Canon Medicinae Avicenna

Canon Medicinae Avicenna – AyN Ediciones – Ms. 2197 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)

Italy β€” First half of the 15th century

The only complete Hebrew translation of the standard medical work by the Persian polymath Avicenna: 15th century medicine, pharmacy and everyday life in a splendid codex with beautiful book decoration

  1. The most beautiful, unbelievably-charmingly-illustrated edition of this historical medical text

  2. It is a Hebrew translation of the 11th century Arabic medical standard work in a 15th century Italian manuscript

  3. Richly illustrated miniatures depict various medical treatments with details of life in contemporary Italy

Canon Medicinae Avicenna

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€
(7,000€ - 10,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Canon Medicinae Avicenna

The so-called Canon Medicinae is a Latin translation of an Arabic medical standard work. The original text was written ca. 1000 by the Persian Renaissance man Abū Alī al-Husain ibn Abdullāh ibn Sīnā and remained an absolute standard work of medicine until the 17th century. The edition at hand is a Latin translation of the masterpiece, which was made in Italy sometime in the first half of the 15th century. It is the most beautiful, unbelievably-charmingly-illustrated edition of this historically significant manuscript.

Canon Medicinae

The science of medicine has been practiced since the beginning of time and is constantly modernized with new findings. A whole series of medical manuscripts have been handed down to us, whose origins can sometimes be placed in antiquity. A handwritten codex, which is concerned with practical medicine, has had an immeasurable influence on the modern medicine of our time. It is the so-called Canon Medicinae, a medicinal treatise from the Middle East. This historically significant text remained a standard work of medical training throughout the Middle Ages and into the Early Modern Period. It was translated into Latin in the early 15th century and has been innumerably reproduced. Some editions of the medical treatise were furnished with captivating, colorful miniatures. In the first half of the 15th century, unbelievably talented artists in Italy made what is probably the most beautiful edition thereof.

A Persian Renaissance Man

The Canon Medicinae is the most famous work by Avicenna (Latinized), a Persian doctor, physicist, philosopher, poet, lawyer, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and music theorist. His full name is AbΕ« AlΔ« al-Husain ibn Abdullāh ibn SΔ«nā and he came from the historical region of Greater Khorasan, a region in Central Asia between northeast Iran and northwest Afghanistan in the area of the modern states of Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Avicenna lived sometime between 980 and 1037 and is counted among the most famous personalities of his time. He measurably influenced the history and development of medicine in particular. A few of his philosophical treatises were later adopted by mystics of Sufiism. In the 12th century, the Canon Medicinae was first translated from Arabic into Latin by Gerhard of Cremona. The work, which already existed throughout the occident in some 15–20 Latin editions since 1470, was considered to be the most important medical textbook up until the 17th century.

The Standard Work of Medicine

The comprehensive manuscript is strictly divided into five groups of text. The sections address, in the following order, the general principles (theory of medicine), the alphabetical listing of medicines (remedies and their mode of action), illnesses, which only effect specific organs (pathology and therapy), illnesses, which spread to the entire body (surgery and general medicine), as well as the production of remedies (list of antidotes). In his work, Avicenna presented diagnoses, which dealt with the treatment of infectious and non-infectious diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis, clarified the influence of the climate and the environment on one’s health, correctly described the anatomy of the eyeball, and gave information about various medicines and anesthetics. Avicenna was not only the first scholar to establish rules for how a new medicine was to be tested before it was administered to a patient, he was the first to uncover the connection between the emotions of a person and their physical health, and stumbled upon the positive physical and psychological effects of music on patients. His service to modern medicine in this work is incomparable with any other.

A Rich Image Program

The edition before us of the comprehensive medical handbook was made during the first half of the 15th century in Italy. Unbelievably talented illuminators, who remain anonymous to this day, furnished the codex with a incredibly diverse image program. Ten pages of the manuscript are completely illuminated. They show scenes of various medical treatments, as performed by people in Italian garments and in typically Italian houses. The full-page miniatures are framed by fantastical, diversely-patterned bordure depictions in all forms and colors with richly-applied gold leaf. The elaborate book adornment continues across 498 pages of the manuscript. Small miniatures depicting motifs of plants and animals illustrate the informative medical text, which did not lose its significance for centuries.


Alternative Titles
Avicenna's Canon of Medicine
Canon of Medicine
Kanon der Medizin
Das Meisterwerk des Medicus
Size / Format
1,064 pages / 43.5 Γ— 30.5 cm
First half of the 15th century
10 full-page miniatures and 498 pages with floral and animal motifs
Volume 1: Theoretical and practical basics of medicine and anatomy
Volume 2: 760 alphabetically arranged remedies from the plant kingdom
Volume 3: Diseases affecting the individual organs
Volume 4: Diseases affecting the whole body
Volume 5: Production an
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Dominican Monastery of Bologna
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Available facsimile editions:
Canon Medicinae Avicenna – AyN Ediciones – Ms. 2197 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2002
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Canon Medicinae Avicenna


Examining a patient’s urine was the primary means of diagnosis for the medieval doctor, a practice known as a uroscopy. Medical manuscripts often contained a β€œurine wheel” with ca. 20 flasks arranged according to color with an explanation as to what illnesses might cause it. This doctor’s well-dressed patients wait in line with their urine sample to hear their diagnoses, which are announced publically. The first patient in black with red hat and pantyhose shows a clearly depressed and worried facial expression due to the diagnosis just received from the doctor.

Canon Medicinae Avicenna – AyN Ediciones – Ms. 2197 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
Single Page

Canon Medicinae Avicenna

Treating Robert II of Normandy

According to legend, Duke Robert II of Normandy was wounded by a poisoned arrow in battle during the First Crusade. The primary miniature shows him on his return, when he stopped in Salerno, home of the first medical school in Western Europe, to receive treatment. The medieval southern Italian metropolis was regarded as one of the centres of European health education because of the application of ancient Greek and Roman medical knowledge combined with the influences of Arab and Jewish medicine.

The doctors advised Robert that the poison had to be sucked from his wound, but he refused because it would mean the death of whoever did it. However, his wife Sibylla decided to sacrifice her own life by sucking out the poison one night. She is the nude crowned figure being placed in a coffin as Robert, crowned and dressed in red, thanks the doctors for their help at the city gates.

Canon Medicinae Avicenna – AyN Ediciones – Ms. 2197 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Canon Medicinae

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2002

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2002
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Leather with blind embossing, metal fittings and leather straps
Commentary: 1 volume by Biancastela Antonino, Luis Cifuentes, Laura Miani, Lola Ferre and Javier Docampo
Languages: English, Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). All folios are cut according to the original. The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€
(7,000€ - 10,000€)
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