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Three Fragments on Practical Medicine in Medieval Egypt

Genizah Research Annual
Y. Zvi Stampfer
Genizah Research Annual
Editorial board:
Menahem Ben-Sasson (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem), Haggai Ben-Shammai
(Hebrew University), Robert Brody (Hebrew University), Y. Zvi Stampfer
(Ben-Zvi Institute, Jerusalem)
International Advisory board:
Mark R. Cohen (Princeton University), Neil Danzig (Jewish Theological Seminary of America),
James Diamond (University of Waterloo), Yaakov Elman (Yeshiva University),
Mordechai A. Friedman (Tel-Aviv University), Menahem Kahana (Hebrew University),
Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge University, UK), Sarah Stroumsa (Hebrew University)
Cover design and concept: Dvora Lifschitz
Language editing: Yehezkel Hovav
English editing: Michael Maoz
Editorial assistant: Avihay Gamdani
Typesetting and printing: Graphit Press Ltd., Jerusalem
Production: Michael Glatzer
Cover illustration:
Ms. CUL T-S 16.378; reproduced here with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge
University Library
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ISSN 1565y7353
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Table of Contents
English Section
Editorial Statement 7*
New Genizah Documents:
Three Fragments on Practical Medicine in Medieval Egypt
Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev 9*
English Summaries 36*
Hebrew Section
The Benefits of Marriage:
A Case Study of the Reception of Late Midrash in the Genizah
Yachin Epstein and Moshe Lavee 13
Judges’ Duties: A Reconstruction of an Anonymous Judeo-Arabic
Halakhic Commentary
Neri Yeshayahu Ariel 51
Autograph Instructions by Maimonides regarding Aid to the Needy and
to Functionaries
Amir Ashur 83
Rav Sherira’s Glossary of Tractate Shabbat
from the Babylonian Talmud
Dan Greenberg 95
Between Sicily and the Near East:
the Sicilian Expulsion in the Cairo Genizah
Abraham David 141
The Opinions of Babylonian Geonim Regarding the Requirement
of Dual Condition
Mayer Lichtenstein 169
The Contribution of the Early Sheilta to the Research of the Editing
Process of the Tractate Sukka in the Babylonian Talmud
Rabin Shustri 183
New Genizah Documents:
Three Fragments on Practical Medicine
in Medieval Egypt
Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
Numerous Genizah collections have been studied ever since the documentary
trove of the Cairo Genizah was discovered by Western scholars.
fragments have been published, catalogues written, and much research focusing
on a wide variety of topics has yielded a wealth of articles and books. Among
the main fields studied are various religious and biblical subjects, Jewish law,
education, poetry,social life,trade,communalorganization,and so on.
The Cairo Genizah fragments supply us with a unique opportunity to learn
about the place of medicinewithin a minoritycommunity in Fusta¯t (Old Cairo),
one of the most important cities of the medieval Islamic world. The Jewish
community is a good test case since it comprised all socio-economic strata
and therefore represents a complete paradigm of medieval society. Historical
sources tend to record only the highestlayers of the rich, educated andlearned.
An early study on medicinal materialsin MuslimEgypt conducted by Dietrich
and published in 1954 was a scholarly work based on single manuscript
replete with information on trade in pharmaceuticalsubstances.
A decade later,
on the basis of his unique knowledge and expertise, Goitien wrote a detailed
S. C. Reif, A Jewish Archive fromOld Cairo: The Historyof Cambridge University’sGenizah
Collection (Curzon , Richmond, Surrey, 2000), 1y12.
P. Heidelberg 912, published in A. Dietrich,Zum Drogenhandel im IslamischenA
Winter, Heidelberg, 1954).
Ginzei Qedem 9 (2013)
10* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
scholarly article on the medical profession in light of the Cairo Genizah.
These early works were followed by a vast amount of data regarding the
medical profession that would be included in Goitien’s monumental tome, A
MediterraneanSociety,inwhich variousissuesregardingmedicineare discussed
in detail.
In addition, general works on the Genizah and on the life of Mediterranean
Jewish communities and societies have touched on the medical profession in
medieval times. Fenton, in one such publication from the early 1980s, again
underlined the need for focused research on Genizah medical documents, which,
‘although of considerable interest for the history of medicine, have received
relatively little attention’.
A few works were indeed publishedduring the 1990s,
usuallyfocusing ononesubject, orevenimportant singlemanuscriptswhich were
studied in detail, such as the articles written by Baker,
Medicine as a prominent subject in the Genizah has been given its due
attention only with the publication of a catalogue of medical and paramedical
S. D. Goitein, ‘The Medical Profession in the Light of the Cairo Genizah Documents.’
Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963), pp. 177y194.
S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as
Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Genizah (University of California Press, Berkeley,
1967y1988),see II, pp. 240y272.
P. Fenton, ‘The Importance of the Cairo Genizah for the History of Medicine,’ Medical
History 24 (1980), pp. 347y48.
C. F. Baker, ‘A Note on a Arabic Fragment of Ibn But
la¯n’s The Physicians’ Dinner Party
from the Cairo Genizah,’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 3, no. 2 (1993), pp. 207y213;
C. F. Baker, ‘Islamic and Jewish Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean World: The
Genizah Evidence,’ Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 89 (1996), pp. 577y580.
M. R. Cohen, ‘The BurdensomeLife of a Jewish Physician andCommunal Leader: A Geniza
Fragment from the Alliance Israelite Universelle Collection’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic
and Islam, 16 (1993), pp. 125y136.
E. Dvorjetski, ‘The Contribution of the Geniza to the Study of the Medicinal Hot Springs in
Eretz- Israel’, in: Proceedings of the Twelfth World Congress of Jewish Studies, II, (World
Congress of JewishStudies, Jerusalem, 1990), pp. 85y93.
H. D. Isaacs, ‘A Medieval Arab Medical Certificate,’ Medical History 35 (1991), pp.
New Genizah Documents 11*
manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collection by Isaacs and Baker.
compilers conclude their introduction to the catalogue as follows: ‘Much more
could be said of the Genizah medical material, but enough basic information has
been provided to encourage future scholars with an interest in such matters to
pursue further investigation’.
The additional catalogues that were subsequently
and the pursuit of further research focused on the T-S collection,
haveprovided informationon more than 150 fragmentsassociatedwith medicine
and medical practice.
Medicine and pharmacology in the medieval Middle East have thus far been
approached through medical literature, with the assumption that the theoretical
medical texts of that period are a reflection of the actual practice of medicine
by contemporary physicians and medical practitioners. The extent to which
the principles of those treatises were actually carried out in practice has yet
to be explored. Pormann and Savage-Smith wrote about this issue: ‘Finding
reliable evidence regarding the actual practice of medicine is fraught with
difficulties. Medieval medical treatises seldom mention specific patients, or
tell us how often, if ever, they actually carried out their carefully formulated
instructions and with what success’.
Fortunately, the Cairo Genizah supplies
us with a wealth of medieval fragments dealing with various practical medical
H. D. Isaacs, (with the assistance of C. F. Baker) Medical and Para-medical Manuscripts
in the Cambridge Genizah Collection, Cambridge University Library Genizah Series, 11
(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994).
Isaacs, Medical, (as in n. 10) p. xvi.
C. F. Baker and M. Polliack, Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts in the Cambridge
Genizah collections (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001); A. Shivtiel and F.
Niessen,Arabic and Judeo- Arabic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections,New
Series (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006).
F. Niessen and E. Lev, ‘Addenda to Isaacs Catalogue “Medical and Para-medical Manuscript
in the Cambridge Genizah Collection” Togetherwith the Edition of Two Medical Documents
T-S 12.33 and T-S NS 297.56,’ Hebrew Union CollegeAnnual 77 (2008), pp. 131y165.
P. Pormann and E. Savage-Smith,Medieval Islamic Medicine (Edinburgh University Press,
Edinburgh, 2007), p. 115.
12* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
issues that the various communities of the medieval Middle Ages addressed,
including specific patients, prescriptions and medical instructions.
During the last decade, thanks to an interdisciplinary group of scholars
studying Genizah manuscripts pertaining to medical issues, an exceptional
window has opened into the Jewish world of practical medicine and
as well as the theoretical medical knowledge that community
members had access to or created themselves.
The resulting synthesis of the
practical and theoretical knowledge of medicine achieved by this community
provides a unique insight into the wider ‘Mediterranean Society’ of the time.
The first phase of this synthesis, the reconstruction of the medieval inventory
of the practical materia medica of the Genizah community, has now been
concluded. It has generated a wealth of publications in various academic
Beyond that, researchhas shed new lighton several importantissues
such as medical theory vs. practice,
medical theory (mainly identifications
of early versions of unique medical books),
and medical practice (mainly
According to Goitein,the members of the Jewish communities of medieval Egypt ‘are to a
certain extent representative of their class in the Mediterranean world in general’; Goitein,
Mediterranean (as in n. 4), I, p. viii.
E. Lev, and Z. Amar, ‘‘Fossils’ of Practical Medical Knowledge from Medieval Cairo’,
Journal of Ethnopharmacology119 (2008), pp. 24y40.
E. Lev and Z. Amar, ‘Reconstruction of the Inventory of Materia Medica used by Members
of the JewishCommunity of Medieval Cairo according to Prescriptionsfound in the Taylor-
Schechter Genizah Collection, Cambridge’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 108 (2006),
pp. 428y444; E. Lev, ‘Drugs Held and Sold by Pharmacists of the Jewish Community
of Medieval (11
centuries) Cairo according to Lists of Materia Medica Found at
the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, Cambridge’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 110
(2007),pp. 275y293. E. Lev and Z. Amar, Practical Materia Medica of theMedieval Eastern
Mediterranean Accordingto the Cairo Genizah (Brill, Leiden, 2008).
E. Lev and Z. Amar, ‘Medieval Materia Medica — Practice vs. Theory — the Case of the
Cairo Genizah’, Medical History 51 (2007), pp. 507y526.
L. Chipman and E. Lev, ‘Syrup fromthe Apothecary’s Shop:a Genizah FragmentContaining
one of the Earliest Manuscripts of Minhaj al-dukkan’, Journal of Semitic Studies 50 (2006),
pp. 137y167; E. Levand L. Chipman, ‘A Fragments of Judeo-Arabic Manuscripts of Sa¯bu
Ibn Sahl al-Aqra¯ba¯dhı¯n al-S
aghı¯r Found in the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection’,
Medieval Encounter 13 (2007), pp. 347y362; L. Chipman and E. Lev, ‘Take a Lame
and Decrepit Hyena..... A Genizah Study of Two Additional Fragments of Manuscripts
New Genizah Documents 13*
aswellascatalogues of medical fragments
in other Genizah collections.
The Genizah contains thousands of letters on various issues. Many have been
published by scholars such as Mann,
and others.
Some of these letters deal directly with medical issues. We present here below
of Sa¯bu
¯r Ibn Sahl al-Aqra¯ba¯dhı¯n al-S
aghı¯r ‘, Early Science and Medicine 13 (2008),
pp. 361y383; E. Lev and L. Chipman, ‘Two Fragments of Judeo-Arabic Manuscripts of
¯r Ibn Sahl’s al-Aqra¯ba¯dhı¯n al-S
aghı¯r Found in the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah
Collection’, Medieval Encounters 13 (2007), pp. 347y362; E. Lev, L. Chipman, and F.
Niessen, ‘A Hospital Handbook for the Community: Evidence for the Extensive Use of
Ibn Abı¯ ‘l-Baya¯n’s al-Dustu¯r al-bı¯ma¯rista¯nı¯by the Jewish Practitionersof Medieval Cairo’,
Journal of Semitic Studies 53 (2008),pp. 103y118.
E. Lev, ‘Medieval Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic Prescriptions (and Edition of Three Medical
Prescriptions)’,Journal of Royal Asiatic Society (2008) 18(4): 449y464; E. Lev, L. Chipman
and F. Niessen, ‘Chicken and Chicory are Good for You: a Unique Family Prescription
from the Cairo Genizah (T-S NS 223.82y83)’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 35
(2008),pp. 335y352; L. Chipman and E. Lev, ‘Arabic Prescriptions from the Cairo Genizah’,
Asian Medicine 6 (2011), pp. 75y94; E. Lev and L. Chipman, Medical Prescriptions in the
Cambridge Genizah Collections: PracticalMedicine and Pharmacology in Medieval Egypt
(Brill, Leiden) 2012.
Z. Amar and E. Lev, ‘The Significance of the Genizah’s Medical Documents for the Study
of Medieval Mediterranean Trade’, Journal of theEconomic and SocialHistory of the Orient
50 (2007), pp. 524y541.
E. Lev, ‘A Catalogue of the Medicaland Para-Medical Manuscripts in the Mosseri Genizah
Collection, together with several unpublished examples (X.37; I.124.2)’, Journal of Jewish
Studies 62 (2011), pp. 121y145; E. Lev and R. Smithuis, ‘A Preliminary Catalogue of the
Medical and Para- medical manuscriptsin the Rylands Genizah Collection, together with the
partial edition of two medical fragments (B 3239 and A 589)’, Journal of Semitic Studies
J. Mann, The Jews in Egypt and in Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs
(Oxford University
Press, New York, 1970).
S.D. Goitein, Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders (Princeton University Press, Princeton,
M. Gil, Palestine during the first Muslim Period (634y1099), vols. IIyIII, (University of Tel
Aviv Press, Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, 1983).
S. D. Goitein and M. A. Friedman, India Traders of the Middle Ages: Documents from the
Cairo Geniza (‘India Book’) (Brill, LeidenyBoston, 2007).
14* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
two unpublished letters from the Genizah that deal directly with medical issues
andone practical prescription. Thesefragmentsareimportant first-hand accounts
oftheactual medicalproblemsfrom whichthe Genizah peoplesuffered,andhow
they were treated.
We argue that each of the three fragments presented and edited below
represents a different genre of medical document from which diverse insights
into medieval practical medicine can be derived:
A ‘Consilia’ — a communication between medical practitioners.
Consilia (plural of consilium, ‘advice’) is a literary genre originating
from the case studies of a 13
century Florentine doctor of medicine,
Taddeo Alderotti. It consists of practical down-to-earth medical
advice based on experiential observations, later used in treating the
Black Death plague that decimated Italy in the mid-14
century and
kept recurring at generational intervals in the following centuries. A
consilium was a doctor’s written report in response to a particular
case where the malady had been determined. In the consilium the
doctor identified the disease and prescribed the appropriate treatment.
The accumulation of consilia circulated in manuscript form began,
for the first time in Europe, to lay down a corpus of medical practice,
Themain characteristicsofthis typeofcommunication
between Jewish Egyptian physicians in the Genizah documents are
a long opening, including praising and flattering the other colleague
detailed descriptions of symptoms, medical conditions and the efforts
to treat them (surgery, remedies, diet...etc.); criticism of drugs that
were previously used, or on procedures performed; a request to obtain
their colleague’s opinion, with thanks in advance; quotations from the
Bible and other Jewish sources.
On consilia see, e.g S. De Renzi, ‘A Career in Manuscripts: Genres and Purposes of a
Physician’s Writing in Rome, 1600y1630’,Italian Studies 66/2 (2011), pp. 234y48
New Genizah Documents 15*
B ‘Responsa’ — communications between a doctor and his patient.
Responsa (Latin: plural of responsum, ‘answers’) is a literary
genre consisting of a body of written decisions. In the Roman
Empire responsa meant the responses and thoughts of jurists, as
one of the sources of legal authority, along with laws originating
from magistrates, from the Senate, or from the emperor. In Judaism
responsa are known as she’elot ve-teshuvot ‘questions and answers’,
and comprise the body of written decisions and rulings given by
‘deciders of Jewish law’. The responsa literature covers a period
of 1,700 years-the mode, style and subject matter progressively
changing during the course of migrations of the Jewish people
and through the development of halakhic literature, particularly
the codes. In addition to requests for halakhic rulings, many of
the questions addressed were theoretical in character, particularly
amongst the earlier responsa. Accordingly, responsa contain rulings
on ethics, business ethics, the philosophy of religion, astronomy,
mathematics, history, geography, as well as interpretations of
passages in the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud and the Midrash.
Thus, while early Jewish literature has few historical works,
many references to the history of Judaism were introduced into
the responsa. A similar use of responsa (here called fatwa¯) is
found in Islam.
