On editing medical fragments from the Cairo Geniza.

Author:Bos, Gerrit
Position:Critical essay
 
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Medical Prescriptions in the Cambridge Genizah Collections: Practical Medicine and Pharmacology in Medieval Egypt (Leiden: Brill, 2012) is part of the rich scholarly production of Efraim Lev (often in cooperation with Zohar Amar) in the field of Jewish-Islamic medicine, especially pharmacological literature. Lev has penned many pioneering articles and monographs in this field, for which he deserves our esteem and gratitude. When his publications are based on the interpretation of ancient and medieval medical terminology, however, they unfortunately suffer from the author's having neither a deep-grounded knowledge of both the classical and medieval medical traditions nor the proper philological training in the relevant languages, viz., classical Hebrew and Arabic. As a result these publications cannot be consulted as reliable witnesses to the reading or meaning of the terms therein, but must be checked against the original. I had to conclude thus in a review of an earlier work composed by Lev and Amar, Practical Materia Medica of the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean According to the Cairo Genizah (Leiden: Brill, 2008), (1) of which this volume under discussion is a companion. For the current monograph, which consists of a transcription, translation, and interpretation of thirty prescriptions from the Cairo Geniza, in addition to a detailed theoretical introduction and evaluation, Lev collaborated with Leigh Chipman, a promising young scholar and specialist in medieval Jewish-Islamic pharmacology. As a result of their collaboration Medical Prescriptions is certainly an improvement over Practical Materia Medica in that it suffers from far fewer textual errors. This is especially true when one considers the fact that the prescriptions analyzed in this volume are composed in a wide variety of scripts, present many scribal mistakes and lacunae, and are at times very hard to read. Yet the number of erroneous transcriptions and translations--featuring in virtually every single text unit (prescription or recipe)--is still high and in need of revision. When we are dealing with prescriptions or pharmacological recipes, precise transcription, translation, and interpretation are of vital importance.

In what follows I offer a detailed analysis of the terminology of every prescription, insofar as this was possible on the basis of the photographs of the fragments presented in the book. I will not treat the extensive theoretical part of the book (pp. 1-20, 137-54), which gives the general impression of being well informed. Following the list of corrections to the prescriptions I will point out errata in the glossary.

As a general note I would like to mention that it is recommendable to add the Latin nomenclature to English plant names; and as for secondary literature, the following standard works should be consulted and referred to:

Manfred Ullmann, Worterbuch zu den griechisch-arabischen Ubersetzungen des 9. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002); idem, Worterbuch zu den griechisch-arabischen Ubersetzungen: Supplement, vol. 1 (Wiesbaden 2006); idem, Worterbuch zu den griechisch-arabischen Ubersetzungen: Supplement, vol. 2. (Wiesbaden 2007); Deutsche Morgenlandische Gesellschaft, Worterbuch der klassischen arabischen Sprache (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1957-; 1970--). For the explanation of the specific Arabic terminology of compound drugs, Irene Fellmann, Das Aqrabadin al-Qalanisi: Quellenkritische und begriffsanalytische Untersuchung zur arabisch-pharmazeutischen Literatur (Beirut: Orient-Institut der DMG, 1986), is a useful source of information.

For the abbreviations used below, see the list of references at the end of this article.

PRESCRIPTION 1 (RECTO, PP. 24-25)

In 11. 5-6, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("sweet basil [that] strengthens buds of cloves") should be corrected to read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("fara[n]jamushk, i.e., buds of cloves").

The identity of fara[n]jamushk is uncertain; according to Maimonides (M, 47), it is the same as habaq qaranfuli (clove basil, Ocimum gratissimum); in Maimonides's Medical Aphorisms, 21.75 (forthcoming ed. and tr. Gerrit Bos [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young Univ. Press]), it is the same as al-rayhan al-qaranfulT (large species of clove basil; cf. M, 48). According to Dietrich (DT, 3.48), fara[n]jamushk is perhaps Ocimum minimum. See also Schmucker, no. 529 (pp. 316-17); for a detailed account, see Garbers, no. 27 (pp. 196-98).

In 1. 6, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] should be corrected to read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] since the gimel has a diacriti cal point.

