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Early Persian medical works on antisyphilitic mercury medicines


Thomann, Johannes (2015). Early Persian medical works on antisyphilitic mercury medicines. Asiatische Studien, 69(4):971-996.

Abstract

In this chapter, I examine the use of mercury with a special focus on its application as an ingredient in antisyphilitic medicines and therapies in a selection of medieval Persian scientific texts that represent either the earliest or the most influential works of their genre. Works examined include the earliest Persian pharmacological work, written by Abū Manṣūr Muwaffaq between 965 and 975 CE, which mentions mercury as a medicine against skin diseases and “killed mercury” (zībaq-i kušta)1 as a poison; a general work on medicine written by Bahāʾ ad-Dawla Rāzī in 1501–2 CE, in which syphilis is described for the first time in Asia; a chapter from the Ǧāmiʿ al-fawāʾid (c.1511 CE) by Yūsufī, the earliest Persian work in which mercury plays an unmistakenly dominant role in the treatment of syphilis; and finally, the first Persianmonograph on syphilis, written by Imād al-Dīn Maḥmūd Shīrāzī in the mid-sixteenth century, which lists recipes the author claims are derived from Chinese and European sources. This article will furthermore provide the first complete translation into a European language of Yūsufi’s chapter on syphilis in the Ǧāmiʿ al-fawāʾid, together with an edition of the Persian text.

In this chapter, I examine the use of mercury with a special focus on its application as an ingredient in antisyphilitic medicines and therapies in a selection of medieval Persian scientific texts that represent either the earliest or the most influential works of their genre. Works examined include the earliest Persian pharmacological work, written by Abū Manṣūr Muwaffaq between 965 and 975 CE, which mentions mercury as a medicine against skin diseases and “killed mercury” (zībaq-i kušta)1 as a poison; a general work on medicine written by Bahāʾ ad-Dawla Rāzī in 1501–2 CE, in which syphilis is described for the first time in Asia; a chapter from the Ǧāmiʿ al-fawāʾid (c.1511 CE) by Yūsufī, the earliest Persian work in which mercury plays an unmistakenly dominant role in the treatment of syphilis; and finally, the first Persianmonograph on syphilis, written by Imād al-Dīn Maḥmūd Shīrāzī in the mid-sixteenth century, which lists recipes the author claims are derived from Chinese and European sources. This article will furthermore provide the first complete translation into a European language of Yūsufi’s chapter on syphilis in the Ǧāmiʿ al-fawāʾid, together with an edition of the Persian text.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
290 Other religions
Uncontrolled Keywords:syphilis, Iran, mercury, Persian medicine, Yūsufī Ǧāmiʿ al-fawāʾid
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:11 Nov 2015 16:54
Last Modified:18 May 2016 21:30
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-1047
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-114204

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