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Obj. ID: 20903
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Gerard de Solo's Commentary on Book al-Mansuri, Provence, 1464

© BSB, Photographer: Unknown,
Summary and Remarks

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

Avignon, 1429

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

Avignon, 1429

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. 

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Gerard de Solo's Commentary on Book al-Mansuri | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Period Detail
Germany | Munich | Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB)
| Cod.hebr. 101 (Steinschneider 1895, No. 101)
Documentation / Research project
Iconographical Subject
Unknown |
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
Paper, 1 + 180 + 1 leaves.
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
Full page: (290-291) x (205-206) mm.
Text space: (212-215) x (127-130) mm.
Panel Measurements
Well preserved, except for brown stains (e.g. fols.1-4,143-146), and black ink stains on fol. 180v.
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
The text is written by a single scribe, Hayyim.
The text is written in semi-cursive Sephardi script in brown ink
Number of Lines
The text is written in 34 lines per page. The text is written in one column, except for the Table of Contents (fol. 178-178v), which is written in two columns and the Hebrew-Latin glossary (fols. 179-180) written in tables of six columns.
Ruling by stylus, 34 almost invisible horizontal lines and 1+1 vertical lines.
12 quires of 16 leaves each, except for the last quire which has 4 leaves. The leaves of quire VIII (fols. 113-128) are arranged incorrectly. The order, according to the catchwords and sequence of chapters, should be: 113, 122-127, 120-121, 114-119, 128 (all this was marked by Steinschneider in plummet within the manuscript). It seems that the binder arranged the quire between the fixed middle bifolium (fols. 20/21) and the outer one (fols. 113/128), from left to right, but foliated it from right to left as the rest of the manuscript. Quire Structure: I16 (1-16); II16 (17-32); III16 (33-48); IV16 (49-64); V16 (65-80); VI16 (81-96); VIII16 (113-128); IX16 (129-144); X16 (145-160); XI16 (161-176); XII4 (177-180).
Catchwords for leaves in semi-cursive Sephardi script are situated in the left lower corner. Not all catchwords match the first word on the next leaf, but no text is missing. It seems that sometimes the scribe did not repeat a catchword on the following leaf, but continued to copy from the subsequent word (e.g. fol. 148v). Some catchwords at the ends of quires are decorated and illustrated (fols. 96v, 128v, 144v).
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Fols. 172v, 180v (end of text and end of last quire).
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year
Fol. 172, a rhymed colophon by the scribe Hayyim written in semi-cursive Sephardi script in 1464: אני חיים קטן הלבלרים כתבתי זה הספר עם אחרים להה"ר ישראל בר' שמואל להגות בם יזכהו האל עם בניו החמוד'(ים) והנבח'(רים) וזרע זרעם לדורי דורים וסיימתיו יו'(ם) ד' לחדש תמוז יהפכהו הש'(ם) לשמחה ביו'(ם) הרמוז שנת דר"ך כוכב ביעקב (במדבר כד:17) שבוע ופרש(ה) מה אקוב לא קבה אל (במדבר כג:8) והתהלה לאל (I, Hayyim, the humblest of scribes wrote this book with others (books) for R. Israel bar Shmuel, and completed it on 4th Tammuz (10th June), the year 5224 (1464) in the week of reading מה אקוב (Num. 23:8), referring to the pericope of Balak (Num. 22:2-25:9).) The scribe Hayyim also copied the earlier colophon of Leon Joseph, who translated the text in 1394 (fol. 172): והנה נשלמה העתקת זה הספר עם תוספות המעתיק בעשרים/ ואחד יום לחדש אב במקום קרקשונא שנת קנ"ד לחשבוננו/ והתהלה לאל והודה לשמו אמן אמן (The copying of this book with the additions of the copyist (i.e. the translator Leon Joseph) is completed on 21st Av (27th July) in Carcassonne, in the year 5154 (1394), and glory to the Lord and thanks to His Name, amen, amen).
Scribal Notes
A few notes by the scribe were written in the outer margins, some marked by a pointing hand, among them: fol. 27v: בספר אשר אני מעתיק מתחיל עתק ... מצאתי בספר אחר בגלינום ... (In the book from which I am copying, the copy begins … I found in another book, in Galianum …).
Watermarks: Head of a bull with a triangle and flower: similar to Briquet, Nos. 14871-14873 (Brescia 1434-45, 1457-78).
Watermarks of flyleaves: Crown with a cross: similar to Briquet, Nos. 4981-4982 (Wolbeck 1540, Epinal 1538-39).
Trade Mark

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.

