Current Projects

Medieval Arabic Mineralogy

The Arabo-Islamic milieu received mineralogical lore from many different streams of tradition: Greek, Indian, Persian, Syriac. It also gave an innovative contribution to this field with many innovative compilations and new texts. Though many of them are presented as translation, we are actually dealing with either pseudo-translations or complete re-writings of works in other languages.

Galen, Kitāb min quwwat al-adwiya al-mufrada, Book 9, On Mineral Drugs

Together with my friend and colleague Dr. Matteo Martelli, we are currently preparing a Greaco-Arabic edition of the nineth book on stones, minerals, and metals from the De Simplicium Medicamentorum by Galen. The complete recensio of the manuscript witnesses and the close comparison between the two traditions of the text open new perspectives on the role that Arabic has in the constitutio of the Greek text, alongside with its indipendent tradition and the scholarly practices related to the transmission of this Galenic work, in particular in al-Andalus.

Pseudo-Aristotle On Stones

What Aristotle had promised —but never fulfilled— in the Greek Meteorologica, was written in the 9th-10th century in the Arabo-Islamic milieu. That is  a list of particular stones whose medicinal and alchemical properties are described.

The Book of the Seven Coloured Pearls

From the Pahlawi tradition, the Arabo-Islamic world received the inspiration for this text. Here seven pearls, each one of a different colour, The idea seems to come from a Middle-Persian environment, but it was given a new and more systematic structure in its passage into Arabic.

The Book of Planetary Seals by ʿUṭārid ibn Muḥammad

Indian materials have probably been the inspiration for this text that describes the seven stones associated to the planets, their appropriate engravings, and the ritual prescriptions connected with their use. The illustrations constitute a very interesting ichonographic corpus to study the transmission of images next to the one of texts.

Arabic Technical Alchemy

The recent studies on Western alchemy have been rediscovering its technical origins. Later, the spiritual connotation and the model of Paracelsus overshadow its core, made of dyeing processes, manipulation of metals, and production of fake precious stones. This scholarly trends suggests new directions also for the study of Eastern alchemy, in particular of the rich corpus of Arabic texts. I have started a survey—that includes a first collation and translation—of different alchemical texts that may serve as sources for a new history of alchemy.


MS Carullah 1086 (Suleymaniye Library) is a multiple-text manuscript from Maghrib collecting a number of short alchemical treatises. Among them, ‘On First Principles, Classes, Natures, and Colours’ (57v-66r). Another copy of this text (BL Or 13006, 7v-14r) can be found among the British Library manuscripts digitized with the support of the Qatar Foundation.

Risāla of Maria the Copt

The mythical figure of the Late Antique alchemist Maria the Jewess (‘the Copt’ in the Arabic text), a dialogue on the generations of metals, in which the metaphore of the genitrix is largely used (Cairo DAK Kimiya 23, 39r-40v).

The ‘Treasure of Alexander’

The second chapter of this eclectic collection of materials, ‘On the principles of the alchemical art, and the preparation of elixirs’, contains the description of several technical procedures: how to prepare the four different ‘waters’, how to change the colour of metals, whitening procedures.


Chronological List of Presentations


Daisy Picking in the Garden of Wisdom: an Anthology of Arabic Sciences and Medicine.

Lecture presented at the School of Humanities, Hyderabad University (Hyderabad, 4 April 2017)


Pigeon dots, horse spots, and twitching limbs in Medieval Arabic physiognomy.

Lecture presented at the BabMed Seminar “Physiognomy — Knowledge Traditions & Transfers” (Berlin, 15 November 2016)

Rolling Stones Do Gather: MS Aya Sofya 3610 and its collection of mineralogical texts.

Lecture presented at the Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures “The Emergence of MTMs (Multiple-Text Manuscripts)” (Hamburg, 9-12 November 2016)

Stone by Stone: Building the Graeco-Arabic Edition of Galen’s On Simple Drugs (Book 9)

Lecture presented at the COMSt Conference “Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: Looking back – Looking ahead” (Hamburg, 26 September 2016)

The Paradise of Wisdom. Complex Classifications in the First Medical Encyclopedia in Arabic.

