Page from the Materia Medica, 1224

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This page has survived from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica, a treatise on the use of the medicinal herbs and plants written in the first century by Dioscurides, a Greek physician living in Asia Minor. The original work was a favorite text of the Abbasid caliphs, the temporal successors of Muhammad; from the eighth century on, they had several copies made for their libraries in Baghdad. The schematically drawn plants, rendered in black, sepia, and green, are realistic enough to be identified. Numerous quasi-scientific texts such as this, as well as history, philosophy, and other subject matter of Greco-Roman origin, were preserved in translation within the great Islamic libraries of the Middle East throughout the Dark Ages. These libraries became important sources for ancient Western literature, beginning with the Italian Renaissance.

Page from the Materia Medica
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