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About Don Avraham "el Alfaquin" HaKohen, [haRoffe Al-Hakim]
Don Abraham of Toledo (Abraham el Alfaquin = al-Ḥakīm) was physician to King Alfonso X (el Sabio - the Learned) of Castile, and to his son Sancho IV. He was active between 1260 and 1277 and translated books from Arabic into Castilian under the patronage of the king in Toledo and Burgos. Together with five other prominent Jews of the royal court, he was kidnapped in 1270 by rebellious nobles demanding the elimination of taxes. He was restored to his position in 1275. He died in 1294.
Abraham’s translations include La escala de Mahoma (The Ladder of Muḥammad), an account of the Miʿrāj, or heavenly journey, of the Prophet (before 1264, not extant); Ibn al-Haytham’s Libro de la constitucion del universo (Ar. Kitāb fī Hay’at al-ʿĀlam; after 1270); and Azarchiel’s (al-Zarqālī’s) Libro de la Açafeha (Ar. al-Ṣafīḥa, a revision of an earlier translation by Fernando of Toledo; 1277).
The translation program sponsored by Alfonso called for renderings as literal and accurate as possible, and this is the main characteristic of Abraham’s translations. The treatise on the açafeha (astrolabic plate) is an example of the king's program: a second translation of this work was commended to Abraham of Toledo (and Bernardo el Arabigo) because the king found unsatisfactory the first one (by Master Fernando of Toledo). With respect to Abraham’s attitude toward translation, the Libro de la constitucion del universo proves that his knowledge of astronomy was limited and he had not mastered some of its most technical details, for he failed to detect mistakes in the original Arabic and reproduced them in his translation (Samsó 1990). Concerning his language, it constitutes a striking combination of literalism and freedom. He did not use the already coined terms for astronomical terms in Arabic, felt free to reorganize the contents and chapter divisions of the original work, and introduced summaries and interpolations (Samsó 1990). His main contribution to the so-called School of Toledo was the organization and division into chapters of the translated works.
Josefina Rodríguez Arribas
Bossong, Georg. Probleme der Übersetzung wissenschaftlicher Werke aus dem Arabischen in das Altspanische zur Zeit Alfons des Weisen (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1979).
Chabás, José, and Bernard Goldstein. The Alphonsine Tables of Toledo (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2003).
Gil, José S. La escuela de traductores de Toledo y los colaboradores judíos (Toledo: Instituto provincial de investigaciones y estudios toledanos, 1985).
Romano, David. La ciencia hispanojudía (Madrid: Mapfre, 1992).
Roth, Norman. “Jewish Collaborators in Alfonso’s Scientific Work,” in Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X the Learned of Castile and His Thirteenth Century Renaissance, ed. Robert I. Burns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), pp. 59–71.
Samsó, Julio. “El original árabe y la versión alfonsí del Kitāb fī hay'at al-ʽālam de Ibn al-Haytham,” in Ochava esfera y astrofísica. Textos y estudios sobre las fuentes árabes de la astronomía de Alfonso X, ed. M. Comes, H. Mielgo, and J. Samsó (Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona-Instituto Millás Vallicrosa, 1990), pp. 115-131.
Cite this page
Josefina Rodríguez Arribas. "Abraham of Toledo." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online, 2013.<http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/abraham-of-toledo-SIM_0000260>
Don Avraham "el Alfaquin" HaKohen, [haRoffe Al-Hakim]'s Timeline
Toledo, Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain