Identification of the text
Although the title of the work and the name of the author do not appear on this manuscript, the identification of the text is possible by comparing it to a later copy of the Taqwim al-Sihha dated 1216 AD and now in the British Library (OR 1347). The index of that copy, published in L'Age d'or des sciences arabes (exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2005, p.152), allows us to identify the titles of the chapters of our section. Most are identical and follow in the same order. They seem to be numbered according to the abjad system. The text can also be compared with the recent edition of the Taqwim by Hosam Elkhadem (op. cit.).
f1v. Al-anbidha wa al-khumur wa... (on wines) - Chapter Qaf-Sad f2v. Al-matbukh wa alwanihi (on cooked food and its colours) - Chapter Qaf Lam (Dal?)
f3v. Al-matbukh wa anwa'ihi (on cooked food and its kinds) - Chapter Qaf Lam Dal
f4v. Al-matbukh 'ala ikhtilafihi (on the differences of cooked food) - probably a subdivision of the previous chapter
f5v. Al-bazmaward wa al-qulaba' wa al-kabab (on meat pastries?)
f6v. Al-mashwi wa...(on roasted food) - Chapter Qaf Sin Ba
f7v. Al-halu (On sweets) - Chapter Qaf Sin Ta
f8v. Al-khalal wa al-'usul (on vinegars and honeys) - Chapter Qaf 'Ayn Wa
The layout of our manuscript is another element of identification which is idiosyncratic to the Taqwim al-Sihha. It is identical to that of the British Library copy and the 16 surviving manuscript copies of the Taqwim all present the text in columns. Several of those manuscripts are enhanced with geometric patterns in a similar fashion to our copy.
In his commentary and translation of the Taqwim, Hosam Alkhadem establish the list of the 16 recorded copies. The earliest is in the British Library (Or. 2793) and was copied in Baghdad in AH 527/1136 AD. The second earliest copy is in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (No 2947) and is dated AH 547/1152 AD. The paper used for this manuscript can be dated to the 12th or 13th century. This manuscript is therefore contemporaneous with the earliest copies of the work.
Abu al-Hasan Al-Mukhtar bin al-Hasan bin 'Abdun bin Sa'dun Ibn Butlan was a prominent physician and theologian of Baghdad. He was taught by the Christian priest, philosopher and physician Ibn al-Tayyib and was certainly himself a Nestorian cleric and probably a priest (J. Schacht, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden, 1986, vol.III, p.740-2). Ibn Butlan taught medicine and philosophy in Baghdad until 1047 AD (or 1049) when he left for Syria and then Cairo. He was known for the remarkable controversy with Ibn Ridwan, a Cairene philosopher and doctor, later recorded by Ibn Abi Usaybi'a in his 'Uyun al-Anba' fi Tabaqat al-Atibba, a biography of illustrious physicians. He probably stayed in Cairo for 3 or 4 years after which he set off to Constantinople where he arrived during the summer of 1054. He composed for the Patriarch of Constantinople a treatise of the doctrine of the Eucharist in the midst of the Great Schism and was also the only physician outside China to relate the famous supernova that happened that year. Ibn Butlan left Byzantium and put himself at the service of the ruler of Mayyafariqin, Abu al-Mutawwaj (d. 1059). Although he supervised the building of an hospital in Antioch in 1063, little is known about his exact movements. He became a monk and retired to a monastery in Antioch where he died in 1066.
The Taqwim al-Sihha bi al-Asbab al-Sitta is Ibn Butlan's most famous work but it is unclear however as to where and when it was composed. Its primary emphasis is healthy living in a broad sense. It includes 40 tables which discuss 280 health-related substances and activities divided in the six Galenic 'non-naturals' of which health depends: air, rest, motion, food and drink, retentions and evacuation, passions and errors of the soul. Contrary to the seven 'naturals', they do not depend on our nature but they profoundly affect the body. It summarizes the different medical qualities and uses of foods of all kinds and also encompasses other elements of hygiene, as well as the seasons, the four ages of life, geographical locations and the weather.
One of the peculiarities of the work and probably the reason for its great renown is its specific layout, which Ibn Butlan borrowed from astronomical tables. Each table spreads across two folios and has 15 columns of various sizes. Column 1 gives the number of the subject discussed, column 2 its name, column 9 its effect, column 14 and 15, the names of the personalities quoted by Ibn Butlan and the available choices and opinions on the subject (Hosam Elkhadem, op. Cit., pp.14-5). There are 5 or 6 lines of text above and below each table. Right hand side folios give the detail of the 'nature' of each subject, its 'optimum' kinds, its 'usefulness', its 'dangers' and their 'neutralization', its medicinal effect and its 'temperament'. The left hand side folios elaborate on the medical aspects of the substance (Jean Ann Givens ed, Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1200-1550, Aldershot, 2006, p.53-4).
Ibn Butlan refers to 36 different physicians in the Taqwim. The following names can be found in the present section: Ibn al-'Abbas al-Majusi (d. 994 AD), Ya'qub bin Ishaq bin al-Sabbah al-Kindi (d. ca 870 AD), Yahya bin Sarafiun (9th century), Yuhanna (John VII Grammaticus, 7th century), Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariya al-Razi (d. 924 AD), Abu 'Ali Ahmad Ibn Mandawayh (10th c.), Abu al-Hasan 'Isa bin Hakam Masih al-Dimashqi (8th c.), Hunayn bin Ishaq al-'Ibadi (d. 910), Masarjawai al-Basri al-Yahudi (7th c.)
On the purpose of this layout, Ibn Jazlah (d. 1100 AD) a renowned Christian physician from Baghdad says that the Taqwim is the art of presenting knowledge in a concise and ready form, drawn from experience and related to purposeful ends. It was invented to suit men of our age, especially the rich and noble who ask only for the results of knowledge and are little interested in the probability and theory of a cure. This book is therefore of use to Kings and Magnates in whose rooms it should never fail to find a place' (Jean Ann Givens ed, op. Cit., Aldershot, 2006, p.53).
This would have made his work more accessible to a larger number of readers. This arrangement is praised by Al-Ghazali in the preface of his Ihya 'Ulum al-Din (J. Schacht, op.cit). The treatise seems to have been received in the West by the mid-13th century. It was first translated in Latin under the title Tacuinum Sanitatis possibly for Manfred, King of Sicily and Palermo (r. 1232-1266). The first printed edition of the Taqwim was printed in Strasbourg in 1531 by Johannes Schott.
The marginal note
The marginal note on the first folio gives a long title for this section of the Taqwim al-Sihha which reads Manafi' fi Khawas al-Aghziyah min A'ada' al-Hayawan wa al-Buqul wa al-Fawakih wa al-Alban. It can be translated as The Benefits of the Properties of Nutriments from the Organs of Animals, Vegetables, Fruits and Dairy. The note is signed by Abu al-Hasan Sa'id whose identity remains unknown. Although the word preceding his name is rubbed, the final letter is the letter ba which could be the end of al-Tabib or al-Mutatabbib (the doctor). The note records the reading of this copy 'to his author' on the 7th of Rabi' I AH 447 in the Bimaristan (hospital) al-'Adudi in Baghdad. This illustrious hospital was founded by 'Adud al-Dawla in 981 AD and destroyed during the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258 AD. It is not certain that Ibn Butlan was in Baghdad at the date mentioned which would also be too early for the type of paper on which this manuscript is copied. The note must therefore be apocryphal and added at a later date.