Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

MS. Marsh 81 (Bodleian Library, Oxford University)

Oriental Manuscripts Marsh Collection


The volume contains 100 leaves. Folios 99b and 100ab are blank.

Incipit: بسم الله … اما بعد فانى لما رايت كتاب تقدمة المعرفة للامام الفاضل ابقراط كثير العلم والفوايد عميق المعنى والفرايد وانه بمنزلة الاصول التى لا بد للطبيب من تفهيمها واستحضارها ولا يسع له دعوى هذه الصناعة الا ان يكون محفوظ معلومة عنده وكانت عبارتها مغلقة والفاظها غير ظاهرة الدلالة على مدلولاتها ومسايلها غير متسقة منتظمة بل كان بعضها مرموزا وبعضها منتشرا شرعت فيه بعون الله تعالى وكتبت هذا الشرح لتسهيل امره على الطلاب ومن الله التوفيق واليه انتهاء الطريق فنقول ان هذا الكتاب مشتمل على ثلث مقالات المقالة الاولى فى العلامات المأخوذة من الوجه والدماغ والصدر والعرق والاورام الحادثة فيما دون الشراسيف المقالة الثانيه فى العلامات المآخوذة من البراز والبول والبزاق وقيح الصدر والخراجات المقالة الثالثة فى العلامات المأخوذة من البحارين واستدراك اشياء بقيت من الامراض المقالة الاولى فى العلامات الماخوذة من الوجه والدماغ والصدر والعرق والاورام الحادثة دون الشراسيف وغيرها قال الامام ابقراط انى ارى انه من افضل الامور ان يستعمل الطبيب سابق النظر الشرح اعلم انه (( انما )) سمى الكتاب بتقدمة المعرفة لان الغرض من هذا الكتاب ان يكون عند الطبيب ملكة من مسائل علم الطب من النظرية والعملية
Explicit: قال ابقراط ليس ينبغى ان يتشوق الى اسم مرض من الامراض لم يذكره فى هذا الكتاب وذلك ان جميع الامراض التي ينقضى فى مدر [= مدد] من الازمان الى تقدّمنا محددناها [= فحددناها] قد يتعرفها بهذه الاعلام باعيانها ان تدبرتها وميزتها الشرح المراد من هذا الفص التنبيه على ما اشتمل عليه هذا الكتاب وذلك قد ينبغى للطبيب ان لا يتشوق الى اسم مرض من الامراض التى ما ذكرناها فى هذا الكتاب لان هذا الكتاب غير مشتمل على تعداد الامراض واسمائها بل هذا كتاب مشتمل على الاعراض والدلايل العامة لجميع الامراض المندرة بالصحة او العطب كما ان برد الاطراف فى جميع الامراض الحارة دليل روى وغير ذلك مما ذكرناها بل كتب عليه ان يعرف الاعراض والدلايل وبالجمله العلامات التى ذكرناها فى هذا الكتاب بحيث يقدر بذلك الانذار على المريض بالصحة او بالعطب قوله و ذلك ان ((جميع ))
Colophon: تمت كتابة هذا الكتاب الذى لا يمسه الا المطهرون من الاذكياء ولا كوم [=كرم ؟] قوله الا المرزون من الحكماء والفضلاء على يد الفقير الى الله الغنى به العبد الجانى علاء السمنانى ووفقه التجاوز عن ذنوبه وعلاته بعون الله التوفيق وحسن التوفيق تمت

The copy is undated. The copyist’s name is given as ʿAlāʾ al-Simnānī. The appearance of the paper, ink, and script suggest a dating of the ninth/fifteenth or early tenth/sixteenth century. It must have been produced before an owner’s note dated 946 (1539) was placed in it. It is a complete copy. The second maqālah begins on folio 28b, and the third on folio 72a. Near the beginning of the second and third maqālahs there is a curious circular marginal decoration in silvery ink, probably added by a later hand.

