Andreas Vesalius’ (1514–64) first publication was a Paraphrasis of the ninth book of the Liber ad Almansorem, written by the Arab–Persian physician and alchemist Rhazes (854–925). The role of Rhazes in Vesalius’ oeuvre has thus far been much disregarded. The different ways Rhazes recurs reveal an intellectual evolution in Vesalius’ work. In the Paraphrasis, Vesalius subjects Rhazes to the authority of Galen in the context of the early sixteenth-century humanist campaign for the substitution of Arab influences by Greek ‘originals’. Over the years Vesalius continues his work on Rhazes, but his approach becomes more internationalistic. Ultimately, Vesalius criticises Galen while expressing sympathy for the Arab author. This may be the more significant as Rhazes could have influenced Vesalius in the act of criticising Galen – critical discussions of Galen were available to Vesalius in Latin translations of Rhazes’s Liber Continens. Although Vesalius never refers to the work, it is hardly possible he was unaware of it: similarities in structure, rhetoric and form between the Continens and the De humani corporis fabrica could support this hypothesis.
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