"Preparing Medicine from Honey", from a Dispersed Manuscript of an Arabic Translation of De Materia Medica of Dioscorides

Calligrapher: 'Abdullah ibn al-Fadl

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: dated A.H. 621/ A.D. 1224

Geography: Attributed to Iraq, Baghdad

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: H. 12 3/8 in. (31.4 cm)
W. 9 in. (22.9 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956

Accession Number: 57.51.21


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.