Hippocrates, as well as the name of his treatise being commented upon, are given at the beginning of the text. The commentator is not named directly, but on four occasions (folios 41a, 58a, 73a, and 88a) al-fāḍil al-Qurashī is named at the beginning of a gloss. The attribution to Ibn al-Nafīs was confirmed by a comparison with British Library, MS. Or. 5914. The beginning of a copy now in Leiden, however, (MS. Or. 1296 Cod. 49, I Gol.) is quite different; see Dozy, de Jong and de Goeje, Leiden, iii. 223−4). No other copies were available for comparison.

The name of the copyist of the Bodleian copy, ʿAlāʾ al-Simnānī, was taken by later owners and by the early cataloguers to be the name of the commentator, while Pusey then suggested in his emendations to Uri’s catalogue (UAM) that the author was ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī al-Ḥazm al-Qurashī, known as Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 687/1288).

Language(s): Arabic


NCAM-1, Entry No.10
Golius Sale Cat., 8 no. 14 (Med. Qu. 14), where the author is given erroneously as Aláalai’ddín Simmenáni [ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn al-Simnānī]
GAL I 493
UAM, 147 entry DCXXXIX (639), where the author is given as Ala al-Semnani [ʿAlāʾ al-Simnānī]
NPAE, 589, where Ibn al-Nafīs is proposed as the author

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 99 ff.
Dimensions (leaf): 18.3 × 12.5 cm.
Dimensions (written): 12.1 × 7.6 cm.


The edges have been trimmed from their original size. There is slight soiling from thumbing. Folios 1 and 10 are guarded.


19 lines per page.


The text area is frame-ruled. The text is written in an inelegant but fairly consistent medium-small Naskh. The word min is consistently written in an unusual way, with the nūn hooked back beneath the word. It is written in dense-black ink with headings in red; there are occasional red overlinings. Black overlinings were added later. There are catchwords. The text being commented upon is usually introduced by the phrase qāla Ibqurāṭ and the gloss by al-sharḥ.

  • Marginalia There are marginalia in several hands, some corrections marked by ظ or ص ح. In a marginal note on folio 5a, Galen’s commentary is cited. Within the text itself Galen’s commentary is also cited (e.g. folios 37a, 37b, and 47b). On the title page, folio 1a, three different hands have entered notes stating that the volume is a commentary on the Prognostics of Hippocrates, with the commentary by ʿAlāʾ al-Simnānī (or, according to one of them, ʿAlāʾ al-Faḍl al-Simnānī, and for the third simply al-Simnānī). A fourth hand, as a way of identifying the contents, has written: Sharḥ Taqdimat al-maʿrifah maʿa Kitāb al-Tadāruk.
  • Paper Three European watermarked papers were used in the construction of the volume. Folios 1–20 and 70–99 are a smooth, semi-glossy cream paper with a thickness of 0.10–0.14 mm and an opaqueness factor of 6; folios 21−40 are a biscuit paper with a consistent thickness of 0.09 mm, while folios 42–9, 51–2, 54–7, and 62–9 are thinner cream papers of even greater translucency (opaqueness factor of 7 to 8) and a thickness of 0.08 mm. All three papers have vertical, slightly sagging, laid lines, single chain lines, and watermarks of stars with possibly an anchor (or scissors) as well as various wavy designs.


The volume is bound in pasteboards covered with European marbled paper and edges in light-brown leather, with envelope flap. The endpapers and pastedowns are modern.


Origin: 15th or early 16th Century CE

Provenance and Acquisition

On the title page there is a carefully written owner’s note (in yet a different hand) for Khusraw ibn Muḥammad al-Karmāsī (?) dated 946 (1539); the reading of the final portion of the name is uncertain, for it could be read as الكرماسي or الكرباسي or even الكردي. There is also a trace of a seal impression that has been obliterated. The volume is from the private collection of Jacob Golius (d. 1667) who acquired manuscripts in the 1620s (mostly in Syria). The manuscript was purchased in 1696 by Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Armagh

Bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Armagh, upon his death in 1713. On the front endpaper there is an old shelfmark: N.226.

Record Sources

Manuscript description based on Emilie Savage-Smith; A New Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts in The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Volume I: Medicine, Oxford: OUP, 2011


Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures contact Bodleian Admissions).

Funding of Cataloguing




Comment on this record

Please fill out your details.

How are we using your feedback? See our privacy policy.