174
174
An Alphabetically-Arranged Pharmacology Handbook, [Middle East: 16th-17th centuries]
Estimate
8,00012,000
LOT SOLD. 10,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
174
An Alphabetically-Arranged Pharmacology Handbook, [Middle East: 16th-17th centuries]
Estimate
8,00012,000
LOT SOLD. 10,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Judaica

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New York

An Alphabetically-Arranged Pharmacology Handbook, [Middle East: 16th-17th centuries]
146 folios (8 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.; 212 x 158 mm) (collation: 1 + xvi-xxi12, xxii14, xxiii-xxv12 + 1, xxix-xxx12 [lacking xxix1, xxx12]) on paper; early foliation (ff. 169-292, 329-350) in pen in Hebrew characters at upper-outer margin of recto (lacking ff. 1-168 [’alif through the beginning of rā’], 293-328 [beginning of lām through the middle of mīm], 351-end [the middle of wāw through yā’]); early quire signatures in pen in Eastern Arabic numerals in gutter of opening where each new quire begins; written in Oriental Hebrew square (titles and lemmata) and semi-cursive (text body) scripts in black ink; unruled; twenty-four lines to a page; catchwords at foot of every verso; extensive marginalia and strikethroughs in hands of primary and subsequent scribes throughout. Enlarged titles and incipits; new letters of the alphabet introduced with the formula “bab al-X” either outlined or filled with red ink (except on f. 222v); tapering text on ff. 248v, 253r. Binding cracked in places; scattered staining; slight dampstaining in margins and/or gutter at foot throughout; gutter frequently reinforced or repaired; thumbing; occasional smudging; corners rounded; periodic minor tears in outer margins, not affecting text; f. 169 loose at foot; small holes in f. 169 affecting a few letters; minor tears in gutter of ff. 169-170, 286; paper repairs in center of f. 194 affecting a few words; paper repairs along foot of f. 242; upper-outer corner of f. 278 lacking; ff. 290-292, 329-350 loose. Upper and lower boards lacking. Housed in a modern yellow folding case; brown leather lettering piece with title and date lettered gilt on spine.
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Catalogue Note

The present treatise is a rather comprehensive Arabic-language pharmacopoeia, or handbook of medical material, written in Hebrew characters. It lists and describes pharmacological simples and compounds of vegetable, animal, and mineral origin in alphabetical sequence according to the Arabic alphabet, setting out the properties of each and giving detailed instructions for their preparation and use in the treatment of various illnesses and disorders. It was written in the tradition exemplified by Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90), the famous Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De materia medica, a five-volume Greek encyclopedia about herbal medicine that, in its medieval Arabic adaptations and expansions – particularly that of the Muslim pharmacist, botanist, and physician Ibn al-Bayṭār (1197-1248) – continued in use in the Middle East until the introduction of Western medicine in the past two centuries.

Given that the language of the treatise is literary Arabic, it is likely that it was originally composed by a Muslim scholar and then transcribed into Hebrew characters for the use of Jewish physicians and pharmacists who could not easily read Arabic (though a number of terms have been left in their original Arabic script; see, e.g., ff. 176v, 179v, 189r, 197r, 270v, 340v). (The phenomenon of Jewish scribes converting Arabic works, particularly those related to the medical profession, into Hebrew text was quite common in the medieval period.) Based on the available evidence, the as-yet unidentified author, who demonstrates familiarity with species, varieties, and modes of manufacture from all over the Islamic world, appears to have been writing in the region of Iran-Iraq in the eleventh or twelfth century.

This volume was obviously a handy pharmacopoeia used by several generations of Jewish physicians – including the prominent doctor Moses ben Isaac ha-Levi Kholeif – as evidenced by the various owners’ marks and signed marginalia containing additional pharmacological lemmata, mainly deriving from the writings of Da’ūd al-Antākī (1543-1599) and Ṣāliḥ bin Naṣrulla bin Sellum (d. 1670), who discussed substances unknown to the ancients. It can be dated to the sixteenth or seventeenth century based on the paper’s watermark (anchor within a circle, surmounted by a five-pointed star) and localized to the Middle East based on its script. This provenance should not surprise us, given the numerous fragments from the Cairo Genizah testifying to the prominence of Middle Eastern Jews in the field of pharmacy already in the medieval period. While the work is now incomplete, it nevertheless holds a wealth of information about Middle Eastern Jewish medical knowledge, practice, and tradition at the dawn of the modern period.

Sotheby’s is grateful to Y. Tzvi Langermann for providing information that aided in the cataloging of this manuscript. 

Provenance

Moses Kholeif (ff. 175r, 185r, 248r-v, 260r, 275v)

Moses ibn Habib (ff. 183v, 275v)

Samuel (f. 254v)

Raphael Isaac (f. 340v)

Literature

Leigh N. Chipman, “Pharmacopoeias for the Hospital and the Shop: Al-Dustur al-bimaristani and Minhaj al-dukkan,” in Michael M. Laskier and Yaacov Lev (eds.), The Convergence of Judaism and Islam: Religious, Scientific, and Cultural Dimensions (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011).

Y. Tzvi Langermann, “Transcriptions of Arabic Treatises into the Hebrew Alphabet: An Underappreciated Mode of Transmission,” in F. Jamil Ragep, Sally P. Ragep, and Steven John Livesey (eds.), Tradition, Transmission, Transformation: Proceedings of Two Conferences on Pre-Modern Science Held at the University of Oklahoma (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1996), 247-260. 

Y. Tzvi Langermann, “Arabic Writings in Hebrew Manuscripts: A Preliminary Relisting,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 6 (1996): 137-160.

Efraim Lev, “Drugs Held and Sold by Pharmacists of the Jewish Community of Medieval (11–14th Centuries) Cairo According to Lists of Materia Medica Found at the Taylor–Schechter Genizah Collection, Cambridge,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 110 (2007): 275-293.

Moritz Steinschneider, “Manoscritti arabici in caratteri ebraici,” Bollettino italiano degli studii orientali 1-19 (n.s.) (1879): 65-69, 82-87, 128-134, 333-338, 361-369.

Moritz Steinschneider, “Schriften der Araber in hebräischen Handschriften, ein Beitrag zur arabischen Bibliographie,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 47 (1893): 335-384.

Moritz Steinschneider, “An Introduction to the Arabic Literature of the Jews II,” trans. Adeline Goldberg, Jewish Quarterly Review 12,3 (April 1900) (o.s.): 481-501, at pp. 499-501.

Moritz Steinschneider, Die arabische Literatur der Juden: Ein Beitrag zur Literaturgeschichte der Araber, grossenteils aus handschriftlichen Quellen (Frankfurt am Main: J. Kauffmann, 1902).

Important Judaica

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New York