1800.

It is an incomplete copy. The text breaks off abruptly after only four lines of text on fol. 17b.

The text is written in a small naskh tending toward ta‘liq script (a Turkish hand) using black ink and purplish-red headings and overlinings. The text area has been frame-ruled. There are catchwords.

There are a few marginal notes and textual corrections.

The thin, ivory, glossy paper has vertical laid lines and single chain lines (no watermarks detected). The paper is slightly foxed and yellowed near the edges.

The volume consists of 18 leaves. Fol. 1a is blank except for a title and author added by a later hand. Fol. 18 is blank.


The volume is bound in a red leather modern library binding. There are modern paper pastedowns and endpapers.


The volume was purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library presumably from A. S. Yahuda. No further information is available on the provenance.


Schullian/Sommer, Cat. of incun. & MSS., entry A 77, pp. 322-3

NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-127 no. 1

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