The main characteristics of this kind are a short
communication (separate or part of a long letter — for example,
Maimonides letter to Tovia T-S Ar.30.286);
less detailed; less
29 (29.2.12); M. Elon, Jewish Law (Magnes Press,
Jerusalem, 1975).
S. M. Stern, Corpus Codicum Hebraicorum Medii Aevi (Ejner Munksgaard, Copenhagen,
1956). Part I, Vol III, pp. 27y28; see S. C. Reif (ed.), Published Material from the Cambridge
Genizah Collections: A Bibliography 1896y1980 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
1988), p. 189; Baker and Polliack, Arabic Old Series (as in n. 12), p. 209; R. J. W. Jefferson
and E. C. D. Hunter, Published Material from the Cambridge Genizah Collections: A
Bibliography 1980y1997 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004), p. 130.
16* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
professional; without or containing very brief praise and flattery;
without or giving very short quotations from the Bible and other
Jewish sources.
C Practical prescription — a medical recipe and dietary advice given
by a doctor to his patients for preparation by a pharmacist. The main
characteristics of this genre in the Genizah are widely discussed in
previous publications.
Edited documents:
Document A
T-S 10J16.16
Paper; 1 leaf; 20.2 x 14.2; 18 lines. 12
Eye diseases are the most prevalent sickness mentioned in the Genizah,
and the following letter is no exception. In this consilia type of document, as
described in the Isaacs catalogue: ‘the writer is suffering from an ulcer on the
cornea, a mature cataract in which the lens has become opaque “like a piece
of marble” and acute ophthalmia’.
This is a two-way communication between Jewish physicians, the first
named Abu
¯Zikrı¯, consulting a senior colleague called Abu
¯‘Alı¯, regarding the
right treatment of patients who suffer from eye disease.
Many already published letters contain references to ocular disorders, the
agony of suffering from eye-related problems, and the substances used to treat
them . For example, Israel b. Nathan of Jerusalem asked Naharai to send him
asphalt from Alexandria ‘since it is impossible to find it in Jerusalem’ (T-S
Or.1080 J78). In another letter Israel explains that he needs the substance to
See Lev, Medieval Egyptian (as in n. 21); Chipman and Lev, Arabic Prescriptions (as in n.
Isaacs (as in n. 10), no. 62; Jefferson and Hunter, Bibliography (as in n. 31), p. 95.
New Genizah Documents 17*
cure himself, particularly his eyes (T- S 12.364; T-S 13J26.4; T-S 10J10.24).
The letter from the Genizah
which tells of the appeal made in Jerusalem to
obtain asphalt from Egypt might suggest that even though the writer lived near
the main source of asphalt in the Middle East, the Dead Sea, he needed a special
kind of the substance, which was collected on the sea shores of Egypt, for
medicinal treatment. In another letter, Amram b. Isaac asks H
alfon b. Nethanel
Halevi to forgive him for his bad handwriting for his eyes are so infected that
he can hardly see where to lay his pen.
Eye diseases create major health problems in hot climates around the
world today
and were prevalent in the ancient world as well.
While there
were differences among the various cultures from which some evidence for
eye diseases and their treatment has survived, many of their ophthalmological
Thevastmajorityof informationregarding eyedisorders
and their treatment in ancient times comes from Egyptian sources, which reveal
information on the ailments and their cures. For example, one chapter of the
original Papyrus Ebers (dated 1550 BCE) is devoted to eye conditions;
eye conditions that were treated by different lotions and salves (collyrium) were
mentioned in this chapter.
In the medieval Islamic world people continued to suffer from eye diseases
and doctors had to treat them accordingly. ‘Ali Ibn Ridwa¯n (d. 1068) wrote
Gil, Palestine (as in n. 26), p. 163, no. 479; p. 165, no. 480; p. 169, no. 481.
TS 13 J 15.16 + TS 13 J 15.20, published in M. Gil and E. Fleischer, Yehuda ha-Levi and
his Circle: 55 Geniza Documents (Hebrew). (World Union of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem,
2001), pp. 420y426; S. D. Goitein and M. A. Friedman, with the assistance of A. Ashur,
alfon the Traveling Merchant Scholar — Cairo Geniza Documents, Ben Zvi Institute,
Jerusalem 2013 p. 389.
J. Sandford-Smith, Eye Diseases in Hot Climates (Wright, London, 1990).
J. Hirschberg, (F. C. Blodi trans.) The History of Ophthalmology (Wayenborgh, Bonn,
1985), 11 vols.
D. M. Albert and D. D. Edwards, The History of Ophthalmology (Blackwell Science,
Cambridge, Mass., 1996), p. 1.
C. P. Bryan, The Papyrus Ebers, from the German version by Cyril P. Bryan. with an
introduction by Professor J. Elliot Smith (G. Bles, London, 1930), p. 94.
G. Ebers, Papyrus Ebers (W. Engelmann, Leipzig, 1875).
18* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
regarding this subject that medieval doctors were ‘general practitioners but
might also have a special skill in ophthalmology, bone-setting, pharmacology,
or surgery’.
Savage-Smith stated that ophthalmology was the only area, beside
pharmacology, that could be called a specialty, and it is no wonder that an
extensive specialist literature was developed in the diagnosis and treatment of
eye diseases.
Nearly every medical compendium has chapters dealing with
eye diseases, and a large number of monographs were devoted to this field of
One of the most highly regarded of all the ophthalmological manuals was the
Tadhkirat al-Kah
a¯lı¯n, covering one hundred and thirty eye ailments, written
by ‘Alı¯b.‘I
¯sa¯ (d. 1010) who practiced in Baghda¯d.
This Jewish oculist
was clearly well regarded in the Genizah world, as a few dozen fragments in
the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection have been identified as parts of
Tadhkirat al-Kah
The medical formularies all contain at least one chapter, if not more,
devoted to eye-powders and eye-salves; moreover, eye medicines can be
divided into chapters on eye powders and eye ointments,
or appear together
in a single chapter.
The chapters on eye medicines in Minha¯j al-Dukka¯n,
al-Dustu¯r al-Bı¯ma¯rista¯nı¯and Ibn al-Tilmı¯dh’s Aqra¯ba¯dhı¯n
include many
recipes containing some combination of the materia medica appearing in our
M.W.Dols, (trans.) and A. S. Gamal(ed.). Medieval Islamic Medicine, Ibn Rid
wa¯n’s Treatise
‘On the Prevention of Bodily Ills in Egypt’ (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984),
p. 36.
E. Savage-Smith, ‘Medicine’, in Encyclopaedia of the History of Arabic Sciences, (ed. R.
Rashed) (Kluwer Academic Publishers, London, 1996), III, 903y962, pp. 948y950.
C. A. Wood, Memorandum Book of a Tenth-Century Oculist: a Translation of the Tadhkirat
of Ali ibn Isa of Baghdad (Northwestern University Press, Chicago, 1936).
¯al-Muna¯ al-Ku
¯¯n al-‘At
a¯r, Minha¯j al-Dukka¯n wa-Dustu¯r al-A‘ya¯n, ed. H
. al-‘A
(Da¯r Mana¯h
il, Beirut, 1992), pp. 135y152.
P. Sbath (ed.), ‘Le Formulaire des Hoˆpitaux d’Ibn abil Bayan, Me´dicin du Bimaristan
Annacery au Caire au XIIIe Sie`cle’, Bulle´tin de l’Institut d’Egypte 15 (1932y1933), pp.
9y78, pp. 53y60.
O. Kahl, The Dispensatory of Ibn at-Tilmı¯d(Brill, Leiden, 2007), nos 245y79.
New Genizah Documents 19*
text, but so far an exact equivalent has not been found in any pharmacopoeia.
This underscores the practicality and originality of our text, and thus its value
in reflecting reality and practical mindedness, in contrast to books, in which
recipes were copied regardless of their actual usefulness.
More specifically, information about the treatment of eye complaints from
the Genizah prescriptions and medical notebooks teaches us, among other
things, that eye drops were used to relieve symptoms such as inflammation,
dimness of vision, and widening of the pupils.
According to Samarqandı¯, there are two main kinds of eye medicine:
antimony powders (Kuh
l) and collyria.
