Cambridge University Library

Fragment of the Month: March 2014

A newly discovered medical recipe written by Maimonides: Mosseri I.115.1

By Amir Ashur, The Center for the Study of Conversion and inter-Religious encounters, Ben Gurion University

While examining the legal opinion on the verso of this manuscript, I glanced at the recto, which contains a medical recipe. At first it looked no different from other medical recipes.[1] But upon closer inspection I realised that it might be an autograph of Maimonides!

A note of caution is in order, for some aspects of the script are not characteristic of Maimonides’ autographs. In particular, here the Arabic letter ق is represented by the Hebrew qof with two diacritical dots above it:

Qof with dots

This is rare in Judaeo-Arabic,[2] and I have not seen it in any of Maimonides’ known autographs, but it is found seven times in this recipe. Maimonides did make a practice of writing ת, with two dots, in order to identify it as ت rather than ث, which was written with three diacritical marks, a fairly well-documented practice in Judaeo-Arabic. In our recipe there is only one example of ת (in a word which also includes ק viz. פס̈ת̈ק):

the word fustuq with diacriticals

Less significant but also worthy of mention is the phraseology of the Hebrew blessing at the end of the recipe ושלום הדרתה ירבה ‘May the wellbeing of his Excellency increase’. In many of his letters Maimonides writes ושלומה ירבה ‘May his wellbeing increase,’ with the word הדרתה ‘his Excellency’ implied.

These discrepancies notwithstanding, a careful comparison of the handwriting of this recipe to Maimonides’ known autographs clarifies, in my opinion,[3] that this manuscript is written in his hand. Note, for example, the word טעאם found in T-S Ar.44.7, part of Maimonides’ Treatise on Sexual Intercourse:

Detail

It is identical to the same word found in our medical recipe:

The word ta‘am from Moss I.115.1

Another example from T-S Misc.34.24, which belongs with the same autograph treatise, is the word נאר 'fire':

/

Which can be compared to the same word in our fragment:

the word Nar in Moss I.115.1

Only a handful of medical recipes written by Maimonides have been found so far, making this fragment an important addition to this small but expanding corpus.[4]

Mosseri I.115.1:

1   סכר אוקיה גרוי תחל במא חאר

2   ויעצר עליהמא מא לימונתין וישרב

3  פאתרא לל̈קי ובעד אלקי בסאעה

4  ילע̈ק אוקיתין שראב לימוא וסכנגבין

5  ענצלי מפתרה בנאר לינה מחרכה

6  בקלוב ריחאן תרנ̇גאני ו̈קלוב נענאע

7  אכ̇צר ויחדר אכל אלטלע

8  ואלנב̈ק ואללוז אלאכ̇צר ואל̇כרנוב ואלבא̈קלי אל

9  אכ̇צר ואל̇גזר וכל טעאם ידכלה ̇כל

10  או ̈קלקאס ויתנקל באלזביב ואל

11  פס̈ת̈ק ואלתין ואל̇גוז כאצה והסיר

12  השם ממך כל חולי ושלום הדרתה ירבה לעד

13   נצח סלה

Translation:

1  One ounce of sticky sugar melted in hot water.
2  He should squeeze juice from two lemons onto it and drink
3  it lukewarm in order to vomit. One hour after vomiting,
4  he should sip two ounces of a lemon and squill-like oxymel drink,
5  heated to lukewarm on a low flame, mixed
6  with melissa-type and green mint leaves.    
7  And he should be careful not to eat unripe dates,
8  Christ's Thorn jujube, green almonds, carob, green broad beans,
9  carrots and any food that contains vinegar
10  or taro. And for dessert he should eat only raisins,
11  pistachios, figs and nuts.
12  The Lord will ward off from you all sickness.[5] May the wellbeing of his Excellency increase forever!
13  Neṣaḥ. Sela.

 

Image

Mosseri I.115.1: An autograph medical recipe by Maimonides

 

 

Notes:

[1] Dozens of such recipes were published recently by Efraim Lev and Leigh Chipman, Medical Prescriptions in the Cambridge Genizah Collections, 'Cambridge Genizah Studies Series' 4 (Leiden, 2013).

[2] See Friedman, M.A., Maimonides, The Yemenite Messiah and Apostasy [Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 2002), p. 200.

[3] Prof. M.A. Friedman has also examined it, and concurs.

[4] A fragment of such a recipe was published by Esther-Miriam Wagner: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Taylor-Schechter/fotm/october-2007/. Another recipe, T-S Ar.30.286, was published by S. Stern in Maimonidis Commentarius in Mischnam, S. D. Sassoon [ed.] (Hafniae 1961), pp. 27-28, and plate XIV-XV.

[5] Deuteronomy 7:15. New JPS translation.

 

I wish to thank Prof. M. A. Friedman for his comments

 

 

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