Botanical elements of Andalusí Romance in medieval medical texts in Hebrew characters

Guido Mensching/Dorothea Köhler,
Department of Romance Philology, Georg-August University of Göttingen

This project (2014/2015) was funded by the HISPANEX program of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports .
Este proyecto ha merecido una subvención en el marco de programa HISPANEX del Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte español.


It is well known that Arabic botanical treatises and related work written in Al-Andalus are one of the major sources of our knowledge of Old Southern Ibero-Romance or Andalusí Romance (also known as "Mozarabic"). One of these sources is being edited in an ongoing project funded by the DFG (A first critical edition of the Kitab at-Talkhis by Marwan ibn Ganah, with English translation, commentary and analysis of the Ibero-Romance lexicon, directed by Gerrit Bos, Univerity of Cologne, and Guido Mensching, Göttingen). What is not generally known is that this vocabulary was also transmitted by Jewish scholars, outside Al-Andalus, after many Jews had fled from the Almohad and Almoravid regimes. Such elements are contained in multi-lingual glossaries and synonym lists written in the Christian parts of the Iberian Peninsula, Southern France and Italy (13th - 15th century), see Bos/Mensching (2005, 2006).

The presence of Andalusí Romance plant names in Hebrew-Romance glossaries and synonym lists was already observed in Köhler/Mensching (2013) and has been generally described in Bos/Mensching (2014, 2015). A prominent example of the use of such lexical items is the multi-lingual glossary contained in ms. Munich, Bayer. Staatsbibl. hebr. 87. The edition of this list (mostly containing Arabic, Castilian, and Catalan) is still ongoing and has also been financed by the DFG.

The aim of the project funded by the HISPANEX program of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, carried out by Dorothea Köhler, was to identify and analyze the botanical names in ms. Munich 87 that directly or indirectly reflect Andalusí Romance. Here is an example:


In total, Dorothea Köhler was able to discover and describe 45 words stemming from Andalusí Romance in ms. Munich 87. We are still comparing these results with those of other glossaries in Hebrew characters and are working on a comprehensive article on this subject.

  • Article (in progress): "Los Mozarabismos documentados en glosarios médico-botánico en grafía hebrea de la Edad Media"

  • Further results of the Hispanex projects:

    • Bos, Gerrit/Mensching, Guido (2015): "Medical drugs and foodstuff in the Mediterranean - a multi-lingual history. Notes on Arabic Romance medico-botanical glossaries in Hebrew script", talk at MPI Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. [pdf download]

    • Bos, Gerrit/Mensching, Guido (in press): "Glossaris médico-botànics multilingües de l’Edat mitjana en grafia hebraica." To be published in Müller, Isabel/Savelsberg, Frank, Proceedings of the 24th Deutscher Katalanistentag, Section 2 ("Formació, organització i transmissió del saber a l’edat mitjana i al renaixement")

    • Application for a DFG project on Hebrew-Romance medico-botanical glossaries produced in Italy (in progress)

    • References

      • Bos, G./Mensching, G. (2005): "The Literature of Hebrew Medical Synonyms: Romance and Latin Terms and their Identification", Aleph 5, 169-211.

      • Bos, G./Mensching, G. (2006): "A 15th Century medico-botanical synonym list (Ibero-Romance-Arabic) in Hebrew characters", Panace@, 7.24, 261-68.

      • Bos, G./Mensching, G. (2015): "Arabic-Romance Medico-Botanical Glossaries in Hebrew Manuscripts from the Iberian Peninsula and Italy", Aleph 15, 9-61.

      • Köhler, D./Mensching, G. (2013): "Romanische Fachterminologie in mittelalterlichen medizinisch-botanischen Glossaren und Synonymenlisten in hebräischer Schrift", en Fachsprache(n) in der Romania: Entwicklung, Verwendung, Übersetzung, ed. V. Atayan, L. Sergo i U. Wienen, Berlin: Frank & Timme, 61-82.

      • RA: Corriente, F. (2008), Romania Arabica: Tres cuestiones básicas arabismos, «mozárabe» y «jarchas», Madrid: Trotta.

      • UT: Bustamante, J., Corriente, F. & Tilmatine M. (eds.) (2004), Abulḫayr al’Išbīlī (s. V / XI). Kitābu‘Umdati Ṭṭabīb fī Ma’rifati Nnabāt likulli Labīb (Libro base del médico para el conocimiento de la botánica por todo experto), 3 vol., Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.