Kohl (kuh
lin Arabic) is the general name of a compound for eye diseases as
well as for cosmetics and make-up. It was used extensively during the medieval
period and still exists in the Middle East to the present day, mainly among
users of traditional medicine. According to Levey, kuh
lpowders follow the
principle of ‘opposites cure opposites,’ as the eye is a moist and soft organ.
The same name described, and still describes, other inorganic materials which
are used mainly for the treatment of eye diseases as well as for make-up such as
galena (PbS) and stibium (Sb). In general, and according to the medieval Arabic
medicine, powders, which are hard and dry,are used when there is much dirt in
the corner of the eye.
According to Said, kuh
lare a class of sufufs (powder)
meant for the treatment of eye diseases. In present day pharmacopoeias of
Eastern medicine they are characterized by their fineness, as they are sieved
through fine cloth and applied to the eye with a collyrium stick.
Collyria (ashya¯fin Arabic) are salves used to treat various eye diseases and
for clearing and strengthening the eyes. They were compounded variously for
J. M. Riddle, ‘Theory and Practice in Medieval Medicine,’ Viator 5 (1974), pp. 157y184,
p. 175.
M. Levey, The Medical Formulary or Aqra¯ba¯dhı¯n of al-Kindı¯ (University of Wisconsin
Press, Madison, 1966), p. 140.
Ibid. p. 136.
H. M. Said, Hamdard Pharmacopoeia of Eastern Medicine(Time Press, Karachi, 1970), p.
20* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
different purposes.
According to Said, shiyafa¯t (suppositories) were applied
in the past to the ‘external cavities of the body i.e. the nostrils, ears, rectum,
urinogenital tract and womb’. In present day pharmacopoeias of Eastern
medicine it means a suppository that is applied to the eye, usually of a conical
design. It is rubbed with a few drops of water or some other liquid and applied
to the eyes with a collyrium stick.
1[ȯÎ]Ê Â· ‡‰„·Ú ‰·
2[Ï·]ƒ˜[È] ÈÏÚ Â·‡ Ï˙
‚‡Ï‡ ÍÈ˘Ï‡ ȇÏÂÓ ‰¯ˆÁ „·Ú
3‰Èχ ‰˜Â˘ ‰¯˙Î ‡‰Ï‡Ï‚Ï È‰È ‡‰È„È ÔÈ· ˙
4È˙... ‰.Ó. ƒ‡[‰]ψÙ˙Ï ¯Î‡˘Â ‡‰ÂÁ ‰Á‡È˙¯‡Â
5ÍÏ„ ÈÂÒ ‰Úƒ‡ƒÒƒÂ ˙˜Â ÏÎ ÈÙ ‡‰‡ÒÁ‡Ï ¯˘‡Â
6„Ù˙ ‰ÏÈӂχ ‡‰„ȇÂÚÏ ÏˆÙ˙χ ·ÒÁ ÈÏÚ ÌÚ˙
7[‡]Ó· ¯È
·˙ ¯È‚ ÔÓ ‰Ú¯Ò ‰Ú˜¯Ï‡ ‰„‰ ·‡Â‚ ÈÏ
8‰Á¯˜ ̉‡„Á‡ ÔÈ˙
ˆ¯Óχ ‡„‰ ÈÙ ‰ÈÏÚ „Ó˙Ú‡
9‰ÈӇί ‡˙
ˆÈ· ˙χ˙χ ÛˆÏ‡ ‰È¯˜Ï‡ ¯‰‡˙
10‡‰˙‚¯Ù˙Ò‡ „˜Â ÈÂӄ ȇ¯Ùˆ
„‡Á „Ó¯ ÚÓ
11Ú‚˙ ÌÏ ‚ÒÙ·Ï‡ ı¯˜· ̇ȇ· „ˆÙχ „Ú·
„‡Á „Ó¯ ÍτΠ‰ÈÏÚ ˙¯„Ú˙ „˜
13·¯‚ χӂχ ÈÙ ‡„˙·‡ „˜ ‡Ó ÔÈÚχ ÈÙÂ
14˜‡¯Î‡ ÍτΠڷ‡¯Ï‡ Ò‚χ ÈÙ ÔÈÚχ ÈÙ ÌÊÏÂ
15[˙„]„Ú˙ „˜Â ‰È‡„˙ ˙ΠȄχ Ï‚¯Ï‡ ‰È˙
ˆ˜ Ï˙Ó
16‰ÈÏÚ „Ó˙Ú‡ ‡Ó ÈÙ¯Ú ÌÚ‡Ù ‰˙Ï˙χ ‰ÈÏÚ
17¯È·˙ ¯È‚ ÔÓ ‰Ú¯Ò ˙‡Ï‡Á ˙Ï˙χ ‰„‰ ÈÙ
18Í„Ú ÔÓ ¯‡·‡ Û‡È˘‡ ‰È˜Â Ú·¯· ÌÚ‡Â
19Ú‚È ‡Ó ÈÏ j„χ ‰„ÙÈ Û‡È˘‡ ÏÎ Ô‡Ù
M. Levey and N. al-Khaledy (trans.), The Medical Formulary of Al-Samarqandı¯ (University
of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1967).
Said, Hamdard (as in n. 50), pp. 189y190.
New Genizah Documents 21*
ˆÁ (5) ‡‰· ÈÙ¯˘ (4) ‰Ó„Î ÔÓ ÍÏ„ ԇΠ(3) ‡Ó‰Ó „Á‡Â ÌÂÈ (2) ‚¯Ù˙‡ ‚¯Î‡Â (1)
‡‡Â˙˙ ‡Ï[Â] (9) ̇ÏÒχ (8) Ì˙‡· ̈́χ (7) ÔÒÁχ ·‡Â Í˙„χ (6) ̇ÏÒχ· ‰ˆÂˆÎÓ
‡‰Ó (14) ˙ÂÏÎ ‡Ï ‡‰˙Ó„Ú (13) ‡Ï ÍψÙ˙ ¯˙
Ë˙Ó (12) ÈÙ ‡‡Ù (11) ·‡Â‚χ ÈÙ (10)
1‡Ó ‡Ó‡Â ‡‰Èχ ˜Â˘Ï‡ ¯È˙Î È‡ ȯÎÊ Â·‡ ÍÈ˘Ï‡ ‰· ÌÏÚ‡ [‡Ó]
2χÂÁ‡ ȉ٠̉χÁ ˙Á¯˘ Ȅχ ‡„ӯχ ¯Ó‡ ÔÓ ˙[¯Î„]
3[..]ƒÒ ÔÚ ˙
ı‡¯Ó‡Ï‡ ‰„‰ Ï˙Ó ÚÙ„˙ ˙¯„˜ Ô‡ ‡‰Ï Èȇ¯Â ‡„‚ ‰[...]
4[...]Ò ˙
ı¯Ó ÏȘ ‰Èƒ„[¯] ı‡¯Ó‡ ‡‰‡Â ‡‰˙‡‡ÚÓƒÔÓ ‡ƒ‰Ï [...]Ù‡ ‰Ù[...]
5χ ‰„ƒ‰Ï ȇ„Óχ ıÎ˘Ï‡ ԇ ‡Ú ƒ„[...] ·Èƒ·[...] ‡ƒ‰[...]. ‡Ï[.]
6[...] ·‡·Ò‡Ï‡ ÔÚ ˙Á·Ï‡Â [... ı‡¯]Ó[‡]
7ÔÂ‡˜Ï‡ ‡„‰ Ú·˙‡Â [...] ¯[...]‡Î[...]
