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BONSENYOR, JUDAH (Jaffuda):

Notary-general of Aragon, and translator from the Arabic; son of the elder Astruc, and, like his father, interpreter, first to Alfonso III. and then to Jaime II.; died about 1334. In 1287 he accompanied Alfonso III. on his war of conquest against Minorca; andseven years later (1294) Jaime II. appointed him notary-general for the kingdom and the royal dependencies. By virtue of this appointment all merchants doing business in the country who were acquainted only with the Arabic language, and who desired to have documents translated from the Arabic into Spanish, or duplicated, or acknowledged, were forced to appear before Bonsenyor or his representative.

In 1305 Jaime II. granted him a passport to enable him to visit Provence, probably in the interests of Jewish studies, which at that time were proscribed. On Nov. 4, 1310, as a sign of royal favor, and by the influence of the king's body-physician, John Amely, Bonsenyor was exempted from all taxes, whether personal or public, to which the Aljama of Barcelona was subject. The king also ordered that neither Bonsenyor nor his children should be molested on account of unpaid taxes, and that he should be at liberty to enter or leave the "Juderia," or Jewish quarter, at will. Bonsenyor was especially honored when the king ordered him to gather Arabic maxims and translate them into Catalan for the use of the princes. This collection, which for centuries remained in manuscript, was published in part in "Documentos Ineditos de la Corona de Aragon," vol. xiii., and in the "Revista Catalana" (1889). The same year this work, copied from a manuscript in Palma, appeared complete under this title: "Jehuda Bonsenyor, Libre de Paraules e Dits de Savis e Filosofs, Los Proverbis de Salomo, . . . per Gabriel Llabrés y Quintana" ("Biblioteca d'Escriptors Catalans"; Palma, Majorca, 1889). Jacob Zadik de Ucles undertook a Spanish translation of this work in 1402 under the title "Libro de Sabios é Philosophos."

The sayings gathered by Bonsenyor are 753 in number and are divided into 67 chapters. Because of their terseness and their bearing upon local conditions, they are used to this day by the people in Majorca and Catalonia. Some of them are exceedingly pithy and to the point, such as: "Whoever answers quickly, errs easily"; "Whoever hears badly, answers badly"; "Wealth has its own nobility"; "Too many sailors will sink the ship," which corresponds to the English proverb, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." Bonsenyor took most of this collection from Hebrew adaptations of Arabic originals; a part is taken bodily from a similar collection, the "Mibḥar ha-Peninim," by Solomon ibn Gabirol.

Bibliography:
  • Gabr. Llabrés, as quoted, on Introduction and Appendix, with several original documents;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Spanien, i. 161;
  • idem, in Jewish Quarterly Review, viii. 632;
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebersetzungen, pp. 977-979;
  • Revue Etudes Juives, iv. 58.
G. M. K.
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