Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jacob Ben David Bong’oron Yom Tov Poel

Jacob Ben David Bong’oron Yom Tov Poel-also known by various other Latin and vernacular versions of his name, he was a Jewish astronomer to King Pedro the Ceremonious in the mid-fourteenth century, and came from a distinguished scientific family; his father was a famous maker of instruments and his son was also an astronomer, who caused some controversy when he converted to Christianity in the face of the rising anti-Semitic sentiment current in later fourteenth-century Aragon. Jacob calculated his Tables for use at the latitude of Perpignan, beginning in the year 1361,
This is an extremely rare (and probably unique) illustrated anthology of six astronomical and scientific texts, derived at least in part from ancient classical learning, which had survived from Greek through Arabic and thence into Hebrew scholarship into Christian Spain, and at least in part from original astronomical observations of the fourteenth-century Jews All in all, the manuscript represents a unique blend of Greek, Arabic and Hebrew scholarship, written in Christian Spain. It is secular and scientific and yet richly illuminated on vellum and illustrated luxuriously. No comparable anthology is recorded, and the text appears to be unpublished. It is very probably the finest Hebrew astronomical manuscript remaining in private hands
The manuscript is richly illustrated. This deserves emphasis, for medieval Hebrew manuscripts with actual pictorial illustrations are rare, and in private ownership now almost unknown. The miniatures show a tantalizing mixture of classical Greek sources, transmogrified through centuries of copying, and actual depictions of fourteenth-century life: decorated vases, swords and utensils, a magnificent galleon in full sail, Arabic costumes, and so forth. The Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection is a private library focusing on late medieval and early modern manuscripts. Mr. Schoenberg is a Penn alumnus and current chair of the Library's Board of Overseers. It has long been his desire that private collectors do more to facilitate access by scholars to their collections. The advent of the World Wide Web has now made it possible for private and institutional collections to be seen as scanned images and as encoded text. And so, the Penn Library has entered into a unique collaboration with Mr. Schoenberg that will allow researchers to view virtual facsimiles of manuscripts from his collection. While it will take several years to finish the project, scholars will be able to see and use texts as they become available to us (...from SCETI Online Collection: )

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