8[...] ·Î¯Ó „Ó¯ ‰ÚÓ Á¯˜Óχ ‰ [... Ô]‡ ‡Ó‡
[ı‡Ó]¯‡Ï‡ ¯È‡Ò ƒ˙[...] ‡„‚χ ‡‰[...] ¯Î„ ÔÓ ‡¯Ùˆ
10[...]¯„˜Â ‡˜È˜„ [...]ƒÎƒÏ[...] ¯Ë˜˙ ‰‚ȇ‰ χ
11ÛȈ˙Ù ‰ÈÓ‡Á ÔÈÚχ ƒ˙[¯‡ˆ] Ô‡ ‡Ï‡ ÍÁχ χÁ ÈÙ
12„Ó¯ χ ¯˙· ÏÏÁ˙ ‰¯Áχ ˙ÎÒ ‡„‡Ù ıÈ·‡ ÔÓ ¯ÈÒÈ ‰Ï
13[Ï]‡ ‡˜˙ Ô‡ ‡Ï‡ ‰Ó ¯˙Î˙ ‡ÏƒÔÈ‚¯„ ¯„Î ÔÈÓÎÁ ‰ÚÓ ÍÁÙ
14‡„‡Ù ÌÁÏÈ ‡˙Á ÏÂÒ‚Óχ ‚˘Ï‡· ÍÏ„ „Ú· ‰ÏÁÎ˙Â
15˜‡Â‡ ‰˙Ï˙ ÔÚ ‰‚¯Î˙ ͇ȇ ̇Ș‡˜Ï‡· ‰ÏÁ· ÌÁχ
16˜‡Â‡ ˙
‚ ‰¯Î· ˜‡Â‡ ˙
‚ ‡Èˆ‡¯˜ ·‡¯˘ ‡ ¯ÙÂÈ ‚ÒÙ·
17„Á‡Â ÌÂÈ ‰· Ï΄˙ ˙¯„˜ Ô‡ ‰ÏÓ‚Ï·Â ÌÂχ „Ú ‰È˘Ú
18̇ÏÒχ ¯‡‰χ ÌÂ ÔÓ ‰ÚӇ „È‚ ‰٠‰¯ˆ·
19„Ó˙ÚÈ ‡Ó χ٠·¯‚χ ƒıƒ¯Óχ ¯‡Áχ „Ó¯ χ ‰ È‡˙χ ‡Ó‡Â
20ËȈ·Ï‡ ‡ ·Î¯Óχ „ӯχ ÒÙ ˜Ù‡ÂÈ ‡Ó· „ӯχ ˙‡Â„Ó ‰ÈÏÚ
21[·]˘Ï‡Â ˜·Êχ Էχ χÓÚ˙Ò‡ ÔÓ ¯˙Î˙ ‡Ï ÈÚÈ ·¯‚χ ÏÓÁ˙ ‡ÏÂ
Probably read
22* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
22[˜¯]ÁÈ ¯‡·‡Ï‡Ù ˜‡¯Î‡Ï‡ ‡Ó‡Â ·¯‚χ ‰„‡Ó ÈÂ˜È ‡Ó ÏΠ˙
23χ ·‡¯˘Ï‡Â ˙¯„˜ ‡Ó ‡„˙
‚χ ÛËÏ˙ ˙ȇ¯ ‡ÓÎ ƒ¯ÂÙƒÎχ Էχ·
24Ì˘Â ¯ˆ‡Áχ χÁχ ÈÙ „‰‡˘˙ ‡ÓΠχÁχ ÍÏ˙Ï ˜Ù‡ÂÓ
25[‰]ƒÂÏÓ ‰¯ÂÊÓÙ ·È‚Ó Ú·Ëχ ÔÂÎÈ ÌÏ Ô‡Ù ¯Ó‡˙ χ ¯ÙÂ χ ÔÈÒ¯Óχ
26‚ÒÙ· ·‡¯˘Â ÊÂÏ·
(7) ԇΠԇ (6) ‡ ƒ‡ƒ‰ƒÈχ (5) ·È‚Ó (4) Ú·Ëχ ԇΠԇ (3) ÈÙ¯Ú˙ Ô‡ È‚·È ‡ÓÎ (2) [...] (1)
ÍÏ„Ï Í‚ÂÁ‡ (10) ÌÏ ‡Ï ‡ (9) Ú‡„ˆ (8) ̉ÚÓ
[Written transversely to the text]
1͇˜·‡ ȯÎÊ Â·‡ ÍÈ˘ ‡È
2χΠԇÈÚ Ï‡ ÒÈÏ ‰Ïχ
(1) With the help of God, His servant Abu Z[ikri]. (2) The servant of His
Excellency, My Lord, the illustrious Sheikh Abu Ali (3) kisses the earth in
front of you. And I inform His Honour how much I miss him (4) and am
looking forward to meeting him and thanking his glory with [...]. (5) And his
grace spreads over me (?) in all seasons (?) and every hour (?) and more, (6y7)
please send me an answer soon as your good habits and generosity (permit?),
(8) of what happened to me — two diseases, one of which is trachoma (9)
in the centre of the cornea of the third kind,
as a white marble (10) with a
severe yellow inflammation, and redness secreted from the eye. And I already
The trachoma apparently was divided into different types, and here it is described as the
‘third kind’ or type.
New Genizah Documents 23*
drained it (11) after a few days of bloodletting with a pill of sweet violet
no avail. (12) I apologize before you. And, likewise, serious eye inflammation.
(13) Regarding the eye — it has already started to form a crust and is infected
with eczema (14) in the eye, of the fourth kind. Likewise, a cut (15) similar to
that of the man to whom you prescribed a remedy, and already it (?) strikes him
(16) for the third time. And please inform me soon about something I can trust
upon, (17) concerning these three cases, without delay. (18) Please be kind and
send me a quarter ounce of black-lead collyrium
from your stock (?) (19) for
all the collyrium your father keeps sending me is not beneficial.
[margins] (1) And I will be comforted (2) one day. And everything (3) that
you need from your servant (4) please honour me with it. (5) Receive for your
noble self the best greetings. (6) And to your mother and Abu al-H
asan (7)
most profuse (8) greetings. (9) And don’t delay (10) your answer (11) for I am
(12) looking forward to receiving your grace.
(13) May I never be deprived of you and never miss (14) you!
[Written transversely to the text] (1y3) The elder Abu Zikri, may God prolong
your life. Hearing is not like seeing.
[verso] (1) I hereby inform you, Sheikh Abu Zikri, how much I miss you. And
regarding what (2) [you have mentioned] about the eye diseases, which you
have described in detail, and these issues are very [...]. (3) And I’ve already
This is a purgative remedy, see O. Kahl, The Dispensatory of Ibn at-Tilmı¯d (Brill, Leiden,
2007), recipe no. 34, 36 p. 59 (Arabic), 189y190 (English translation).
ashya¯f is an eye medicine, mentioned in many practical, as well as theoretical, Genziah
fragments; ashya¯f al-a¯ba¯r (pollen eye-powder) good for eye ulcers, soothing heat, and dull
eyes. Ingredients include burnt lead and copper, antimony, gum arabic, gum tragacanth,
ceruse, myrrh, opium, rainwater, frankincense. See L. Chipman, The World of Pharmacy
and Pharmacists in Mamlu¯k Cairo (Brill, Leiden, 2009). p. 237. See Kahl, The Dispensatory
(as in n. 54), recipe no. 268, p. 130 (Arabic), 263 (English translation).
We wish to thank Prof. M.A. Friedman for his assistance in deciphering the text and
explaining the phrase. See A. Sharoni, The Comprehensive Arabic-Hebrew Dictionary
(Tel-Aviv, 1999), p. 920.
24* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
showed you how I have managed to overcome such diseases [...] (4) [...] his
sufferings, and that these diseases are b[ad] and it was said disease [...] (5)
[...] and the person who treated these (6) d[iseases ...] and the inquiry for the
reason [...] (7) and I shall follow this rule (8) but if [...] he is the one who has
the wound together with a complex eye sickness (9y10) that is (?) yellow and
the one who mentioned [...] and the benefit [...] the rest of the d[iseases]. And
smear a paste / drip drops [...] thin, [...] (11) during the rubbing until the eye
[becomes] burned up with fever. Then you shall add (12) a bit from the white.
And when the fever will calm down and the eye inflammation will disappear
(13) then you should scrape with it two portions of frankincense
and two drg,
and you shall not use too much from it until you clean (14) the wound. Powder
it and later spread washed hypocist
until it forms a crest. Then you shall stick
resin of Acacia tree
on the eyelids. And do not exceed three ounces of (16)
sweet violet and white water lily,
or cherry
drink — three ounces early in the
morning and three ounces (17) in the evening before going to sleep. In general,
it will be good if you could bring him to me one day (18) and I shall see him.
And you should prevent him from sleeping during the day. With health (wishes).
(19) And regarding the second (complaint) — the hot eye inflammation and
the eczema. First, you shall use (20) eye disease remedies according to what
is suitable to the type of eye inflammation — the complex or the simple. (21)
Inthe Arabic medical literature there are fewremedies named abya¯d
,see Levey, TheMedical
Formulary (as in n. 48), recipe no. 173y175, pp. 182y184. According to Ibn at-Tilmı¯dat
Kahl, The Dispensatory (as in n. 54), recipe no. 263, p. 262 (English translation) it was
regarded as suitable for the treatment of the early stage of hot conjunctivitis andthe burning
sensations of the eye.
