Text space: (212-215) x (127-130) mm.
Watermarks of flyleaves: Crown with a cross: similar to Briquet, Nos. 4981-4982 (Wolbeck 1540, Epinal 1538-39).
Binding of the sixteenth century. Off-white pigskin on cardboard, the front and back similar. Each cover is blind-tooled with three frames enclosing a central rectangle. The frames are decorated with strips of floral scrolls, chains or single flowers. The spine has four double cords and head and tail bands. The vestiges of four green cloth ribbons for closing the codex are still visible in each cover: two at the top and bottom edge and two on the side edges.
The decoration was executed by the scribe Hayyim in brown ink:
- Titles for different parts of the text are decorated with foliate and floral motifs, animals and birds. Foliate decoration with birds flanks the opening citation (fol. 1); a crowned lion and a dragon breathing fire flank the title of the chapter on lungs and side diseases (fol. 111v).
- Catchwords at the ends of quires are variously decorated, sometimes relating to the text: a naked man riding a centaur-like creature (fol. 96v); a hand holding a bunch of rocket leaves (fol. 128v); and a dog chasing a bird (fol. 144v).
The manuscript copied in 1464 by the Scribe Hayyim contains the Hebrew translation from the Latin of Gerard de Solo's commentary on the ninth tract of the Book of al-Mansuri by ar-Razi (incorrectly attributed to Avicenna by the 17th-century librarian of the BSB, see History) and ends with a Hebrew-Latin glossary of astrological terms.
Based primarily on Greek medicine, the 'Book al-Mansuri' was composed in 902 by Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariya al-Razi, latinised form of his name Rhazes (865-923/932), as a short general textbook on medicine in ten tracts. He dedicated his book to the Samanid ruler Mansur bin Ishaq al-Samaui, which explains its title. The ninth tract 'Pathology' (Steinschneider 1895, No. 101: Practica), dealing with the treatment of maladies of the bodily organs from the head to the foot, was especially popular and used in the teaching of therapeutics until after the Renaissance. It was often copied and published separately and commented upon. One of these commentaries in Latin, entitled Practica super nono Almansoris Novum mansoris was composed in 1335 by Gerard de Solo, a physician and professor of theMontpellier medical school.
The full translation into Hebrew of de Solo's commentary in our manuscript was made by the physician and translator of medical works, Leon Joseph (c.1365-1418) in1394 inCarcassonne(Provence). He revised the text in 1402 (Steinschneider 1983, p. 794, § 496), and added some comments which became an integral part of the Questions about the text. This, in our manuscript (fols. 173-177v), seems to be part of that revision (Steinschneider 1985, p. 62). Leon Joseph was not the only translator of de Solo's commentary; it had been translated by Tobiel ben Shmuel in 1388 and later by Abraham Avigdor around 1395 (Guénoun 2005, pp. 467 and 483). In the year when he translated de Solo's commentary, Leon Joseph was expelled fromCarcassonneand settled inPerpignan, where he is found practicing medicine in 1414 (Guénoun 2005, p. 477). Some time thereafter he converted to Christianity, adopting the name Leonardus Benedictus, and died in 1418 (Garcia-Ballester 1990, p. 93).
At least 14 manuscripts containing Leon Joseph's translation are preserved in different libraries in the world (see list in Guénoun 2005, pp. 479-482) most of them copied in Sephardi scripts. Some manuscripts open with the translator's introduction, missing in our manuscript, and contain an identification of Leon Joseph by the abbreviation ALYH (אלי"ה = אמר ליאון יוסף המעתיק) which means: Leon Joseph the copyist said. This abbreviation is also included within Questions about the text (fols. 173-177v), which he partly composed himself and partly gathered from other sources (Steinschneider 1983, p. 795). A few manuscripts finish with Leon Joseph's colophon stating that he wrote it inCarcassonnein1394. Inour manuscript the colophon of the translator appears on fol. 172, copied by our scribe Hayyim from his exemplar in 1464.
The Hebrew-Latin glossary of astrological terms at the end of our manuscript (fols. 179-180) probably also serves a medical end. Medicine and astrology (or astronomy) were closely connected in Medieval Europe and physicians were equally qualified in both fields. Many medical treatments were carried out in accordance with the disposition of the stars, because of the belief in their influence on the human body (Schatzmiller 1994, pp. 37-38), and therefore knowledge of astrological terminology was necessary.
In his rhymed colophon the scribe Hayyim states that he wrote the text on 4th Tammuz 5224 (10th June 1464), in the week of parashat Balak (the weekly portion of the Torah reading). Hayyim also states that the manuscript was copied for R. Israel bar Shmuel together with other books, but he does not mention the place of production. Though he calls himself "the humblest of scribes", his marginal notes (e.g. fol. 27v, reference to Galen) and drawings (fols. 96v and 128v) seem to suggest he was an experienced scribe familiar with medical texts.
Our manuscript was written in Sephardi script, but the style of drawings executed by the scribe Hayyim may be compared with the Pentateuch Commentary by Levi ben Gershon produced in Avignon in 1429; in both cases the human figures have large heads relative to their bodies, with flat low foreheads, short wide upper arms, hands with wide palms and small feet (figs. 1 and 2).
Fig. 1: Munich Commentary on al-Mansuri
Munich, BSB Cod.hebr. 101, fol. 96v
Fig. 2: Pentateuch Commentary by Levi ben Gershon
London, BL Add. 14759, fol. 1v
The treatment of the figures and other objects in both manuscripts is very detailed and careful. Even minor decorative motifs, such as the leaves in our manuscript (fig. 3) and the decoration of the laver in theAvignonmanuscript, are similarly executed with serrated outlines.
Fig. 3: Munich Commentary on al-Mansuri
Munich, BSB Cod.hebr., fol. 1
Fig. 4: Pentateuch Commentary by Levi ben Gershon
London, BL Add. 14759, fol. 3r
Due to their geographical location the Jews of Provence were influenced by different cultural centres, such as Ashkenaz and Italy, and especially by Spain(EJ s.v. Provence). Our manuscript, similar to those produced in Provence, also has Sephardi features, such as the script and the composition of quires (quires of 16 leaves each are characteristic to the Sephardi paper manuscripts, see Beit Arié 1976, p. 47).
It is known that there were a great number of Jewish physicians in Provence and in the middle of the 15th century there were probably as many Jewish as Christian physicians in Avignon. They conducted the same medical examinations as Christians from 1341 on and could even be hospital or plague surgeons (Ackerknecht 1985, p. 54). Apparently the patron of our manuscript, R. Israel bar Shmuel, was a physician surrounded by Jews of the same profession, a fact which made the exchange and copying of medical texts readily feasible.