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Hebrew Manuscripts : Balm for the Body

Nathan ben Joel Falaquera

Hebrew Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Nathan ben Joel Falaquera’s learned Hebrew compendium of medicine ‘Balm for the Body’. A theoretical treatise in the tradition of the great Arabic compendia, Falaquera’s compendium was divided into four parts (theoretical medicine; practical medicine; diseases; drugs) and prefaced with a philosophical discussion on the importance of the study of medicine. Its intention was to acquaint Jewish physicians with the knowledge of medicine available in the Arabic-speaking world (both Islamic and Classical sources). It appears to have been a popular work in the 14th and 15th centuries, with more than a dozen manuscripts from this period extant. This copy, in an Ashkenazi hand on 15th-century Italian paper, is missing substantial sections, however, and seems not to have been finished, breaking off midway through a page (mid-word, in fact) on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(289);return false;'>145r</a>. It is, however, a particularly fine and large manuscript, in two columns with wide margins, with skilfully executed headings in red, green, blue and brown ink, foliage and scrollwork around chapter and section headings, as well as small pen illustrations (including pierced hearts, faces, poppies, bells) frequently brightening up the section numbers. The manuscript’s first three folios are missing, so it begins with the end of the table of contents (col. 1 on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>4r</a>) and continues with Nathan’s introduction and the first section on theoretical medicine (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>4r-46v</a>); this section closes on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(92);return false;'>46v</a> with ובכאן נשלם החלק הראשון ועתה אתחיל החלק השני; the section on practical medicine follows (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(92);return false;'>46v-145r</a>) before breaking off.<br /><br /> The title of the work is written in a later square hand at the top of f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>4r</a>, ספר צרי הגוף. Further marginal notes, corrections and additions in various hands can be found at f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>5r</a> and rarely throughout the text, e.g., <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(129);return false;'>65r</a>. Where illuminated headings have been cut out of the manuscript, some traces remain, e.g., f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(25);return false;'>12r</a>. Many smaller illuminated headings have survived, e.g., f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(41);return false;'>21r</a>. Descenders on the lowest line of each column are often adorned with tiny illustrations, usually faces, e.g., <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(67);return false;'>34r</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(69);return false;'>35r</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(80);return false;'>40v</a>. Section numbers are similarly treated, e.g., <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(114);return false;'>57v</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(115);return false;'>58r</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(223);return false;'>112r</a>.<br /><br /> The censor's signature occurs at the end of the text on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(289);return false;'>145r</a>, ‘Gio[vanni] dominico carretto 1610’. </p>

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