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 168y170.
The reading and translation is unclear. For darj, francolin, see Kahl, The Dispensatory (as
in n. 54), recipe no. 50, p. 63 (Arabic), 193y194 (English translation), but it is unlikely that
this is what is referred to here.
Cytinus hypocistis. See Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 421y422.
Ibid, pp. 325y326.
Ibid, pp. 210y211.
Ibid, pp. 139y141.
New Genizah Documents 25*
And don’t exaggerate spreading paste on the eczema — that is, don’t use too
much ben tree,
white lily
and white alum,
(22) and whatever increases the
pus and the eczema. Regarding the cut, the lead [should be burned] (23) together
with the ban and the camphor,
as you see fit, and be as gentle as you can.
Drink (24) is suitable for this condition, as you can see, and the smelling (25) of
and pond lily
and dates.
And if the effect (to the treatment) will be
absent then (it should be) enriched and chewed (26) with almonds
and a drink
of sweet violet. [margins] (1) ... (2) as is suitable if you will inform me(3) if the
effect (to the treatment) (4) will be absent (5) from it or (6y7) if they suffer (8)
from headache (9) or not. And I shall not (10) require you for this.
[Written transversely to the text]
(1y2) Sheikh Abu Zikri, may God prolong your life, and there is no assistant
but God.
Document B
TS AS 152.34
Paper; 1 leaf; 6.2 x 6.1 cm.; 7 lines. 12
Medical enquiry to a doctor with his reply.
This document type is a responsa type dealing with a few questions sent by
a man to his physician; the verso is the practitioner’s answer. The patient does
Ibid, p. 356.
Ibid, p. 555.
Ibid, pp. 99y100.
Ibid, pp. 123y125.
Ibid, pp. 223y225.
Ibid, pp. 210.
Ibid, pp. 397y398.
Ibid, pp. 91y94.
Isaacs, no. 1078; see Jefferson and Hunter, Bibliography (as in n. 31), p. 337.
26* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
not describe his medical problem, but asks about food (the amount of bread he
can eat), drink and if he can go bathing. Most probably the doctor knew the
patient and his medical problem, since he gave precise answers without asking
for the symptoms. The doctor ends his reply with the phrase ‘ve-rofe h
yerape’kha’ (‘May He who heals the sick heal you!’)
This short letter is informal, lacking honorary titles and names of both the
sender and the recipient, as opposed to the previous document (A). Therefore
this document can be considered a medical responsum between patient and
The drink that was recommended by the physician is, in fact, a
recipe for medicine.
1‡Ó ¯‡„˜Ó ÌÎ ˙
2ԇΠԇ ʷ ˙
Îχ ÔÓ Ï·
3‰Ï΄ ̇ÓÁ ÈÏ Áψ˙
5ÈÙ ‰Ó Ï˜˙
˙ ·‡¯˘ ˙
6ÁÏˆÈ Ô‡Î Ô‡Â ˙‡˜Â‡Ï‡ ˙
7‰Èχ ˙‚˙Á‡ Ô‡ ¯È˙Î ‡Ó ·¯˘
1‡È‰˙˙ ‡Ó ̇ÓÁ ‰Ó ˙
Î Ê·Îχ
2ƒ„ƒ¯Â ·ˆÎÓ Á‡Ù˙ ·‡¯˘Ï‡Â „Á‡Ï‡ ÌÂÈÏ
3ı‡¯˜‡ ‡ „¯Â Á‡Ù˙ ı‡ÓÁ· Ϙ˙χÂ
4¯È˘‡·Ëχ· ÁÂÏˆÓ ‡Óχ ƒ‡ÓÈÏ
5‰˜Â˜„Ó ‰ÏÂÒ‚Ó ‰Ï‚¯ ¯Ê· ¯ÈÒÈÂ
The common belief was that every action is controlled by God, see Goitein and Friedman,
India Traders of the MiddleAges: Documents from the Cairo Geniza — ‘India Book’,p.34.
Another example, written by Maimonides is found in T-S AS 152.86, see E.
M. Wagner, ‘A newly-discovered fragment of a letter written by Maimonides’, Schechter/fotm/october-2007/
New Genizah Documents 27*
6¯ÈÒÈ ‰¯Ó ÏÎ ÈÙ ·¯˘È ‰˜ƒ¯˙
Î ÈÙ ‰¯Â¯˙
(1) My master, what is the amount (2) I can eat from the bread? And can (3)
I enter the bath house (4) a bit? May your well-being be elevated. (5) Also,
what drink can I have (6) at different times? Can I (7) drink much water if I
need it? (8). And (may) peace (be upon you).
(1) From the bread — eat only a bit. And bathing is not proper (2) for one
day. And the drink — apples
soaked in roses
(3) and you should consume
with sorrel
and apples, rose or lemon
tablets. The water should be made
with Tabashir,
(5) and a few seeds of garden purslane,
washed, crushed (6)
then (?) bind in bandage, and drink a bit each time. (7) And may the doctor of
the sick
heal you.
The first two documents that have been presented so far belong to the genre
of medical ‘consilia’ (A), a new genre, and of medical responsa (B), a known
genre of Genizah documents. These genres differ from medical prescriptions
that were discussed in detail in the past. For comparison we have chosen to
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 335y337.
Ibid, pp. 261y266.
For the translation see Hava, Dictionary, p. 795: ‘To be served as a desert’.
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 288y289.
For the use of lemon as medical substance see Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17),
pp. 200y202; Lemon drink was mentioned, for example, by Ibn Tilmid. no. 187, p.
104 (Arabic), 237 (English). lemon pastilles (al-aqra¯s
¯n), was recommended by
¯¯n al-‘At
ar al-Israili as good and healthy for travel, consist of julep (rosewater) and
lemon juice — see Chipman, The World (as in n. 55), p. 185.
Ashes of bamboo, see Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 106y108.
Ibid, pp. 253y255.
28* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
present here a new practical medical prescription we have identified in the T-S
Genizah collection.
Document C
T-S 12.307v
Paper; one leaf; 20.5 x 15; Verso contains a poem. Probably 12
The medical recipe in our fragment is a practical prescription since it fits
some of the criteria applied for the identification of such prescriptions in the
Genizah: it includes names of medicinal substances and quantities; it gives
instructions on preparation; it is written on one page, on one side only; and it
has instructions for use (how many times a day, special diet, and quantities).
This prescription lacks benedictions, the names of both physician and patient,
and contains no details regarding the illness or its symptoms.
The purpose of this prescription is not mentioned explicitly; however, it
seems to be a powder; the materia medica used indicates that it was a purgative
or a stomachic.
A powder (safu¯f in Arabic) is a solid medication, usually finely ground or
powdered. According to Samarqand?, the medical powders are compounded
according to ‘the weights of their constituents only and not according to their
strengths’. Powders were used immediately as they deteriorated quickly, and
usually served as dry astringents. Powders were taken by mouth to dry the
moistness of the stomach and the intestines, as well as to relieve blockage
and retention of urine.
According to Said, a sufuf is a ‘dry medicament or a
mixture of several medicinal ingredients which have been ground or triturated
and sieved.
A similar recipe is given for a purgative black powder
that contains chebulic
and Indian myrobalans, borage, Cretan dodder, Armenian stone and lapis lazuli,
Lev, Medieval Egyptian (as in no. 21).
Levey and al-Khaledy, The Medical Formulary (as in n. 51), p. 122.
Said, Hamdard (as in n. 50), p. 152.
¯¯n al-‘At
a¯r, Minha¯j(as in n. 44), p. 89.
New Genizah Documents 29*
amongother things.Thisrecipe istobe drunkwithwhey, and asin the prescription,
scammony may be added to strengthen it. This recipe is also similar in content
to a dodder decoction appearing in Minha¯j al-Dukka¯n
and the Dustu¯r,
to be good for skin diseases, expelling burnt humours of all kinds and cleansing
the body (i.e., a purgative), that contains inter alia various myrobalans, Creten
dodder, Meccan senna, lavender, Syrian borage, and red raisins.
