Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yehiam performance, a video

From a Piut of Yehuda Halevi (which represents the begining of the family's journey in Zefat) - to French Ballet and Air de cour (Robert Ballard) , then to Italy's finest composers - among them the Jewish one, Salomone Rossi - and from there to Ladino music taken under the influences of Turkey (Una Ora) and Jerusalem (Entre Las Huertas), Tuviyah's Travels take you on a musical and narrative journey.

Here is a video of Entre Las Huertas, Yehiam, November 15, 2008. You can also click here, on Una Ora, to hear a mp3 version of this song. Enjoy!

Yehiam Program, November 15, 2008

A presentation in Hebrew a bit too lyric for the historian but it exists! Announcement of the spectacle in the Renaissance Festival leaflet. Click on the picture to see it full screen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bibliography of Ma’aseh Tuviyah, 1708

Tobias’s book is an encyclopaedic work in two main parts—one devoted to theology and scientific knowledge in general, and the other to medicine. According to the text on the frontispiece, which bears a portrait of Tobias, the manuscript would appear to have been completed in 1700. The publication licence from the University of Padua however—issued by the Franciscans and appearing at the end of the book—is dated 7 June 1708. One of the letters in the book’s introduction would seem to suggest that the discrepancy between the two dates is related to the role played by Solomon Conegliano, who was, at Tobias’ behest, responsible for its publication in Venice.
According to Ruderman, the work was printed five times at Venice between 1708 and 1850, followed by seven further editions published elsewhere—most recently in Brooklyn, New York, in 1974, and in Jerusalem, in 1967 and 1978. Ruderman thus characterizes Ma’aseh Tuviyah as “the most influential early modern Hebrew textbook of the sciences, especially medicine”.
One of the book’s main characteristics is its attempt to associate the “new sciences” with the traditional Jewish view of science in general and medicine in particular. As we have noted, the book is organized in encyclopaedic fashion. The first part comprises five chapters: ‘The Upper World’ (corresponding more or less to metaphysics), ‘The World of the Spheres’ (astronomy), ‘The Lower World’ (geography), ‘The Little World’ or ‘Microcosm’ (ethnography), and ‘The Foundations of the World’ (alchemy). The second part comprises three main chapters: ‘A New Land’, ‘A New House’ and ‘The House Watch’ or ‘Guard’. This corresponds to the traditional division of medical texts into three parts: physiology, pathology and therapy (limited here to hygiene). A third part includes: ‘A Garden Enclosed’ (gynaecology and obstetrics), ‘Fruit of the Womb’ (paediatrics), and ‘A Fountain Sealed’ (on sterility). It should be noted that while the chapter titles in the first part of the book relate to the idea of the “world”, and those of the second part to the theme of novelty and the house, the headings in the third part all derive from the Bible, particularly the Song of Songs. The book also includes a section on medical botany and a list of remedies.

Biography of Tobias Cohen (1652–1729)

Almost everything we know about Tobias Cohen is gleaned from his own book. One of the most recent accounts of Tobias and Ma’aseh Tuviyah is that of David Ruderman in his book: Jewish thought and scientific discovery in early modern Europe.
Tobias was born in Metz in 1652, into a learned Jewish family. His grandfather, Eleazar Cohen, emigrated from Safed (then in the Ottoman province of Damascus), to settle in Cracow (Poland), where he studied medicine. His father, Moses, was both a physician and a rabbi. He immigrated to France at the onset of the persecutions instigated by the Cossack leader Bogdan Chmielnicki in 1648. Following the death of his father, when he was nine years old, Tobias was sent back to Cracow, where he received a traditional Jewish education.
At the age of twenty-five, accompanied by his friend Gabriel Felix of Brody, Tobias went to study medicine at Frankfurt-on-Oder. Soon, however, the discrimination the two friends suffered drove them to abandon Frankfurt for a more open university: that of Padua, near Venice (Italy). In Padua they attended the preparatory school for Jewish medical students founded by Solomon Conegliano (1642–1719)—himself a graduate of the city’s medical university. Tobias and Gabriel obtained their doctorates in medicine and philosophy at Padua in 1683, and Tobias went on to become a physician at the Sultan’s court, residing at Adrianople and Constantinople (present-day Edirne and Istanbul respectively), before retiring to Jerusalem in 1715, where he lived until his death in 1729.
This family saga, from Safed to Poland, France, Italy, the Ottoman empire, and finally Jerusalem, resembles the experiences of many European Jewish savants of the early modern period. European conflicts—such as the intellectual and cultural challenges that marked the development of new sciences in a period of uncertainty and constant change—resonate in Tobias’ work.