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Category: Arts & Humanities, Medical history

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Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts Preface On the 30th of November 1094 AD (or to be more precise, the 19th of the month Dhu al-Qa`dah in the year 487 of the Muslim era), a scribe in Baghdad completed a copy of an Arabic treatise by one of the most important medieval physicians and clinicians -- Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya' al-Razi, who worked in Baghdad in the previous century and was later known to Europe as Rhazes. This manuscript is the oldest volume in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the third oldest Arabic manuscript on any medical topic known to be preserved today.

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History of Medicine Our exhibit celebrates the medieval manuscript holdings of the National Library of Medicine, particularly our 12th-century English manuscript, Treatises on Medicine, lost for nearly 50 years and recently returned. In its honor, we have focused on medicine and medical literature in medieval England, on the sources and transmission of the manuscript texts, and on their later manifestations. The 12th century, when our manuscript was written, saw exciting developments in many areas of western European culture. New ideas infused the practice of architecture, music, poetry, and theology. The great European universities were beginning to take shape.

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History of Medicine Introduction The National Library of Medicine's Bathtub Collection is an archive of materials found in the old bindings when rare books in the Library were conserved. The materials found in the bindings include fragments of old printed books or manuscript materials which are often treasures on their own. In the Bathtub Collection, NLM has organized and described these fragments and made them available to scholars. The story of the Bathtub Collection begins in the middle of the last century. In the 1940's, The Army Medical Library, as the National Library of Medicine was then known, began a serious conservation program for its rare book collection. The AML hired Dorothy Schullian as curator of rare books and Jean Eschman, a master bookbinder from Switzerland.

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Medicine in the Old World arose from many components: the classical Greek tradition, its Christian re-elaboration, the contributions of the Arabic World, and the unique medieval synthesis of them all. By examining significant pages and illuminations from manuscripts and early printed books of the National Library of Medicine, one can see how these cultures contributed to the creation of medical knowledge in Europe.

These pages are a journey through time and space, as medical knowledge moved around and across the Mediterranean Sea. Mare nostrum—Our Sea—divided societies into several groups, but it could be crossed, making cultural contact, trade, and the exchange of ideas possible.

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