Our prescription is also similar to various recipes found and studied in the
Genizah: T-S Ar.30.65 (electuary), T-S Ar.42.189 (pills, syrup), T-S 13J6.14
(pill, syrup), and T-S NS 327.97 (syrup/triphala = purgative) for example.
· „Á‡Â ÏÎ ÔÓ ˙
‚ÏӇ Ȅ‰
2„Á‡Â ÏÎ ÔÓ ‡Ò ¯Â˙ Ô‡ÒÏ
3Ú·¯ Ò„ÂÎÂˈ‡ χ˜˙Ó
ÔƒËÒƒ‚‡ ̉¯„
˜‡„ „Á‡Â ÏÎ ÔÓ ‰„ÂÓÁÓÂ
ˆƒÓ „¯ÂÊ‡Ï ¯˙
‚Á ÈÓ¯‡ ¯˙
7χ˜˙Ó Ú·¯ „Á‡Â ÏÎ ÔÓ
8ƒÏƒÎ ˜„[È] ‰·Â¯Î „ÂÒ‡ Í·¯Î
ˆÈ ‰˙ƒ„Á ÏÚ Ì‰Ó
10„ʯ·Ë ¯ÎÒ ‰Ê ÚÈÓ˙
12‰ÈÏÚ ·¯˘È ı‚Ó ˙
ı¯Ú Ô‡Â
13[‰]Ó ‚¯ÎÈ Á‡ƒ„˜ ¯‡Á ‡Ó
14¯Ê· χ˜˙Ó ÈÏÚ ¯‡‰χ ¯Î‡
15‡Ó· ÏÂÒ‚Ó <<ıÓÁÓ>> Ô‡Áȯ
16ƒ‰È˜Â‡Â „¯Â ‡Ó ¯ÈÒÈ „¯‡·
17ÔÂÎÈ „¯Â ·‡¯˘ ÛˆÂ
18˜ÂÏˆÓ ˙
Ibid., p. 122.
Sbath, Le Formulaire (as in n. 45), p. 34.
Although it seems that
is written, we think the writer intended to write
30* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
(1) Indian (myrobalan) and emblic myrobalan
— two of each. (2y3) Borage
and senna
— one mithqal of each. Lavender
— one quarter (4) dirham.
and gum tragacanth
(5) and scammony
— one daniq
of each. (6)
Armenian earth
and lapis lazuli
— (7) quarter mithqal of each.
(8) Black hellebore,
Grind each (9) one of them on a separate stone,
and add the same weight of Tabarza¯d sugar.
(11) and swallow (the mixture)
with cultured goat’s milk. (12) And if it causes a stomach ache, drink with it
(13) a glass of hot water and you will be relieved. (14) In the next morning
— together with one mithqal of roasted basil
(15) seeds, washed in (16) cold
water.And a little rose water
andoneounce(17) and a half of rose beverage.
(18) Diet: boiled pullets.
This research could have not taken place without a generous grant from St.
These items usually goes together, see Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), pp. 218y221.
Ibid, pp. 116y118.
Ibid, pp. 128y129.
Ibid, pp. 196y198.
Ibid, pp. 102y103.
Ibid, pp. 302y305.
Ibid, pp. 280y281.
A silver coin equal to one sixth of a dirham, here this term refers to a weight of about
0.5143 gr. See E. W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon (Librairie du Liban, Beirut, 1968)
[reprint], p. 920.
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), p. 149y150.
Ibid, p. 195y196.
The MS reads here
, which might denote to
, that is, Egyptian.
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), p. 533.
The translation is uncertain, see Lane, Dictionary (as in n. 97), p. 716y717.
Lev and Amar, Practical (as in n. 17), p. 294y297.
Ibid, p. 108y110.
Ibid, p. 261y266.
Ibid, p. 261y266.
Ibid, p. 141y143.
New Genizah Documents 31*
John’s College, Cambridge, which hosted Efraim Lev as an Overseas Visiting
Scholar (2003- 2004; 2011y2012). We express our deepest thanks to Dr. Ben
Outhwaite (head, Taylor- Schechter Genizah Research unit), Prof. Stefan Reif
(former head), Dr. Gabriele Ferrario and Dr. Esther-Miriam Wagner who shared
with us their enormous knowledge and experience and for their helpful remarks.
Special thanks go to Prof. Sasson Somech, Prof. Naser Basal, Prof. Nahem
Ilan, Dr. Avi Tal and Dr. Zvi Stampfer for reading an early version of the article
and suggesting alternative readings and translations. The responsibility for the
final version is ours. We thank the Syndics of Cambridge University Library
for permission to publish the Genizah fragments.
32* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
Cambridge University Library, T-S 10J16.16 recto. With permission of the Syndics of Cambridge
University Library
New Genizah Documents 33*
Cambridge University Library, T-S 10J16.16 verso. With permission of the Syndics of Cambridge
University Library
34* Amir Ashur and Efraim Lev
Cambridge University Library, TS AS 152.34 recto. With
permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library
Cambridge University Library, TS AS 152.34 verso. With
permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library
New Genizah Documents 35*
Cambridge University Library, T-S 12.307 verso. With permission of the Syndics of Cambridge
University Library
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... In traditional medicine, a decoction of C. hypocistis has been used in the treatment of dysentery and for its astringent qualities; other reported uses include the treatment of tumors of the throat and of eye inflammations, and as a emmenagogue [12,13]. The young plant can be cooked as an asparagus substitute, flowers sucked as sweets, and the species is quoted as famine food in Portugal [14][15][16]. ...
... Despite its numerous applications in traditional medicine [12,14,17], the chemical composition of C. hypocistis is still almost completely unknown. To give some insight into this, we firstly fractionated the freeze dried plant using three sequential extraction steps with increasingly polar solvents: cyclohexane, ethanol, and water. ...
Full-text available
Cytinus is an endophytic parasitic plant occurring in South Africa, Madagascar, and in the Mediterranean region. We have extracted the inflorescences (the only visible part of the plant, emerging from the host roots at the time of blossom) of Cytinus hypocistis collected in Sardinia, Italy, and explored the antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-tyrosinase, and cytotoxic activities of the extracts. Extracts from C. hypocistis were prepared using increasing polarity solvents: cyclohexane, ethanol, and water. Phenolic composition were determined through spectrophotometric assays, and antioxidant activity with both electron-transfer and hydrogen-atom assays. Nine different bacterial strains, including clinical isolate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, were used in agar diffusion method. Cytotoxicity was tested using against the B16F10 melanoma cell line. While cyclohexane extracts where biologically inactive, ethanolic and aqueous extracts displayed an intriguing activity against several Gram-positive bacterial strains, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus, and against the Gram-negative Acinetobacter baumanii. Compared to the conventional antibiotics like cloxacillin, ampicillin, and oxytetracycline, C. hypocistis extracts were less active in absolute terms, but displayed a wider spectrum (notably, cloxacillin and ampicillin were inactive against methicillin-resistant S. aureus). The ethanolic extract of C. hypocistis was found to be particularly rich in polyphenols, in most part hydrolysable tannins. The antioxidant activity of extracts, tested with several methodologies, resulted to be particularly high in the case of ethanolic extracts, in accordance with the composition in phenolics. In detail, ethanol extracts presented about a twofold higher activity than the water sample when tested through the oxygen radical absorbance capacity-pyrogallol red (ORAC-PYR) assay. Cytotoxicity analysis against the B16F10 melanoma cell line showed that both extracts have not significant cytotoxic effect, even at the highest dose (1000 µg/mL). Tests showed that ethanolic extracts also had the greatest tyrosinase inhibition activity, indicating that C. hypocistis-derived substances could find application in food formulations as anti-browning agents. Overall, these results point to the need of further studies on C. hypocistis extracts, aimed at isolating and fully characterizing its biologically active compounds.
