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Walters Ms. W.750, Four leaves from the Arabic version of Dioscorides' De materia medica

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Four leaves from the Arabic version of Dioscorides' De materia medica

Text title
De materia medica


Authority name: Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos


These are four consecutive leaves (numbered fols. 237-241) from an illustrated manuscript of the Arabic version of De materia medica by Dioscorides, copied in the seventh century AH / thirteenth CE in Iran. Pedanius Dioscorides wrote his treatise on medicinal plants in the first century CE. It was translated into Syriac and then Arabic in Baghdad in the third century AH / ninth CE. De materia medica by Dioscorides was one of the earliest scientific manuscripts to be translated from Greek to Arabic. The Walters' leaves illustrate five plants: wild cucumber, mezereon (spurge-olive), and three varieties of thymelaea (spurge-laurel).


7th century AH / 13th CE






Scientific -- Medical


The primary language in this manuscript is Arabic.

Support material


Laid paper


Foliation: 4

Foliated 237-241


20.0 cm wide by 29.5 cm high

Written surface

14.5 cm wide by 24.0 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 19

fols. W.750Aa - W.750Db:
  1. Title: De materia medica
  2. Author: Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos
  3. Text note: It is not certain from which parent manuscript these leaves derive, although a copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (originally Collection Vignier-Densmore), which has the same dimensions, has been cited as a possibility.
  4. Hand note: Written in vocalized naskh script


fol. W.750Aa:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Aa
  2. Title: Wild cucumber
  3. Form: Illustration
  4. Label: This illustration depicts wild cucumber (qathāʾ al-barrī or qathāʾ al-ḥimār).

fol. W.750Ab:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Ab
  2. Title: Text page
  3. Form: Text page

fol. W.750Ba:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Ba
  2. Title: Mezereon (spurge-olive)
  3. Form: Illustration
  4. Label: This illustration depicts mezereon (spurge-olive) (khāmālā, māzaryūn, fūrūs).

fol. W.750Ca:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Ca
  2. Title: Thymelaea (spurge-laurel)
  3. Form: Illustration
  4. Label: This illustration depicts thymelaea (spurge-laurel) (thūmālā, khāmālā).

fol. W.750Da:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Da
  2. Title: A type of thymelaea called al-sarwī
  3. Form: Illustration

fol. W.750Db:

  1. W.750, fol. W.750Db
  2. Title: A type of thymelaea called īlyūsqūfīnūs
  3. Form: Illustration


Museum purchase


Grube, E.J. "Materialien zum Dioskurides Arabicus." In Aus der Welt der islamischen Kunst. Festschrift für Ernst Kühnel zum 75. Geburtstag am 26. 10. 1957. Richard Ettinghausen, ed. (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1959), 179-180.

Carey, Moya. "Al-Sufi and Son: Ibn al-Sufi's Poem on the Stars and its Prose Parent." Muqarnas 26 (2009): 183-204.

Day, Florence E. "The Mesopotamian Manuscripts of Dioscorides." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series 8, no. 9 (1950): 274-280.

Rogers, Michael J. "Text and Illustrations: Dioscorides and the Illustrated Herbal in the Arab Tradition." In Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Anna Contadini, ed. (Boson: Brill, 2007), 41-47.

Sadek, Mahmoud M. "The Arabic Materia medica of Dioscorides." Classical Review (Cambridge), New Series 35 (1985): 427-428.

Sadek, Mahmoud M. "The Arabic Materia Medica of Dioscorides." St-Jean-Chyrsotome, Quebec: Les Éditions du Sphinx, 1983.

Hall, Helen B. "Exhibition of Islamic Art, San Francisco." Exhibition review. Ars Islamica 4 (1937): 484-496; 486, fig. 3.

Buchthal, Hugo, Otto Kurz, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Supplementary Notes to K. Holter's Checklist of Islamic Illuminated Manuscripts before A.D. 1350." Ars Islamica 7, no. 2 (1940): 147-164.

Marteau, Georges, and Henri Vever. Miniatures persanes ... exposées au Musée des Arts Décoratifs juin-octobre 1912. Paris, 1913.

Saliba, George, and Linda Komaroff. "Illustrated Books May be Hazardous to Your Health: A New Reading of the Arabic Reception and Rendition of the Materia medica of Dioscorides." Ars Orientalis 35 (2005): 7-65.

Kerner, Jaclynne J. "Art in the Name of Science: The Kitab Al-Diryaq in Text and Image." In Arab Painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Anna Contadini, ed. (Boston: Brill, 2007), 25-39.

Exhibition of Islamic Art at the de Young Museum, February 24 to March 22, 1937. Exhibition catalog. (San Francisco: de Young Museum, 1937), 26; nos. 23-35; fig. 23.


Principal cataloger: Gacek, Adam

Catalogers: Landau, Amy; Smith, Sita

Editor: Bockrath, Diane

Conservators: Jewell, Stephanie; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Barrera, Christina; Emery, Doug; Herbert, Lynley; Noel, William; Simpson, Shreve; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.; Valle, Chiara


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.