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Drawings and Pharmacy in Al-Zahrawi's 10th-Century Surgical Treatise   By: (1925-)

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Transcriber’s note: Following table describes the meaning and the origin of the characters enclosed in square brackets which do not have their correspondents in the English Alphabet: [=a] letter a with a macron (straight line) above (Arabic) [=i] letter i with a macron (straight line) above (Arabic) [=u] letter u with a macron (straight line) above (Arabic) [h.] letter h with a dot below (Arabic) [s.] letter s with a dot below (Arabic) [t.] letter t with a dot below (Arabic) [T.] letter T with a dot below (Arabic) [s,] letter s with a cedilla (comma like symbol) below (Turkish) [S,] letter S with a cedilla (comma like symbol) below (Turkish) [)g] letter g with a breve (u shaped symbol) above (Turkish)

Drawings and Pharmacy in al Zahr[=a]w[=i]’s 10th Century Surgical Treatise

by Sami Hamarneh

Paper 22, pages 81 94, from




[Illustration: Figure 1. Reproduction of a page from original Arabic manuscript indexed as "Cod. N.F. 476A" at Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. Courtesy Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek.]

Drawings and Pharmacy in al Zahr[=a]w[=i]’s 10th Century Surgical Treatise

by Sami Hamarneh

Probably the earliest independent work in Arabic Spain to embrace the whole of medical knowledge of the time is the encyclopedic al Tasr[=i]f, written in the late 10th century by Ab[=u] al Q[=a]sim al Zahr[=a]w[=i], also known as Abulcasis. Consisting of 30 treatises, it is the only known work of al Zahr[=a]w[=i] and it brought him high prestige in the western world.

Here we are concerned only with his last treatise, on surgery. With its many drawings of surgical instruments, intended for the instruction of apprentices, its descriptions of formulas and medicinal preparations, and its lucid observations on surgical procedures, this treatise is perhaps the oldest of its kind.

Scholars today have available a translation of the text and reproductions of the drawings, but many of the latter are greatly modified from the originals.

This study reproduces examples of al Zahr[=a]w[=i]’s original illustrations, compares some with early drawings based on them, and comments on passages in the treatise of interest to students of pharmacy and medical therapy.

THE AUTHOR: Sami Hamarneh undertook this research into the history of medicine in connection with his duties as associate curator of medical sciences in the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

THE INTRODUCTION OF THE WRITINGS of Ab[=u] al Q[=a]sim Khalaf ibn ‘Abb[=a]s al Zahr[=a]w[=i] better known as Abulcasis (d. ca. 1013) to Western Europe was through the Latin translation of his surgical treatise (maq[=a]lah) by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187).[1] The response to this treatise, thereafter, was much greater than the attention paid to the surgery of any of the three renowned physicians of the Eastern Caliphate: al R[=a]z[=i] (Latin, Rhazes, d. ca... Continue reading book >>

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