Various issues involving theoretical and practical dimensions of medicine have been studied by using the Cairo Genizah. However, there are few in-depth studies on medical education. This article focuses on the medieval Arabic ophthalmology textbook, Masāʾil wa-ajwiba fīʿilm ṣināʿat al-kuḥl (hereafter MI), written by Dāniyāl ibn Shuʿyā. This is a textbook that arranges ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā’s Tadhkirat al-kaḥḥāllīn (hereafter TK) into the question-and-answer format. MI is a concise and comprehensive textbook that includes anatomy, physiology, diagnostics, therapeutics, and pharmacology. Whereas Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq’s Masāʾil fī al-ʿayn is limited to theoretical knowledge, MI contains the total procedure from knowing nature of eye diseases to treatment, and enables readers to apply certain medicinal substances to specific situations. However, MI’s crucial defect is that it arranges treatment plans along one linear disease progression, and cut off many derivative plans. Schematic composition is the remarkable feature of MI. Dāniyāl ibn Shuʿyā adopted some medical categories, which had been recognized but left unused in earlier Arabic medical books, in order to present the content in the concise scheme. The content of MI basically follows that of TK; therefore, it does not contain remarkably new elements. However, since Dāniyāl ibn Shuʿyā arranged TK into the roughly fixed pattern, he occasionally had to fill omissions of TK with his original questions and answers. These new components were presumably referred to by later ophthalmologists such as Khalīfa ibn Abī al-Maḥāsin al-Ḥalabī.
This paper reveals the practice of compounding medicines from the perspective of medieval Arabic medical books and the Cairo Genizah, focusing on ophthalmology. Some researchers have argued that, due to the large number of new remedies added through experience and trade, physicians gradually became free from the classical four-quality theory. However, our study shows that a kind of logic can be discerned in compound medicines, and that this logic requires knowledge of the classical four-quality theory. The practical dimensions have been neglected because most Arabic materials do not say anything about it. Given this textual restriction, The Cairo Genizah is important for Arabic medical history, because it o ers abundant information about medical practices. Among medical fragments of the Cairo Genizah, we focused on the speci c genre, which we would call “notebooks.” The text found in notebooks is consisting of recipes for compound medicines. Quite often, the genizah notebooks contain original recipes that are not found in the medical books. These are thought to be clearer re ections of the actual practice in medieval Cairo. We took up treatments of conjunctivitis (ramad) and eruptions of the eyelids (jarab). Firstly, we explored several medical books, and summarized the descriptions that related to the treatments of these eye diseases. Secondly, turning to the genizah notebooks, we collected recipes for the eye medicines, listed all of the ingredients, and checked their qualities. Finally, taking the characteristics of each ingredient into consideration, we examined whether or not these recipes exhibited theoretical consistency. Through a close examination of these materials, we found that the ingredients in the notebook recipes are different from those in the medical books, although their temperaments fulfill the conditions required for particular treatments. The ophthalmologists might have recognized the required effects for certain eye diseases, and then chosen substances that met those requirements.
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This article presents a plethora of fragments from the medical notebooks found in the Cairo Genizah that comprise a unique source of historical data for scholarly study and for a better understanding of the ways in which medieval medical knowledge in Egypt was transferred from theory to practice and vice versa. These documents provide the most direct evidence we have for preferred practical medical recipes because they record the choices of medical practitioners in medieval Cairo. Since the language most commonly used in them was Judaeo-Arabic, they were evidently written by Jews. The medical genre in the notebooks was primarily pharmacopoeic, consisting of apparently original recipes for the treatment of various diseases. There are also a few notebooks on materia medica. The subject matter of the Genizah medical notebooks shows that they were mostly of an eclectic nature, i.e. the writers had probably learnt about these treatments and recipes from their teachers, applied them at the hospitals where they worked or copied them from the books they read. Foremost among the subjects dealt with were eye diseases, followed by skin diseases, coughs and colds, dentistry and oral hygiene, and gynaecological conditions. The writers of the Genizah notebooks apparently recorded the practical medical knowledge they wished to preserve for their future use as amateur physicians, students, traditional healers or professional practitioners.
The Mosseri collection was assembled by Jacques Mosseri (1884-1934), a leading member of the Jewish community of Cairo, between 1909 and 1911. Its more than 7000 fragments include materials from both the classical Genizah period and the modern period of Egyptian Jewry. Recently, the Mosseri collection was loaned by the Mosseri family to Cambridge University Library for conservation, digitising, cataloguing and study. This article is part of that effort. Here, new information about medical documents from the Cairo Genizah is made available to scholars especially interested in research on the history of medieval Arab society in general and Jewish medicine and pharmacology in particular. The sixty-nine items from the Mosseri collection here described will be useful for those already working in the field. Descriptions, without any analyses, of these fragments will later be included in a forthcoming catalogue of all medical and para-medical fragments in the Cambridge Genizah collections.
Al-Dustūr al-bīmāristānī by Ibn Abī 'l-Bayān forms an important part of the Arabic tradition of hospital dispensatories and has remained well-known to the traditional practitioners of the Middle East. So far, eleven fragments of the Dustur have been identified in the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collections at the Cambridge University Library, of which eight are in Arabic script and three are in Judaeo-Arabic. This article discusses the significance of these fragments, particularly those in Judaeo-Arabic. We also provide editions and translations of two of the fragments.
The medical texts in the Genizah have been analyzed mainly as part of other subjects, like the various professional classes within the Jewish community in Old Cairo. Until now few have studied these documents in their own right, despite the fact that they offer valuable insights into the medieval economy of the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Focussing on saffron and myrobalan, this article offers a tentative investigation of the significance of medical drugs for the study of Mediterranean trade in the Middle Ages on the basis of practical medical fragments found mainly at the Taylor-Schechter collection in Cambridge.
The literature on medicine in medieval Muslim countries in general and in Egypt in particular is vast and detailed. Yet study and assessment of the practical aspects of medicine in the Mediterranean society of the Middle Ages requires examination of authentic, practical medical knowledge. At present this can be extracted mainly from the prescriptions found in the Cairo Genizah; these supply a different and valuable dimension. On the importance and the potential of research into the medical aspects of the Genizah documents, mainly prescriptions, Goitein wrote in 1971 that “these prescriptions have to be examined by experts in the history of medicine”.
Aim of the study: To asses the scientific value of the practical medical fragments found in the Cairo Genizah (10th century), as a useful source for ethnopharmacological purposes (in exposing rare and usually inaccessible original medieval practical knowledge of medicinal substances to present-day researchers), and to reconstruct the practical drugs and their uses. Materials and methods: A methodology distinguishing between theoretical (about 1500 fragments) and practical medical knowledge (about 230 fragments) was created and used. The information regarding the practical medicinal substances was extracted from prescriptions (140), lists of drugs (70) and few letters of physicians. Results: The reconstructed lists of practical (278) and theoretical (414) drugs allow us to recognize and quantify the gap between them in medieval times (136). Conclusions: We propose that the data obtained from ancient prescriptions is comparable to ethnopharmacological surveys. The finding of plants such as myrobalan, saffron, licorice, spikenard and lentisk, all of which have scientifically proven anti-microbial/bacterial and anti-fungal activity, sheds a helpful light on the medical decision-making of the medieval practitioners in respect of the plants they applied as drugs. With the wealth of information meticulously assembled from these time capsules we expect to make a significant contribution to contemporary efforts at locating modern drugs in ancient roots and gauging their feasibility.
The importance of the Genizah for the research of the medieval Mediterranean communities, supplying information on almost every aspect of life, is well known among historian. Less known is that pharmacy was the most popular of all branches of the healing art in the medieval Jewish community of Cairo, according to the Genizah manuscripts. Sources for study of medieval practical drugs are extremely rare since most records naturally vanish over the years, and only some medical books, which contained theoretical pharmacology, have survived to the present day. Drugs lists enable us to understand medieval practical pharmacy and to reconstruct their inventories. This study reports on 71 original drugs lists that were found in the Genizah; they are different from merchants' letters dealing with commerce in drugs and give no instructions for the use or preparation of formulas as usually found in prescriptions. Twenty-six lists are written in Judeo-Arabic and 45 in Arabic, none of the lists is written in Hebrew. The longest list contains 63 identified substances. These lists were apparently used by pharmacists for professional and business purposes as inventories of drugs, records, orders, or even receipts. Two hundred and six different drugs are mentioned in the drugs lists of which 167 are of plant origin, 16 are of animal origin, and the remaining 23 are inorganic. The lists point directly to the place they occupied on the shelves of the pharmacies that could be found in the lanes and alleys of the Jewish quarter of Cairo. The most frequently mentioned substance were myrobalan (27), pepper and saffron (21), lentisk (15), almond, basil, rose, rosemary (14), cattle products, camphor and spikenard (13).