Nikolai I. Serikoff
The Wellcome Library
The Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS
This article contains the biography of the prominent French medical doctor and historian of medicine Lucien Nicolas Leclerc (1816-1893) as well as interpreted Latin transliterations of Arabic and Greek names of medicinal herbs and proper nouns, left by Leclerc in the margins of his copy of the Latin translation of De simplicibus medicinis by Yuhanna ibn Sarabiyun, who lived in 9th century AD. This interpretation shows the stages of transformation of Greek nouns in the process of transliteration from Greek into Syrian, from Syrian to Arabic and subsequently from Arabic into Latin.
The history of Arabic medicine became a second profession for L. Leclerc. He viewed it, first and foremost, as the history of medical ideas and surgery. Medical doctors and other medical practitioners were his chosen audience while the history of a profession (medicine) constituted his scholarly interests. He didn’t want to be associated with historians who didn’t have any medical education as well as with specialists in Arabic philology. He thought it to be more important for practitioners to understand what is written in a text than to delve into philological nuances. That is why he consistently adapted the Arabic proper nouns and some of the scientific terms, thus making them more understandable for his compatriots. Nevertheless, in order to identify the proper nouns as well as the medical and botanical terms, he performed a brilliant philological analysis of all the unclarities in the Latin text while preparing this adaptation. The results of this analysis are still in demand even nowadays by various specialists, not just historians of medicine and prove the fact that though the Leclerc’s obvious achievements as a doctor are already forgotten, his contribution to the history of Arabic medicine can hardly be over-estimated.
Keywords: history of medicine, Lucien Leclerc, Yuhanna ibn Sarabiyun, latin transliterations from Greek and Arabic, De simplicibus medicinis, materia medica