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BENJAMIN B. ISAAC OF CARCASSONNE:

This scholar is known only by his translation from Latin into Hebrew, under the title of "'Ezer Eloah" (Divine Help), of the work of Jean de Bourgogne, of the province of Liége, on the corruption of the air by the plague. This work, which contains in the appendix many empiric remedies against divers ills, is preserved in manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (No. 1191, fol. 141b-194a); only one other manuscript copy being known to exist, and that is in the library of Baron D. de Günzburg. Of the original, which was perhaps written in French, hardly any traces are left; that is, of the treatise described as "On the Epidemic, in Prose," No. 852 of the Library of the Louvre, or the private library of Charles V., king of France. This is undoubtedly the little book, says Leopold Delisle (MSS. de la Bibliothèque Nationale, 1891, iii. 153, note 1), of which there is a copy at the end of MS. Français 12,323, under the title, "The Treatise Which the Masters of Medicine and the Astronomers of Paris Wrote of the Plague Which Physics Calls the Epidemic, in the Year of Our Lord, N. S. MCCCXLVIII," or perhaps the little book written in 1365 by Master Jean de Bourgogne, surnamed "With the Beard," professor of medicine, and citizen of Liége (Delisle, "Observations sur Plusieurs MSS. de la Collection Barrois," p. 55).

The date of the Hebrew work may therefore be fixed, at least approximately. The second book of Jean was written in 1365, and was translated by Benjamin a few years later, about 1370. Now, the author had said in the preface, as far as one can judge from the Hebrew version, that already in the "year 22," when the plague broke out for the first time, he had written a similar treatise beginning with the words ("My God, my God") (Steinschneider, "Hebr. Uebers." p. 804). With what does the number 22 correspond? Steinschneider acutely remarks ("Hebr. Uebers." l.c.): "The date 22 [] could only mean 122 [= 1362]"; but that does not tally with the first outbreak of the Black Death, in 1348. Doubtless a Jewish era was substituted in the translation, probably through a copyist's mistake. Could Jean have meant that he wrote this book twenty-two years before? Then this treatise was written in 1370, as stated by Amplon ("Autre Fonds de la Bibliothèque Bodleienne," No. 1923). This tallies with the note cited by M. Delisle. The doubt as to the date detracts in no wise from the interest of this medical treatise, which was saved from oblivion by the version of Benjamin of Carcassonne.

Bibliography:
  • Steinschneider, in Z. D. M. G. xxix. 165;
  • idem, in Magazin, xii. 183;
  • idem, Hebr. Uebers. p. 804;
  • Ecrivains Juifs, xxvii., 628, 752, and xxxi. 723;
  • Gross, Gallia Judaica, p. 617.
G. M. S.
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