Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures | 06 December 2017

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Lot no.


Bifolium from an extremely early manuscript of Mesuë the Younger, Grabadin

Sold for £2000

Est: £2000–3000

Bifolium from an extremely early manuscript of Mesuë the Younger, Grabadin , a pharmacological work, in Latin on parchment [Italy, thirteenth century]

Bifolium, double column, 49 lines in a tiny rounded script with many abbreviations, 3 small initials and spaces left for others, a few marginal notes in a contemporary or near-contemporary hand, recovered from a binding and hence somewhat darkened and scuffed in places, cockled and a few lines cut away at head, else fair condition, 214 by 163mm, in fitted card slipcase

The Grabadin forms a complete pharmacopeia in 12 books, and for centuries it was the standard text book on pharmacy in Western Europe. In the Middle Ages it was ascribed to a Nestorian Christian Syrian named Masawaih al-Mardini (Yahyā ibn Masawaih al-Mardini; d. 1015), who after working in Baghdad, entered the service of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. In fact, there are many unanswered and intriguing questions about the author and date of this text. It seems to have been compiled from Arabic sources by an anonymous medical scholar in Italy in the thirteenth century. It was noted by Andreas Alpagus, a Venetian doctor who spent 20 years studying in Damascus, that he could not find a copy of the text there, and Karl Sudhoff identified its author as a member of the University of Bologna or Padua, and suggested that it was put into its present written form by Peter of Abano and Francis of Piedmont. If correct, then like the suggestion that Marco Polo did not in fact go to China but compiled his story in Italy from numerous contemporary travelers’ reports, the composition of this text from Arabic sources while on the European mainland, is even more impressive than the idea of an actual Arabic source. This dating of its creation would make the present witness among the earliest to survive, and place it within decades of the work’s composition (I. Klimaschewski-Bock records only 4 such manuscripts of this century, of a total of 65: Die ‘distinctio sexta’ des Antidotarium Mesuë , 1987, with census on pp. 298-305) . The present fragment includes De Syrupis et Robub , De Coctionibus, De Trociscis and De Oleis .

Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures

Wednesday 06 December 2017, 2.00pm

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