In 1. 7, note that the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is followed by another term that cannot be read, but has not been indicated.

Thus, the translation of 11. 5-6, reading "and aloeswood, and citron leaves and seeds of sweet basil [that] strengthens buds of cloves," should be corrected to "and aloeswood, and citron leaves and seeds of fara[n]jamushk, i.e., buds of cloves."

PRESCRIPTION 1 (VERSO, PP. 26-27)

In 1. 10, the reading of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] should be emended to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and the translation "cloth of silver, one dirham; cloth of gold" should be corrected to read "silver filings (dust), one dirham; gold filings (dust)."

Arabic [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], i.e., means "filings or dust" [from a metal]; cf. D, 1: 67, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

In 1. 11, the reading [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for "lapis lazuli" should be corrected to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

PRESCRIPTION 2 (PP. 30-31)

In 11. 2-3, the translated text of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], now rendered "Berberry seeds, tamarisk, and pistachio shells," should be corrected to "Berberry seeds, fruit of the tamarisk, and outer shells of pistachio."

The term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which is not translated, should be read as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., ("fruit"). For the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], cf. M, 200, s.v. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: "It is the fruit of the tamarisk" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

In 11. 4-5, the translation "boil it all in one hundred dirhams of hot water" should read "boil it all in one hundred dirhams of water."

In 1. 6, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] should be read as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (there is no diacritical point above the gimeiy, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which has not been translated but is transcribed as tabashir, should be translated as "bamboo chalk"; cf. Prescription 1 (verso, 1. 4).

PRESCRIPTION 3 (PP. 34-35)

In 1. 1, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] should be read as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], while the compound remedy [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (hiera picra) should be explained to the reader as a compound remedy with as main component aloe, hence the qualification "picra"; cf. FAQ, 216 for its composition. (2)

In 1. 5, the prescription to take this remedy "at daybreak" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) should be corrected to take it "while abstaining from food." For [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], cf. L, 652: "The practising abstinence [especially the abstaining from things injurious in the case of sickness]; the abstaining, or desisting from eating." In a medical context the term features, for instance, in Maimonides, Medical Aphorisms, 8.8 (ed. and tr. Gerrit Bos [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young Univ. Press, 2007], p. 44), where it stands for Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "abstinence from food" (cf. LSJ, 256).

In 11. 8-9, the diet prescribed does not consist of "chicken asbidajl (spinach?)," but of "chicken isbid(a)baj ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])," which is a compound dish with meat (here, chicken). For isbid(a)baj (read, isfidbaj); cf. VL, 1.92, s.v. ispidba: "cibi genus ex carne, cepis, butyro, oleo, apio et coriandro paratum" [a dish prepared with meat, onions, butter, oil, parsley, and coriander]; NA, chap. 59, and glossary, p. 608: "white stew praised as a balanced dish fit for all." The name is composed of isfid "white" and ba(j) "broth" (pp. 282-84). For an extensive account, see Maimonides, On Hemorrhoids (tr. Gerrit Bos and Michael R. McVaugh [Provo Utah: Brigham Young Univ. Press, 2012]), chap. 3.1 (p. 12) and especially n. 90 (pp. 185-86).

Accordingly, the correct reading isbid(a)baj should not be emended and read asbidaj as suggested in Lev and Chipman, p. 36.

PRESCRIPTION 4 (P. 38)

In 1. 1, the emendation of the first term, i.e., [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("boxthorn"), is mistaken; the correct reading is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), i.e., "galingale." The term's fourth letter is not ayin but a ligature of nun and gimel.

In 1. 5, the suggested reading [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is mistaken since the last letter is not qof, but a final nun, preceded by the lower part of the gimel. Thus, one might supplement the missing letters as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and the translation "pound in honey" should be corrected to "knead with honey."

PRESCRIPTION 5 (PP. 40-41)

In 1. 2, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("God") is missing in the text itself. Hence the edition should read [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]],

In 11. 4, 9, and 13, the term 03 featuring in the edition should be corrected to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], that is, an abbreviation of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("half"); cf. textual note on p. 42: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--half.

In 1. 5, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Cretan dodder") should be read as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (diacritical point above the tav), i.e., Arabic [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

In 1. 6, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("lavender") should be read as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN...

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