Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

Middle East — 1199

A true treasure of medieval medicine and one of the oldest illuminated Arabic manuscripts

  1. This manuscript contains explanations for the production, application, and effect of the remedy theriac

  2. Of great art historic, medical, and botanical significance – a true treasure!

  3. Muhammad ibn Abi al-Fath furnished his treatise with portraits of Greek physicians and their recipes

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

A treatise about the most significant remedy of ancient and medieval medicine in one of the oldest illustrated Arabic manuscripts: the so-called Kitâb al-Diryâq, also known as the Thériaque de Paris. Originating at the end of the 12th century from the Arab world, the splendid manuscript contains explanations for the production, application, and effect of theriac, the remedy from various and mysterious recipes that was simultaneously widespread and shrouded in legend. The Kitâb al-Diryâq is of great significance art-historically, medically, and botanically, presenting itself as a true historical treasure!

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

Marvelous Arabic ornamentation overruns the pages of this manuscript and coalesces with the artful script into a true wonderwork of illumination. Half-page miniatures with realistic depictions of plants, people, and animals in interesting scenes appear continuously between them. All of that is immersed in bright colors and precious gold and exudes the mysterious charm of the Orient. Nonetheless, behind this famous Arabian manuscript, the so-called Thériaque de Paris, hides a significant work of art history: a treatise concerning theriac, which was the most important remedy for centuries.

The Panacea of Antiquity

Theriac has been known since antiquity and was a particularly wide-spread remedy in the Middle Ages, composed of various ingredients. Originally used against snake bites and bites from wild animals, theriac eventually evolved through the course of the Middle Ages into a widely circulated panacea. A wide variety of recipes developed over the centuries: the components of theriac ranged from herbs like fennel and caraway to spices (cardamom, pepper, or garlic), opium, and rare ingredients like viper meat and duck blood. Over time, more complicated recipes with hundreds of ingredients developed. The elaborate preparation at the center of the production of theriac became a major event, and was simultaneously a well-guarded secret.

A Precious Arab Manuscript

The manuscript with the shelf mark Ms. Arabe 2964 of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris even contains these enigmatic recipes for theriac. Originating in the years 1198–1199 from the Arab world, the Kitâb al-Diryâq is considered to be one of the oldest illuminated Arab manuscripts. Muhammad ibn Abi al-Fath furnished his treatise on theriac with portraits of famous Greek physicians with their respective recipes for the preparation of theriac inter alia. Alongside those, one finds a gorgeous miniature with a scene depicting the preparation of the remedy inter alia: three men in a landscape, surrounded by leaves, among which birds frolic, a river with fish therein, and in the center stands a jug wherein the theriac is mixed.

A Gem of the History of Art and Culture

The Kitâb al-Diryâq presents text and picture in complete harmony. The oriental manuscript is both culturally important as well as of great worth for the history of science and botany. It presumably originated from the commission of a high-ranking person, as is indicated by the abundant wealth of its artistic furnishings. The Thériaque de Paris is a unique work of illumination and is a true treasure for researchers into the fascinating history of theriac.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Paris Theriaka
Theriaque de Paris
Livre de la Thériaque de Paris
Paris Kitâb al- Diryâq
Size / Format
73 pages / 37 × 28.5 cm
Origin
Iraq
Date
1199
Language
Illustrations
Several half-page illustrations and arabic motifs
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris) – Ms. Arabe 2964 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France)
Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: 999 copies

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Set of 15 plates)
Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: not limited
Detail Picture

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

Extracting Oil from a Balsam Tree

The only botanical page in the manuscript to feature a human figure shows a man kneeling before a balsam tree as he extracts oil from it with a long, thin tube in the central gold-framed compartment of the upper register. Like the other figures in the manuscript, he is depicted with a halo, which is likely a residual influence from Byzantine illumination. The other ingredients depicted with their names written in red and black ink include vitriol, gentian, valerian, malabathrum, and black pepper.

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)
Single Page

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

The 96 “Simple” Ingredients of Theriac

Theriac was supposedly first invented by King Mithridates VI of Pontus who experimented with poisons and antidotes on his prisoners. After he was defeated and his kingdom conquered, his recipe fell into the hands of the Romans. Andromachus the Younger, personal physician to the Emperor Nero, refined the recipe, which included opium, myrrh, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, castor, and viper’s flesh.

The page sparkles with gold leaf and is designed like a rug with a star in the center surrounded by a circle, which has the ingredients’ name written alternately in black and red ink. An unusual inscription in the rectangular frame praises the ancient, pagan physician and Islamizes him by bestowing the protection of Allah upon him.

Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris)

Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris) – Ms. Arabe 2964 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France)
Kitâb al-Diryâq (Thériaque de Paris) – Ms. Arabe 2964 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Hard cover binding in Cabra leather embossed with gold and turquoise foil embossed. Protected with the commentary volume in a Solander box adorned by Islamic designs.
Commentary: 1 volume (72 pages) by Marie Geneviève Guesdon, Oleg Grabar, Françoise Micheau, Anne Caiozzo, and Jaclynne J. Kerner
Languages: Arabic, English, French , German, Italian, 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). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Kitâb al-Diryâq (Set of 15 plates)

Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008

Publisher: Aboca Museum – Sansepolcro, 2008
Limited Edition: not limited
Commentary: 1 volume (72 pages) by Marie Geneviève Guesdon, Oleg Grabar, Françoise Micheau, Anne Caiozzo, and Jaclynne J. Kerner
Languages: Arabic, English, French , German, Italian, 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). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!
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