The earliest known account of the pulmonary blood circulation

Ibn al-Nafis al-Qarashi, Ala'addin Abu 'l Hasan Ali / Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Sharh Qurashi. Tashrih al-ad'a al-murakkabbah min kitab al-Qanun [The Commentary of Qurashi. Anatomy of the Compound Organs from The Canon of Medicine].

Central Asia, [12 Nov. 1674 CE =] 13 Sha'ban 1085 H.

8vo (127 x 214 mm). Arabic manuscript on polished paper. 80 ff. Part 2 (of 2). Black and occasional red ink, with catchwords and a few marginal notes in a contemporary hand. 19th century limp red morocco.


Rare and important 17th century manuscript of the most famous work of Ibn al-Nafis (1210-88), written at only twenty-nine years of age. Unlike the author's two other commentaries on Ibn Sina's Canon of Medicine, the "Sharh Qurashi" is extremely uncommon. The present part includes his most important contributions to medicine and anatomy: in describing the pulmonary blood circulation, he anticipated by many centuries the works of the 17th century scientists Marcello Malpighi and William Harvey.

Ibn al-Nafis "was the first person to challenge the long-held contention of the Galen School that blood could pass through the cardiac interventricular septum, and in keeping with this he believed that all the blood that reached the left ventricle passed through the lung. He also stated that there must be small communications or pores ('manafidh' in Arabic) between the pulmonary artery and vein" (West, 1877). In his commentary, "pulmonary circulation was described, for the first time, in much detail [...] this circulation was not described by Galen, and only Al-Akhawayni had provided some accurate details about it. He contradicted Galen's reports on the presence of a pathway of 'invisible pores' or a visible hole between the right and left cavities, and stated that blood moves to the lung through vena arteriosa (pulmonary arteries). There, it mixes with air and is filtered, then it moves back to the left cavity via the arteria venosa (pulmonary vein)" (Alghamdi, 1001). Many of al-Nafis's statements remain accurate to medical science today, making this work one of the most groundbreaking of its era.

Morocco binding somewhat rubbed and lightly soiled, with a few small closed tears to extremities. A tiny paper flaw in margin of f. 19 and old paper repair to edge of f. 53. Exterior leaves slightly browned and brittle, with some wear and soiling to edges. A well-preserved and highly unusual survival of a major text in the history of medicine during the Islamic Golden Age.

GAL I 493, 37, 7. M. Alghamdi et al., "An Untold Story: The Important Contributions of Muslim Scholars for the Understanding of Human Anatomy", The Anatomical Record 300 (2017), pp. 986-1008. J. B. West, "Ibn al-Nafis, the Pulmonary Circulation, and the Islamic Golden Age", in: Journal of Applied Physiology 105 (2008), pp. 1877-1880.

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