Tacuinum Sanitatis

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Taqwīm as‑Siḥḥa (تقويم الصحة Maintenance of Health) is originally an eleventh-century Arab medical treatise by Ibn Butlan of Baghdad.[1] In the West, the work is known by the Latinized name taken by its translations: Tacuinum (sometimes Taccuinum) Sanitatis.[2] It is a medieval handbook mainly on health, aimed at a cultured lay audience, the text exists in several variant Latin versions, the manuscripts of which are characteristically so profusely illustrated that one student called the Tacuinum "a [300] picture book", only "nominally a medical text".[3]

Ibn Butlan's Tacuinum sanitatis, Rhineland, 2nd half of 15th century
Harvesting garlic, from Tacuinum Sanitatis, ca. 1400 (Bibliothèque nationale, Paris)

Though describing in detail the beneficial and harmful properties of foods and plants, it is far more than a herbal. Listing its contents organically rather than alphabetically, it sets forth the six essential elements for well-being:

  • sufficient food and drink in moderation,
  • fresh air,
  • alternations of activity and rest,
  • alternations of sleep and wakefulness,
  • secretions and excretions of humours, and finally
  • the effects of states of mind.

Tacuinum Sanitatis says that illnesses result from imbalance of these elements.

Tacuinum Sanitatis, Lombardy, late 14th century (Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome).

The British Library possesses in its Oriental Manuscripts collection a presentation copy of Taqwīm as‑Siḥḥa from 1213 copied in Arabic for al-Malik al-Ẓāhir, son of Saladin.[4]

The terse paragraphs of the treatise were freely translated into Latin in mid-thirteenth-century Palermo or Naples,[5] which continued an Italo-Norman tradition as one of the prime sites for peaceable inter-cultural contact between the Islamic and European worlds. "Magister Faragius" (Ferraguth) in Naples took responsibility for one translation into Latin, in a manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS Lat. 15362 (noted by Witthoft 1978:58 note 9).

Four handsomely illustrated complete late fourteenth-century manuscripts of the Tacuinum, all produced in Lombardy, survive, in Vienna, Paris, Liège and Rome, as well as scattered illustrations from others, as well as fifteenth-century codices.[6] Carmelia Opsomer published a commented facsimile of the ms 1041 held in the library of the university of Liège.[7] Unillustrated manuscripts present a series of tables, with a narrative commentary on the facing pages. The Tacuinum was first printed in 1531.

The Tacuinum was very popular in Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages; an indication of that popularity is the use of the word taccuino in modern Italian to mean "notebook".

In addition to its importance for the study of medieval medicine, the Tacuinum is also of interest in the study of agriculture and cooking; for example, one of the earliest identifiable images of the carrot—a modern plant—is found in it. Carrot also appears in The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides: Illustrated by a Byzantine A.D. 512

In 2008, the Spanish publishing house M. Moleiro Editor published the first and only facsimile of the Tacuinum Sanitatis kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, in an edition limited to 987 copies.[8] This edition was accompanied by a commentary volume by Alain Touwaide (Smithsonian), Eberhard König (Freie Universität Berlin) and Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor (Doctor in History).


  1. ^ E. Wickersheimer, "Les Tacuini Sanitatis et leur traduction allemande par Michel Herr", Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 12 1950:85-97.
  2. ^ Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, Daniel; Henley, David (2013). 'Tacuinum Sanitatis' in: Health and Well Being: A Medieval Guide. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN:B00DQ5BKFA
  3. ^ Brucia Witthoft, The Tacuinum Sanitatis: A Lombard Panorama Gesta 17.1 (1978:49-60) p 50.
  4. ^ "Taqwīm al-ṣiḥḥah تقويم الصحّة Ibn Buṭlān ابن بطلان". Qatar Digital Library. 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  5. ^ Dioscorides Pedanius; of Anazarbos. "On Plants - Historia Plantarum". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  6. ^ Witthoft 1978 discusses the Tacuina in the national libraries of Paris and Vienna, and the Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome.
  7. ^ L’Art de vivre en santé. Images et recettes du Moyen Âge. Le « Tacuinum sanitatis » (ms 1041) de la Bibliothèque universitaire de Liège, éd. de C. Opsomer, Liège, 1991.
  8. ^ Albino Mallo, "Moleiro clona códices de los siglos XI y XII con el arte de la perfección", Xornal, January 2, 2009.

References and further readingEdit

  • Henley, David. 'Tacuinum Sanitatis' in: Health and Well Being: A Primitive Medieval Guide. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books, 2013.
  • Hoeniger, Kathleen. "The Illuminated Tacuinum Sanitatis Manuscripts from Northern Italy ca. 1380-1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a New Pictorial Genre." In Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1200-1550, eds. Jean Ann Givens, Karen Reeds, Alain Touwaide, 51-81. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.
  • Opsomer, C., ed. L’Art de vivre en santé. Images et recettes du Moyen Âge. Le « Tacuinum sanitatis » (ms 1041) de la Bibliothèque universitaire de Liège. Liège, 1991.
  • Wickersheimer, E. "Les Tacuini Sanitatis et leur traduction allemande par Michel Herr", Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 12 1950:85-97.
  • Witthoft, Brucia. "The Tacuinum Sanitatis: A Lombard Panorama." Gesta 17, no. 1 (1978) :49-60.

External linksEdit