"Preparing Medicine from Honey", from a Dispersed Manuscript of an Arabic Translation of De Materia Medica of Dioscorides
'Abdullah ibn al-Fadl
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
dated A.H. 621/ A.D. 1224
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 12 3/8 in. (31.4 cm)
W. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 999
One of the most influential medical treatises handed down to Muslims was De Materia Medica, by a first-century b.c. Greek physician in Cilicia (southern Anatolia). The left page concerns making medicine from honey and water, prescribed to cure weakness and loss of appetite. A doctor holds a gold cup while stirring the boiling honey and water in a cauldron as he prepares to scoop it up for the seated patient. The architectural setting suggests that the drugs are being produced in a pharmacy like those attached to hospitals in the Seljuq lands. In the illustration on the right, a doctor and his assistant or patient stand on either side of a sieve through which grapes are pressed and then combined with brine and an onion-like herb to produce a medicine to cure digestive disorders.
Inscription: In Arabic language and in Naskhī script:
لا یشتهي الطعام او من کانت قوته تحلل و صفته علی هذه الصفة/ (و من ماء العیون جزء) یؤخذ من العسل جزء فیخلطونه بالعسل و یطبخونه علی الصفة الی ان یذهب/ الثلثین ثم یرفعونه هـ هـ هـ و قد یتخذ شراب/ یقال له ابو مالي علی هذه الصفة یؤخذ من شمع الشهد فیغسل/ بالماء و یؤخذ ذلک الماء و یرفع و ینبغي اذا شرب هذا الشراب ان/ یصرف و من الناس من یطبخه و هو غیر موافق للمرض لکثرة ما فیه من وسخ الشمع
… [who] has no appetite or is feeling weak, its description is as follows: take one part honey (in the margin is added and take one part tears [lit. water of eyes]); mix with honey and cook in a pot until two thirds of it is gone; then take it from the pot.
And to make wine called Abū Ma'ālī with this recipe: take beeswax and wash it with water; and that water took out and if this wine drink it must … and some of people cooked it but it is not good for disease because it is a lot of dirty of wax.
F. R. Martin, Stockholm (by 1910–at least 1912); V. Everit Macy, New York (by 1922–at least 1927); Cora Timken Burnett, Alpine, NJ (until d. 1956; bequeathed to MMA)
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