MEMORY OF THE WORLD
PROGRAMME OF UNESCO
UNIQUE MEDICAL MANUSCRIPTS FROM AZERBAIJAN HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD PROGRAM OF UNESCO
by Prof. Farid Alakbarli
Head of Department of Information and Translation of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
In Autumn 2005, UNESCO has officially included three medieval medical manuscripts from the Institute of Manuscripts of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences into register of the Memory of the World Program, which includes the most unique and irreplaceable written monuments of the humankind. The Certificate confirming this decision was presented to the Institute of Manuscripts by Dr. Matsuura, the head of UNESCO.
The Memory of the World Program is running by UNESCO to discover and protect the most important, rare and unique written documents which are crucial and irreplaceable not only for separate regions, states or nations, but for the humankind in the whole. Now the medieval manuscripts from Azerbaijan are added to this list.
The Institute of Manuscripts of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences in Baku has a collection of 390 early medical documents which include 363 manuscripts dating from as early as the 9th century. Most are written in Arabic—the literary script of the day. Of these, 70 are in the Arabic language, 71 in Turkic languages, and the remainder in Persian. Below we are provided some information about manuscripts from Azerbaijan, included in the Register of the Memory of the World Program.
“CANON” BY IBN SINA
The Manuscript Institute is fortunate to have some real treasures in their collection. For example, it preserves one of the oldest copies of the second volume of “Canon of Medicine" (1030) by Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna (980-1037). It was copied in 1143 about a hundred years after his death. This Avicenna manuscript is considered to be the most reliable in the world.
Avicenna, born in the town of Afshana nearby Bukhara (Uzbekistan), did much of his medical observation later on in Persia and Azerbaijan. "Canon," an encyclopedic work in Arabic, is considered to be the single, most famous book in medical history-both in the East and in the West.
In the 12th century, the "Canon" was translated from Arabic to Latin by Gerard of Cremona (1140-1187) and used as a medical textbook in European universities. The book was held in such reverence that Michelangelo was recorded as saying: "It is better to be mistaken following Avicenna than to be true following others."
“ZAKHIRAI-NIZAMSHAHI” BY RUSTAM JURJANI
This book was written in the 13th century and imitates the famous medical book by Zeynaddin Jurjani. Rustam Jurjani’s manuscript is unique, because it is the only manuscript of this book in the world.
THE SURGERY BOOK BY ABULKASIM ZAKHRAVI
The Institute of Manuscript preserves the manuscript of one of volumes by the “ Book On Surgery and Instruments” by Abulkasim Zakhravi (12th century), the Arabian physician which was known in medieval Europe as Abulcasis (the Latinized form of “Abulkasim”). He was born in Andalusia (Spain) when this country was under the Arab rule. During many centuries Zakhravi’s book was the most authoritative textbook on surgery both in East and West. The book gives description of different types of surgical treatment and provides drawings of hundreds of surgical instruments which were used many centuries ago.
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