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Cosman on Maimonides On Asthma

June 29, 2013

…Maimonides’s treatise On Asthma. Inspired by Greek texts, it was written in Arabic in the 12th century by a Jewish physician for an Islamic patron, and translated to the Western world in Latin by Christian scholars. Thanks to its remarkable style, it preserves evidence of the medieval conjunction between medical theory and actual practice. It asserts contributions of emotions to health and dramatizes the significance of diet to disease control. Incidentally, this text testifies to the venerable connection between Jewish medical practice and chicken soup.

— Madeleine Pelner Cosman, “A Feast for Aesculapius: Historical Diets for Asthma and Sexual Pleasure.” Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol. 3 (1983).


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2013 11:36 am

    🙂 Funny re “chicken soup”!

    In his wonderful bilingual (Arabic-English) edition of Maimonides’s work, Gerrit Bos makes this important observation:

    “Medical Works

    While Maimonides’ works in the fields of philosophy and Jewish law have all been edited, translated, and interpreted many times, this is not the case with his medical works. Of his major works in this field, the following are available only in editions of the medieval Hebrew translations and in modern translations based on the Hebrew: Kitāb al-fuṣūl (Medical aphorisms), Sharḥ fuṣūl Abuqāṭ (Commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms), Kitāb al-sumūm wa al-taḥarruz min al-adwiya al-qattāla (On poisons and the protection against fatal drugs). A fourth major work, the Mukhtaṣarāt li-kitub Jālīnūs (Abridgements of the works of Galen) survives only in part and has not been edited at all, but portions of it are available in an English translation.”

  2. June 29, 2013 1:45 pm

    Yes, Cosman makes the same point about the few and late translations of his medical works in her paper (which you can download and read at the Medievalists link above). She also notes that not all translators can be trusted, offering one example that disdainfully condenses M’s statement about the humors, and another that prudishly omits passages that discuss coitus.

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