Decoration Program

The decoration was executed by the scribe Hayyim in brown ink:

  1. 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).
  2. 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). 
Suggested Reconsdivuction
Owners' inscriptions: Fol. 180v: הנה חתמתי שמי על ספרי שלא יבא אחד מן השוק ויאמר שלי הוא, נאום גרשום בר גרשום יצ"ו (I signed my name in my book, so that no one from the market will come and say 'this is mine', says Gershom bar Gershom, may my Rock and Redeemer protect me). Librarians' inscriptions: On the spine of the binding there is a 17th-century librarian's inscription: Avicenna Hebraicus, and on the verso of the front flyleaf: Hebraicus Avicenna. This error in text identification is derived from the opening title citation of the text: This citation was said by … Ali ben Sina (Avicenna) at the opening of the third book of his Canon (fol. 1). On the exlibris of the Bavarian Court stuck on the front pastedown is inscribed 'Cod. hebr. 101' in plummet by the 19th-century(?) hand of a librarian, in the upper left corner; and a description in German of the contents attributing it to Avicenna, is in the lower right corner. On the verso of the front flyleaf there is a note in plummet by Steinschneider about the contents of the manuscript: Gerardus de Sola in novum Alimansoris, St. (Steinschneider). He also noted 'cf. Cod. 374', and added references to parallel text sections in that manuscript (e.g. fol. 111v). In addition he corrected the erroneous arrangement of quire VIII (fols. 113-128, see Quires) by noting in plummet the proper sequence of the text: fols. 113, 122-127, 120-121, 114-119, 128. Exlibris and stamps: An exlibris of the Bavarian Court and State Library (218 x 152 mm) with the arms of Elector Maximilian I from 1638 is pasted upside down on the front pastedown (Dressler 1972: B3ab, p. 23). It is stuck on his earlier exlibris from 1618 (Dressler 1972:A3a-f), before becoming elector in 1623 (see Cod.hebr. 21). On the recto of the first front flyleaf and on fol. 180v is the oval 19th-century stamp of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: BIBLIOTHECA/ REGIA/ MONACENSIS. Old signatures: On the spine of the binding there are two stickers with signatures: 92 and 34. On the recto of the front flyleaf: 92.
Main Surveys & Excavations
Ackerknecht 1985 E. H. Ackerknecht, "Some High Points of the Medical History of Provence", Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 2 (1) (1985). Beit Arié 1976 M. Beit Arié, Hebrew Codicology, Paris 1976. Dressler 1972 F. Dressler. Die Exlibris der Bayerischen Hof-und Staatsbibliothek, 17. bis 20. Jahrhundert. Wiesbaden 1972. Einbanddatenbank: http://erfassung.hist-einband.de/recherche/ebwerkz.php?id=109502s Garcia-Ballester 1990 L. Garcia-Ballester, L. Ferre, E. Feliu, “Jewish Appreciation of Fourteenth- Century Scholastic Medicine”, Osiris, 2nd Ser., vol. 6: Renaissance Medical Learning: Evolution of a Tradition (1990). Guénoun 2005 A.-S. Guénoun, "Les traductions en hébreu de l'oeuvre du médecin Gérard de Solo (XIVe siècle)", Revue des Études juives, 164 (3-4) (2005), pp. 463-488. EJ s.v. Provence Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. Provence, 2nd ed., 2007. Schatzmiller 1994 J. Schatzmiller, Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society, Berkeley-Los Angeles- London 1994. Steinschneider 1983 M. Steinschneider, Hebraïschen Übersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher, Berlin 1893. Steinschneider 1895 M. Steinschneider, Die Hebräischen Handschriften der K.Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in München, Munich 1895.
Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin; Ilona Steimann | 2008; 2008
Author of description
Ilona Steimann; Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin ;Yaffa Levy | 2008; 2013; 2013
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Michal Sternthal; Project Head: Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin | 05-2016; 2008; 2013
Language Editor
Christine Evans | 2013
Supported by the Fritz Thyssen |
Negative/Photo. No.
The following information on this monument will be completed:
Unknown |