ABŪ MANṢŪR MOWAFFAQ B. ʿALĪ HERAVĪ, ḤAKĪM (fl. ca. 370-80/980-90), author of the oldest preserved Persian text on materia medica, Ketāb al-abnīa ʿan ḥaqāʾeq al-adwīa. He is known only from this source, which provides his name and title and attests to his Muslim faith (ed. Bahmanyār [see bibliog.], p. 1). Knowledge of his place and date of activity is necessarily approximate. Of the two preserved manuscripts of his Ketāb al-abnīa, the copy made by the poet Asadī Ṭūsī in Šawwāl, 447/December, 1055-January, 1056 is the oldest extant New Persian manuscript, and early attracted scholarly attention (J. von Hammer[-Purgstall] in Fundgruben des Orients II, Vienna, 1811, pp. 292-93; republished in 1812 as Codices Arabicos . . . Bibliothecae . . . Vindobonensis, recensuit . . . , pp. 10-11, no. 83). This copy provides a clear terminus ante quem for the book’s composition, but a terminus post quem can not be easily established. The dedicatee is referred to only as ḥażrat-e ʿalī mawlānā al-amīr al-mosaddad al-moʾayyad al-manṣūr. While this titulature indicates a ruler in the Samanid sphere of influence, it could apply to princes as far apart as the Buyids of northern Iran and the early Ghaznavids (C. E. Bosworth, “The Titulature of the Early Ghaznavids,” Oriens 15, 1962, p. 214; L. Richter-Bernburg, “Amīr—Malik—Shāhānshāh: ʿAḍud ad-Daula’s Titulature Reexamined,” Iran 18, 1980, pp. 83-102). It appears plausible the Abū Manṣūr may have spent at least some time in Ghaznavid dominions and even traveled to India; he repeatedly refers to Indian medicine and quotes such authorities as Srīfarkavādat (Śrīhārgavadatta), Rātā (?), Bahāyil (?), and Jātak (i.e., a book on nativities, ǰātaka), in addition to sources previously assimilated into Arabic medicine (Achundow, “Grundsätze,” pp. 294-96). On the other hand, he twice quotes Abū Māher Mūsā b. Yūsof b. Sayyār—an acquaintance which points to some familiarity with authors in the Buyid realm. Of the authorities named in Abū Manṣūr’s book, Abū Māher is closest to the author’s lifetime. The two quotations (ed. Bahmanyār, pp. 117, 318) have close parallels in the works of Abū Māher’s two famous students, ʿAlī b. al-ʿAbbās al-Maǰūsī, who wrote his Kāmel al-ṣenāʿat al-ṭebbīya for ʿAżod-al-dawla between 364 and 367/974-78, and Aḥmad b. Moḥammad al-Ṭabarī, author of al-Moʿālaǰāt al-boqrāṭīya and physician at the court of the Buyid Rokn-al-dawla (Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭ¡abaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, Cairo, 1882-84, II, p. 321) (See Maǰūsī, Kāmel, Būlāq, 1294/1877, II, p. 116.13-15; and M. Rihab, “Der arabische Arzt At-Tabari. Übersetzung einzelner Abschnitte aus seinen " Hippokratischen Behandlungen",” Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin 19, 1927, p. 160.) Thus the year 360/971 could be taken as a plausible terminus post quem for Abū Manṣūr’s activity.

In spite of the author’s professed predilection for Indian medicine (ed. Bahmanyār, pp. 3-5), his literary models are clearly Arabic texts which continue the tradition of Galenic medicine. Abū Manṣūr discusses the properties and medicinal uses of simples (minerals, plants, and animals) in 584 articles ordered according to the Arabic alphabet (abtaṯ). The fact that he lists the simples under their Arabic names even when Persian equivalents exist further shows his dependence on Arabic models; within the text itself, however, he generally uses Persian drug names whenever these are available. He frequently adds synonyms from Greek, Syriac, “Indian,” and also from local Persian dialects. As for medical terminology proper, Abū Manṣūr wavers between the Arabic or arabicized terminology of his textbooks and what might be called everyday medical usage with its notable current of native Persian (see G. Lazard, La langue des plus anciens monuments de la prose persane, Paris, 1963, pp. 45-48).

The importance of Asadī’s manuscript of Ketāb al-abnīa as evidence for the early stage of the New Persian literary language and especially of technical prose has long been recognized (see Qazvīnī and Mīnovī in bibliog.). The book has been repeatedly studied as a document of medical history, but no detailed study has been made to evaluate Abū Manṣūr’s sources, whether oral (in Persian) or written (in Arabic). The text was copied as late as ca. 700/1300 (M. T. Dānešpažūh, “al-Abnīa ʿan ḥaqāʾeq al-adwīa,” Rāhnemā-ye ketāb 9, 1345 Š./1966, pp. 491-93), but it left no trace of influence in later Persian medical literature.


A. Bahmanyār and Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, eds., Ketāb al-abnīa ʿan ḥaqāʾeq al-adwīa (Entešārāt-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān. Ganǰīna-ye moyūn-e Īrānī, no. 63), Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.

A. Achundow, “Die pharmakologischen Grundsätze . . . des Abu Mansur . . . übersetzt und mit Erklärungen versehen,” Historische Studien aus dem Pharmakologischen Institute der Kaiserl. Universität Dorpat 3, Halle a. S., 1893, pp. 137-414.

F. R. Seligmann, Kitab al abnijet an hikajik eledvijet . . . Liber fundamentorum . . . epitome codicis . . . inediti primus latino donavit . . . , 2 vols., Vienna, 1831-33.

Idem, Ueber drey höchst seltene Persische Handschriften, Vienna, 1833, pp. 9-23.

Idem, Codex Vindobonesis sive medici Abu Mansur . . . Liber fundamentorum pharmacologiae . . . pars . . . , Vienna, 1859 (no more published).

G. Flügel, Die arabischen, persischen und türkischen Handschriften der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hofbibliothek zu Wien II, Vienna, 1865, pp. 534-36, no. 1465.

E. O. von Lippmann, “Chemische Kenntnisse vor tausend Jahren,” Abhandlungen und Vorträge zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, 1, 1906, pp. 81-96.

A. Fonahn, Zur Quellenkunde der persischen Medizin, Leipzig, 1910, pp. 80 f., nos. 224-26.

Sezgin, GAS III, index, s.v. Muwaffaq b. ʿAlī. Storey, II, pp. 199 f., no. 353.

Monzawī, Nosḵahā I, pp. 463b-64a, nos. 4254-55.

M. Qazvīnī, “Qadīmatarīn ketāb dar zabān-e fārsī-e ḥālīya,” Bist maqāla I, Bombay, 1307 Š./1928, pp. 50-53.

M. Mīnovī, introduction to the photostatic reprint of the Viennese MS, Tehran, 1344 Š./1966.

(L. Richter-Bernburg)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3-4, pp. 336-337

Cite this entry:

L. Richter-Bernburg, “Abu Mansur Heravi,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 336-337; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-mansur-mowaffaq-b-ali-heravi-fl-ca-980-90 (accessed on 30 January 2014).