Project: West-To-East-Pharm

Project Outline

The Influence of Translated European Medical Sources on Early Modern Ottoman and Arabic Writings: Ibn Sallūm al-Ḥalabī (d. 1670)

(Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung)

Although the early modern period in the Arab world was not characterized by systematic translation efforts, historians acknowledge an important exception in the case of Ibn Sallūm Al-Ḥalabī (d. 1670), mentioned in contemporary chronicles and biographical dictionaries as a renowned Ottoman chief physician. His writings show that Ibn Sallūm had access to Latin sources, which was his key to studying current European medical and pharmaceutical texts and using their prescriptions in his books. Thus, Ibn Sallūm was greatly influenced by early modern European medical authors like Daniel Sennert (d. 1637) and through them with the thought of Paracelsus (d. 1541) who had laid the foundations of chemical medicine by using “chymical” procedures in producing drugs. Ibn Sallūm authored books both in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish, notably a large encyclopedic handbook of medicine (including pharmacy) in Turkish entitled Ġāyetü’l-beyān fī tedbīr bedeni’l-insān (The Clearest Explanation in the Treatment of the Human Body). In this book, Ibn Sallūm mentions more than twenty European medical and pharmaceutical scholars. The list of these authors includes names like Johannes Jacob Wecker (d. 1586), Valerius Cordus (d. 1545), Nicolas Habicot (d. 1624), and others, introducing new knowledge quoted from these European sources which had no parallels in classical Arabic medical and pharmaceutical books. Currently, a full study of its contents with a focus on studying the European scholars whom Ibn Sallūm quotes is still missing: Moreover, an analysis of the “newly added” pharmaceutical and medical knowledge and its impact on Ottoman and Arabic culture is still absent, too.

Therefore, this project aims to answer the following research questions: Who are the European authors whom Ibn Sallūm quoted in his book? What exactly are these European books he read? Which role did the translation of these “Western” texts into Arabic and (Ottoman) Turkish play in the development (or expansion) of medical knowledge? How were the information and connotations that we find in the European sources selectively taken up, ignored, or changed when they entered Ottoman and Arabic medical sources? How did these translations influence the development of Arabic medicine and pharmacy in the early modern period?