15th-century manuscript reveals links between Gaelic Ireland and the Muslim world

15th-century manuscript reveals links between Gaelic Ireland and the Muslim world
'Avicenna Fragment' bound to the 16th century book

A previously undiscovered 15th-century Irish vellum manuscript reveals a connection between Gaelic Ireland and the Muslim world and illustrates how medieval Ireland was once at the centre of medical scholarship in the world.

The binding of a pocket-sized Latin manual of local administration, printed in London in the 1530s, consisted of a sheet, full of text in Irish, cut from a 15th-century Irish vellum manuscript.

University College Cork (UCC) Professor of Modern Irish, Pádraig Ó Macháin, was alerted to the book which has been in the possession of a family in Cornwall since its publication.

From photographs of the binding supplied by the owners, Professor Ó Macháin established that the Irish text was a medical one.

The identity of the text was established immediately by Professor Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the only living expert on medieval Irish medicine.

It is a fragment of a translation into Irish – previously unrecorded – of the ‘Canon of Medicine’ by the Persian physician Ibn Sena (980–1037), also known as Avicenna, considered one of the most significant physicians in the Islamic Golden Age.

The owners agreed that the binding should be digitised, and a new binding provided.

This was completed and 'The Avicenna Fragment' is now available for viewing on the Irish Script on Screen website.

A public seminar on 'The Avicenna Fragment' will be hosted by UCC on March 7 at 2pm.

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