Lecture presented at the BabMed Conference “Cultural Systems of Classification: Sickness, Health and Local Biologies. Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Medical Cultures in Anthropology and the Historical Sciences.” (Berlin, 6-7 June 2016)

Healing, Protecting, and Conquering. The Talismans of Alexander the Great and Apollonius of Tyana.

Lecture presented at the First International Conference “Amulets and Talismans in the Muslim World” (Leiden, 19-20 May 2016)

Divinare Oportet, Non Legere. Identification and Interpretation of Errors in Arabic Manuscripts on Natural Sciences.

Lecture presented at the Conference organized by the ERC Project SAW “Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World” and the Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg (Paris, 2-3 May 2016)

The Kitāb al-Ḫawāṣṣ of Muḥammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī.

Lecture presented at the yearly conference of the American Association for the History of Medicine (Minneapolis, 28 April-1 May 2016)

Alexander, Išrasīm, and the Prophets: Authorship and Pseudo-Authorship in Medieval Arabic Medicine.

Lecture presented at the second Bab Med Seminar for the History of Medicine (Free University, Berlin,26 January 2016)


Mineralogy in Simples II: Arabo-Islamic Reception.

Lecture presented at the conference  ‘Galen’s Natural Philosophy’ together with Matteo Martelli (Humboldt University, Berlin, 26-27 October 2015)

Mediaeval Arabic Mineralogy: Galen vs Pseudo-Aristotle.

Lecture presented at the CHAM International Conference (Lisbon, 16 July 2015)


The Graeco-Arabic Tradition of the De Simplicium Medicamentorum.

Lecture presented at the Montagskolloquium of the Humboldt University Research Project ‘Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the Body’ (Berlin, 9 February 2015)



Arabo-Islamic Manuscripts of Science: a Combined Approach to Structures and Contents

Lecture presented at the CSMC Workshop on ‘What Can the History of Science Contribute to Manuscript Studies? or What can Manuscripts Studies Contribute to the History of Sciences?’ (Hamburg, 8-10 May 2014)


Astro-Medicine in Some Arabic Lapidaries.

Lecture presented in the First BABMED Seminar (Berlin, 10 July 2014)


Alcuni lapidari astrologici nel medioevo islamico.

Lecture presented at the conference ‘Sotto un cielo di stelle, nostra Madre Terra’ (Perugia, 5-6 July 2014)


Tricks to Enter the Court: an early Mediaeval Retrospective on the Image of Power.

Lecture presented at the 60th ‘Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale’ (Warsaw, 21-25 July 2014)


How have you learnt about this? – Stories of Discovery and Authorship.

Lecture presented at the conference ‘Prophet, Viziers and Philosophers: Figures of Wisdom in Arabic Literature’ (Berlin, 10-11 October 2014)



Two Odd Cases in the Arabic Manuscript Tradition.

Lecture presented at the workshop BERGSAS 1. Alt-Seminar (Berlin, 23 May 2013)


Common Sense in the Arabic Science of Properties.

Lecture presented at the ‘Third Dahlem Seminar for the History of Ancient Sciences (Berlin, 25 May 2013)


Idrīs/Enoch as a Promethean Scientist in the Arabic Tradition – The Case of Geomancy and Authorship.

Lecture presented at the conference ‘The Enochic Chronotope (Comprehending Immaterial Causes and Physical Space: an Apocryphal Discourse) (Berlin, 17-19 December 2013)



Editing a Complex Medical Tradition: the Kitāb Manāfiʿ al-Ḥayawān of ʿĪsā ibn ʿAlī.

Lecture presented at the ‘Eight Islamic Manuscript Conference’. The Science of Manuscripts; Manuscripts of Science (Cambridge, 9-11 July 2012)