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The Spread of Translation

During the 13th and 14th centuries, inspired by the activity in southern Italy, scholars began seeking out more works throughout the Mediterranean world that had not been translated into Latin. In Spain and France, scholars poured over texts previously unknown in the West. As they found new Arabic writings, they often transliterated Arabic technical terms character by character, rather than translated them into their Latin equivalents. This introduced into Latin numerous terms understandable only to people with a sufficient knowledge of Arabic. Simon Januensis, an Italian lexicographer, botanist, and physician, compiled a dictionary of such terms, to provide readers with the proper Latin translation of transliterated Arabic words.

Toledo, Spain

Italian scholar Gerard of Cremona (ca. 1114–ca. 1187) traveled to Toledo, then at the border of the Christian and Muslim worlds. There, he learned Arabic and rendered into Latin major medical works that had not yet been translated.

F. 1 recto from Manuscript E 1 by Ibn Sina. A two column hand written manuscript page with two illuminated initials at the beginning of the paragraphs in each column.
Ibn Sîna (980–1037), Qanûn.

Gerard of Cremona translated this large synthesis of medicine by the Persian scientist and polymath Ibn Sîna, known in the West as Avicenna.

Manuscript E 1, f. 1 recto.


Rome, Italy

Besides compiling a bilingual lexicon of Arabic technical terms transliterated into the Latin alphabet, Simon Januensis also worked in collaboration with Abraham ben Sem Tob, an interpreter of Arabic, at the court of Pope Boniface VIII (ca. 1235–1303), translating into Latin Arabic medical writings unknown in the West.

F. 59 recto from Manuscript E 33 by Abu I-Qasim. A two column hand written manuscript page.
abu l-Qâsim (d. ca. 1010), Liber servitoris.

This work dealing with therapeutics is the 28th book of the large medical encyclopedia written by the Cordovan physician abu l-Qâsim, known in the West as Albucasis.

Manuscript E 33, f. 59 recto.


F. 1 recto from Manuscript E 40 by Ibn Sarabiyun. A two column hand written manuscript page in brown, red and blue ink. There are annotations in the margins and in the center of the bottom of the page in a red stamp is Library Surgeon General's Office Dec. 2, 1897 with 160200 hand written in pencil.
Pseudo Ibn Sarabiyun (9th–10th century), Liber aggreagatus de medicinis simplicibus (Synthesis on simple medicines).

Known as Serapion, Ibn Sarabiyun was credited with the writing of a large treatise on materia medica. The original Arabic text seems to be lost. Only the Latin translation survives.

Manuscript E 40, f. 1 recto.