We, the medical historians, are indebted to the late
Lucien Le Clerk (1) for his discovery of this invaluable
book and for bringing it to the attention of the medical
historian community based on the only manuscript
known of the time in the national library

W. Pertsch (2) described another copy at the Ducal
Library of Gothe # 1994.

J. Hirschberg wrote extensively about this book in his
famous encyclopedia (Die ArabischenAugenarzte)
translated recently by the late Prof. Frederick C. Blodi
into English (The History of Ophthalmology). In
addition, Hirschberg, J. Lippert and E. Mittwoch, wrote a
book about the Arabian Ophthalmology in which they
reviewed this book along with two other books written by
the famous Occulists Ammar Ibn Ali Al-Mawsily and
Khalifeh Ibn Abi Al-Mahasen Al-halabi(4)

Two more manuscripts exist of this book:

The first is in the Alexandria National Library
The second was discovered by M. Z. Wafai, MD. and
was not mentioned by any historian before, in
Hamediyah Library # 1038 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Unfortunately, both copies were incomplete and missing
pages and even whole chapters, sometimes.

As mentioned above, the editors of the book (Wafai and
Kalaaji) chose the Paris copy as the mother copy because
it is the oldest (written in 1126AH=1714 CE), and
complete (contains all the ten chapters, or maqalahs) as
well as the introduction and all the geometrical figures to
explain the theory of vision in the second maqalah, (Fig.
2) some of which were taken from the book of optics by
Euklid, and the eighteen surgical instruments scattered
throughout the chapters on surgery, (Fig. 3), and the
outstanding and the first colored drawing of a cross
section of the eye (Fig. 4) (5)

This manuscript consists of 178 folios (353 pages), each
page contains 27 lines, with 13-15 words in each line.

The other three manuscripts were incomplete and lack all
the illustrations mentioned above. For example:
Gotha # 1994: Consists of 154 folio or 300 pages, 21
lines in each page, the pictures and the figures, in
addition to several pages and occasionally full chapters
are missing.
Alexandria # 1098: consists of 230 folio or 460 pages,17
lines in each page, written by two different calligraphers,
and all the figures and drawings are missing.
Istanbul (Hamedia) #138 which was discovered and
mentioned for the first time by M. Zafer Wafai, MD is a
copy of the Paris manuscript.
In the introduction of the book, Salah al Din referenced
most of the Arabian oculists prior to his time who were
experts in the field of ophthalmology (diagnosis and
medical and/or surgical management) in addition to
fifteen prominent Grecian oculists. In this chapter he
exhibited an outstanding humanitarian spirit and fear of
Almighty God. He emphasized the doctor’s behavior and
how it should be characterized by perfection and noble
spirit and mercy.

Salah Al- Din stressed the importance of behavior and
dignity by stating:

One must have purity, chastity, and the fear of God.
– One must keep the secrets which are confined to
– One must have goodness and faith.
– One must work hard in the study of science and avoid
the useless and vain lust of the body.
– One must follow the scholars and to dedicate oneself to
the sick and the needy.
– One must think of their treatment and how to find ways
and means to restore their health, and if it is possible one
can support the poor with their own money and do it with
– One’s aim should not be to hoard treasures, but to
collect only fees.
– Never prescribe lethal medications or an ointment
which could harm or damage the vision.

(God the exalted may support you and me as He pleases.)

After this lengthy introductory chapter stressing the
importance of fearing the Almighty God and seeking his
mercy, guidance and eternal reward in the life after,
Salah Al-Din goes to the first chapter (maqalah) dealing
with the anatomy of the eye in a very systematic
eloquent and comprehensive way, and follows the same
system in the remaining nine chapters. We should stress
what was mentioned earlier, that this first chapter
contains the very first colored drawing of a cross section
of the globe.

In the second book (maqalah), Salah Al-Din dared to
present geometrically his theory of vision. In this chapter
he divides the scholars who dealt with this topic into
three groups: the first are the mathematicians who claim
that the visual ray originates in the eye. The second group
claims that the vision occurs with the help of the air
around us. The third group is the naturalists who claim
that vision is due to perception.

He then goes on to explain the mirage phenomenon, and
the straight object being seen bent in the water.

Each of the following five chapters covers a specific part
of the of the eye in the same systematic and elegant way,
starting with different kinds of eye diseases, diseases of
the eyelids, diseases of the canthi, conjunctiva, and the cornea.

The eighth book deals with diseases of the iris, the pupil,
and extensively with diseases of the lens (cataract). He
describes the different sizes and the eight different causes
of the cataract and the eleven different colors that it may

He emphasizes the importance of the papillary reaction to
light prior to performing the procedure to ensure
favorable results. Then he spares no time or effort in
describing in great detail the surgery itself, the surgeon,
and his/her assistant regarding their clothing and
courteous behavior with the patient, positioning the
patient to ensure adequate light for the surgeon, and
finally recommending a soft or liquid diet for the patient
post operatively. At the end of this chapter, Salah Al-Din
describes the couching of the cataract using the hollow
couching needle invented and used by Ammar Ibn Ali
Al-Mousily in his book The Chosen of the Eye Diseases
and their Management.(6) .

In the ninth book (maqalah), Salah Al-Din discusses the occult diseases of the eye which are not apparent to the
examiner such as the diseases of the Retina, choroid, and
the optic nerve, and discusses their causes and types of
treatment if possible.

In the tenth book (maqalah), he lists an excellent and
very extensive collection of simple medications and a
few combined medications useful to treat eye diseases.

In brief, Salah Al-Din should be considered one of the
few geniuses in the field of ophthalmology and a pioneer
in describing the eye diseases and their management.


  1. Histoire de la Medicin Arab, Vol.2 P.205.
  2. Die Arab Handschriften der Herzogl. Bibl. Zu Gotha(
    vol .IV P. 30, 1883).
  3. Geschichte der Augenheilkunde. J Hirschberg.Printed
    by J.Spring Verlag, Berlin. Translated lately by the late
    Prof. Frederick C. Blodi into English (The History of
  4. Die ArabischenAugenarzte, J. Hirschberg, J. Lippert,
    und E. Mittwoch Leipzig Verlag Von Veit & Co. 1905.
    Translated into English by Frederick C. Blodi, Wilfried J.
    Rademaker, Gisela Rademaker, and Kenneth F.
    Wildman. Edited by M.Z. Wafai, M.D. Published by
    King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology 1993.
  5. The drawing was explained by P. Pansier: Coll.
    Ophth. Vit. Auctor. Fasc II Paris 1903 P. 89
  6. The Chosen of the Eye Diseases and their  Management, Ammar Ibn Ali Al-Mousily (circa 400AH=1010 AD) Edited by: Prof. M RawwasQalaaji and M. Zafer Wafai, MD. Published by Al-Obaikan Publishing House, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1991.