Strangely Diverse Writings

“People who are only aware of Jabir (or Geber as he was known in the medieval West) as the name of an early scientist, may not be aware of what richly bizarre treasures are to be found in his strangely diverse writings: sperm is a crucial ingredient in the elixir of life; bird sperm is needed for producing a man with wings; the effigy of a Chinaman in bed will keep one awake at night; a picture of a man killing snakes done in magical ink will actually kill snakes; there is a fish called “the doctor of the sea” that carries a stone in its head that has the power to cure all ills; putrefied hair generates serpents; demons can be usefully trapped in statues. In the monumental Jabir ibn Hayyan: Contribution à l’histoire des idées scientifiques dans l’Islam, Paul Kraus (1904–44), a genius who committed suicide at an early age, surveyed the Jabirian corpus, which covered sexology, alchemy, the art of warfare, the manufacture of talismans, artisanal techniques, religious polemic, grammar, music, invisible inks, the artificial generation of human beings and much else.”

From this book review.

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