The poem, written in rajaz verse, became the most popular of all medieval Arabic medical poems. It is in two parts (juz'), one on general medical principles and the other on regimen and therapeutics. In many copies the preface (16 lines) is missing. The poem was popular in Europe in the Middle Ages through Latin translations made by Gerard of Cremona in the mid-12th century and, a century later, by Armengaud de Blaise of Montpellier. The poem was published in several 16th-century printings, sometimes accompanied by a Latin translation of the commentary by Ibn Rushd (Averroes). It continued to be printed and read through the 17th century.
The poem also formed the subject of a number of commentaries, three of which are in the NLM collection. These include the popular one written in Spain by Ibn Rushd (Averroes), a rather rare one written in the 15th century by Musá ibn Ibrāhīm al-Baghdadī, and a unique copy of a hitherto unknown commentary written in the same century by ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Haydūr.
Ibn Sina's poem itself has been edited by M. al-Baba in his Min mu'alafat Ibn Sina al-tibbiyat (Aleppo: Ma‘had al-turath al-‘ilmi al-‘arabi, 1984), pp. 90-194. Three copies were employed in this edition; the NLM copy was not one of them. An earlier Arabic-Latin-French edition and translation was published by Henri Jahier and Abdelkader Noureddine, Avicenne, Poème de la médecine, Urguza fi 't-tibb, Cantica Avicennae (Paris: Société d'Édition "Les Belles Lettres", 1956); this edition also used three copies, two in Paris and one in Algiers. See also, Jules L. Janssens, An Annotated Bibliography on Ibn Sina (1970-1989), including Arabic and Persian Publications and Turkish and Russian References [Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, De Wulf-Mansion Centre, ser. 1, vol. XIII] (Leuven: University Press, 1991), pp. 37-38.
An English translation was made by Haven C. Krueger, Avicenna's Poem on Medicine (Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1963), based upon the French translation of Jahier and Noureddine. A German translation was published by K. Optiz, "Avicenna: Das Lehrgedicht über die Heilkunde", Quellen Gesch. Naturwiss. Med., vol. 7 (1939), pp. 304-374.
For other manuscript copies, see G. C. Anawati, Mu'allafat Ibn Sina: Essai de bibliographie Avicennienne (Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1950), pp. 172-4 entry no. 114, Ullmann, Medizin, p. 155; and GAL vol. 1, p. 457 (596), no. 81; GAL-S vol. 1, p. 823, no. 81. See also, Savage-Smith, "Bodleian", MSS Hunt. 375, Hunt. 502 item 1, MS Laud. Or. 5, item 2, MS Hunt 602 item 1, and MS Arab. f.49 item 3; Iskandar, "Wellcome", pp. 207-8 (MS Arabic 129, fols. 1b-24a and 38b-55a); London, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, Haddad Coll. MS 472 (55 fols., copied in 1353/754 H), MS 473 (40 folios, undated) and MS 474 (86 leaves, undated); Vatican, MS Borg. 87 item 1 (G. Levi della Vida, Elenco dei manuscritti arabi islamici della Biblioteca Vaticana, Vaticani Barberiniani Borgiani Rossiani, Studi e Testi 67 (Vatican City, 1935), p. 255; and London, British Library, OIOC, MS Add. 7556, fols. 35b-81a.
The opening of the popular didactic poem on medicine by Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna). The copy is undated, possibly 17th century.
Arabic. 47 leaves (fols. 1a-47b). Dimensions 20 x 13.7 (text area approx. 15.3 x 9) cm; 18 lines per page. The title is given at the beginning (fol. 1b line 2) simply as Urjūzah, rather than the more usual Urjūzah fī al-ṭibb. The author is given on the title page (fol. 1a) as al-Shaykh al-Ra’īs Ibn Sīnā.
The copy is undated; the general appearance of the script, ink, and paper suggests an 18th-century date. The same scribe copied all the items in the volume.
A complete copy. The text is written in a medium-small naskh, inelegant and awkward but consistent, with some ligatures. The text area has been frame-ruled but the ruling was often not followed. Black ink with the headings in red and some vocalization; the ends of stanzas are indicated by red dots. There are catchwords. There are scattered marginalia.
The volume consists of 60 leaves and contains eight items of medical poetry, all transcribed by the same copyist. Item 2 (fols. 48a-52a) is a poem on pulse and urine (MS A 34, item 2), item 3 (fols. 52b-58a) a poem on eye diseases (MS A 34, item 3), and item 4 (fols. 54b-58a) a poem on the management of health, all three of which are ascribed to Ibn Sīnā (MS A 34, item 4). Item 5 (fols. 58b-59a) is a poem on bloodletting (MS A 34, item 5), item 6 (fol. 59a) a poem on the evacuation of humors (MS A 34, item 6), and item 7 (fols. 59b-60a) a poem on circumcision, all three of which are by Ibn Makkī (MS A 34, item 7). Item 8 (fol. 60b) is a fragment of a versification, often attributed to Ibn Sīnā, of a pseudo-Hippocratic treatise on prognostics (MS A 34, item 8). The table of contents on fol. 1a indicates that at one time these poems were bound together with a poem on anatomy by Ibn Sīnā and a treatise on bloodletting by Ibn al-Tilmīdh.
The contents and order of MS A 34 follow very closely that of a manuscript in London at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, MS Arab. 129, which is also undated and probably of the 17th-18th century, as well as an undated 17th-century manuscript in the Vatican, MS Borg. arab. 87. The Wellcome manuscript contains all the poems in the same sequence that are in the NLM manuscript, plus the poem on anatomy by Ibn Sīnā as well as the treatise by Ibn Tilmidh. The Vatican manuscript has the poem on anatomy by Ibn Sīnā and all the poems in the NLM copy with one exception: the second item in the Vatican manuscript is a poem on pulse and urine, as in the NLM manuscript, but it is a different poem from that found in either the NLM or the Wellcome manuscripts.
Purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library from A. S. Yahuda (ELS 1709 Med. 70).
Schullian/Sommer, Cat. of incun. & MSS., p. 304-305, A34.
Hamarneh, "NLM", p. 93.
NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-119 no. 1 .