The Cyrurgia of Albucasis and other works, 1500

13th_century_anatomical - medicine

13th_century_anatomical - medicineThe Cyrurgia of Albucasis and other works, 1500

LML Donaldson (Honorary Librarian, RCPE)

Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh: 41:85–8 (2010) 


Four surgical treatises, printed in the last year of the fifteenth century, make up the oldest illustrated printed book in the Sibbald Library. The second one, the Cyrurgia of Albucasis, is the most interesting and I shall deal only briefly with the others.

The first work in the book, Cyrurgia parva Guidonis, is the Chirurgia parva or short treatise on surgery of Guy de Chauliac, a fourteenth-century French surgeon whose works were still influential in the sixteenth century. His work was heavily influenced by Arab sources and became a standard surgical text which was reworked many times and appears in many forms in the sixteenth century, often with the title Guido or Guidon. Here, however, we have the first printed Latin edition of the Chirurgia parva, a brief compendium of the Chirurgia magna of (probably) 1363. It seems likely that the Chirurgia parva is a series of extracts made from the larger work by an unknown hand or hands.


The third and fourth treatises, Tractatus de oculis Jesu hali and Tractatus de oculis Canamusali, concern the eye and their authorship is somewhat obscure. Jesu Hali (Jesus filius Hali) was the Latinised name of Ali Ben Isa who flourished around 1050 and wrote on the eye.

Canamusali de Baldach would appear to be Ammar ibn Ali al-Mausili who probably hailed from Mosul rather than from Baghdad as his Latinised name would suggest; if so, he probably flourished in the thirteenth century. In this text, he presents himself as collator rather than author, saying clearly that he has made a compendium of material on the eye from various ‘Hebrew and Chaldean sources and from India’. Hargreaves regards the attribution of the text which Canamusali presents as doubtful but suggests David the Armenian (David Armenicus) as the possible author.2 Sack simply attributes it to David Armenicus.3 Perhaps the only safe conclusion is that these two works on the eye contain a collection of material from mediæval Arabic sources.

Click here to read this article from the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh



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