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The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Averroës, Colliget, and Avenzoar, Taisir, texts on medicine, late 13th century illuminated manuscript on vellum

Averroës, <em>Colliget</em>, and Avenzoar, <em>Taisir</em>, texts on medicine, late 13th century illuminated manuscript on vellum

This late 13th century illuminated and rubricated manuscript from Italy comprises translations of two rare and important medical texts originally written in Arabic in twelfth-century Spain. The first is the Liber qui Colliget nominatur of the philosopher and astronomer, Averroës (1126-1192), of Cordoba, Abul Wallid Muhammad Ibn Roschd in Arabic. The name ‘Colliget’ is a western corruption of ‘Kitab al-Kulliyyat’, the book of medicine. The text was also widely known in Hebrew. The present translation is that of a Jewish physician, Bonacosa of Padua, completed in 1255. The text was first printed in Venice in 1482 and in 1527 in the tenth volume of the collected edition of the Latin works of Aristotle.

The second text is by Avenzoar (c.1094-1162), of Seville, Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik Ibn Zuhr in Arabic, physician and anatomist. He was the first scientist to test medicines on animals before administering them to humans and many major medical conditions were scientifically observed and recorded by him. The present text, the Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (literally ‘Simplifications of Therapy and Diet’), was written at the request of Averroës. It is the earliest influential text in the west to describe medical treatment on the basis of a scientific analysis of diet.

It contains 136 leaves of vellum (3 originally blank), 296m. by 259mm., apparently complete (last leaf replaced in the fourteenth century, double column, written in dark brown ink in a skilful rounded gothic bookhand, headings in red, paragraph-marks throughout in alternately red and blue, 2-line decorated initials throughout (often many to a page) in red or blue with good penwork in the contrasting color, 21 large painted initials in lush leafy designs in colors with white heightening and on panel grounds usually with leafy extensions into the margins, 3 formed of figures of standing men with dragons’ heads (fols. 28v, 41v and 84v), the initials 2 to 6 lines high, mostly 5-line, descenders from several more once at top of pages, two 2-sided illuminated borders (fols.1r and 81r), the first including a half-length figure of a soldier (crusader?), very many medieval sidenotes and annotations, faces, and pointing fingers. The style of illumination is Paduan or Bolognese. The half-length figure of the soldier in the lower margin of fol.1r is inscribed with a contemporary name within the foliage, “petrucius de cancello”.

Contributed by anonymous