The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is pleased to have eleven items from its early manuscript collection included in a new exhibition, Romance AND Reason: Islamic Transformations of the Classical Past, which runs February 14, 2018 through May 13, 2018 at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW).
This is the largest & most significant loan of collection material by NLM to a cultural institution for exhibition.
Romance and Reason brings together an exceptional group of rare manuscripts that testify to the fertile relationship between medieval Islam & the classical globe. With material ranging from lavishly—and superbly—illuminated romances, to eye-opening medical & scientific treatises, the exhibition provides an engrossing visual record of how, over the course of centuries, scholars, scientists, doctors, artists, & other people in the Islamic globe transformed Ancient Greek material for their own day. As the Institute explains on its exhibition website, “The story of antiquity reads as an endless cycle of expansion, conflict, & conquest. Yet despite the divisions that existed among peoples & nations, the exchange AND appropriation of ideas, images, & heroic figures across cultures knew no boundaries, with the Classical Worldwide retaining a particular appeal across countries & beliefs.”
Among the NLM collection items featured in Romance & Reason are: The Comprehensive Book on Medicine (AlKitab al-hawi fi al-tibb), a treatise by Abu Bakr Razi that is dated to 1094 & is the oldest novel in the NLM collection (NLM Catalog record; view PDF); a 15th century copy of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine (Al-qanun fi al-tibb) with exquisite gold page decorations (NLM Catalog record; view PDF); two variants of Marvels of Things Created & Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing (‘Aja’ib almakhluqat wa ghara’ib al-mawjudat) by Zakariya ibn Muhammad Qazwini with charming hand-painted pictures of real & imaginary beasts (NLM Catalog record; view PDF); & two variants of Mansur ibn Ilyas’s Anatomy (Tashrih-i mansuri) from the late 15th–early 16th century, that represent some of the earliest illustrated anatomical works from the Islamic worldwide (NLM Catalog record; view PDF).
Additional items included in the loan are:
Commentary on the Hippocratic Treatise On the Nature of Man (Sharh kitab tabiʿat al-insan li-Buqrat) (NLM Catalog record; view PDF)
Author: Ibn al-Nafis al-Qurashi (ca. 1211–1288)
Copyist: Shams al-Dawla Abu al-Fadl ibn Abi al-Hasan al-Masihi (dated 1269)
NLM joins a number of prominent organizations in loaning items to this remarkable exhibition organized by the New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient Globe in partnership with the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. Other lending institutions include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Smithsonian Institution Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, & the New York Public Library.
The NLM loans items from its history of medicine collections for display in public exhibitions to qualifying institutions on a case by case basis. Details about this institutional loan program, & loans the NLM has arranged since 2012, are available on the NLM website.