A little information on Ibn Abi Usaibia, from Ibn Khallikan

A thought struck me, to look into Ibn Khallikan’s biographical dictionary, of which an English translation exists.  The index to this is not nearly so confusing as for the GAL, and I eventually found a reference to vol. 4, p.158, where in the footnote we read:

Abu ‘l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn al-Kasim Ibn Khalifa Ibn Abi Osaibia, surnamed Muwatrak ad-Din and a member of the Arabic tribe of Khazraj, was born in Damascus, where his father was an oculist and his uncle, Rashid ad Din Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali, director of the hospital for the treatment of the maladies of tbe eyes. He studied philosophy under Rida ad-Din al-Jili, and profited greatly by the lessons of Abu Muhammad Abd Allah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar, with whom he made a number of botanical excursions. Ibn al-Baitar is the author of the Dictionary of Simples, a deservedly celebrated compilation of which Dr. Sontheimer published a German translation, at Stuttgard, in the year 1840.  Ibn Abi Osaibia kept up for some time an epistolary correspondence with the celebrated physician and philosopher, Abu al-Latif. In the year 684 (A. D. 1236-7), he got an appointment in the hospital founded at Cairo by the sultan Salah ad-Din (Saladin). Some years after, he accompanied the emir Izz ad-Din Aidmor to Sarkhod, in Syria, and he died there, aged upwards of seventy years.

His history of the physicians, entitled Oyun al-Anba fi Tabakat al-Atibba (Sources of information concerning the physicians of divers classes), contains a number of curious and highly interesting articles. The list of its chapters has been given by Mr. Wustenfeld in his Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze, No. 237, and from that work are taken the indications given here. In the catalogue of the Bodleian library , tome II. p. 131. et seq. will be also found this list of chapters.

But on what does this depend?  Wustenfeld’s work is available online, of course.  Section 237 is on p.132.  This gives only the information above, and lists three works:

  1. Fontes relationum de classibus Medicorum.  A Latin translation by Reiske is at Copenhagen, we are told, no doubt in manuscript.
  2. Liber experimentorum et observationum utilium, about which we are told nothing further.
  3. Liber de monumentis gentium, a fragment not completed.

That the titles are in Latin tells us that Wustenfeld just copied this from earlier modern writers.

But then follows a list of chapters.  Some are marked with an asterisk (*), indicating that the chapter is not found in Reiske.  Others are marked with a dagger (+), indicating that “Nicoll” does not contain them.  Some titles are written in italics – Wustenfeld doesn’t say why.

The differences between the contents given by Reiske, and that by Nicoll, in later sections of the book are fairly considerable.  Clearly there are different versions of this text in circulation.

If we look for Ibn Abi Usaibia’s name in the Kopf translation (here), we quickly find that it appears as a source for various statements.  This itself suggests that the author of the work is someone else, someone later.

2 Responses to “A little information on Ibn Abi Usaibia, from Ibn Khallikan”


  1. Douglas Galbi

    Internal evidence in Ibn Abi Usaibia’s History of Physicians makes it reasonably clear that he wrote at least two editions, one finished in 1242 and another in 1270. I think that Kopf’s references to Ibn Abi Usaibia are just his attempts to separate in translation the author’s words from the author’s quotations of others. These often aren’t well distinguished in ancient texts, classical Arabic as well as others.

  2. Roger Pearse

    That’s helpful – thank you!

    I have now found an online source that gives me the page numbers for Ibn Abi Usaibia in the GAL. Expect a post soon!