Les Traduccions hebrees del Regiment de sanitat d'Arnau de Vilanova


  • Eduard Feliu


Arnau de Vilanova was born in around 1240, probably in the diocese of
Valencia, to which he had ties until his death.

Arnau began to study medicine in around 1260 in Montpellier. It was there that he married Agnès Blasi, who came from a renowned family of merchants and doctors. The couple lived in Valencia from 1276 to 1281, where their daughter Maria was born and where they always owned a considerable amount of real estate and chattel.

Arnau was appointed doctor to King Peter the Great in 1281, shortly before the latter set sail from Portfangós to Sicily to claim the rights of his wife, Constance. The king's absence meant that Arnau had enough time on his hands to translate a number of works by Arab authors to Latin. Arnau served Peter the Great closely during the final years of the king's life and was at his side when he died in November 1285. Arnau's ties with Valencia were strong during the reign of Alfonso the Liberal (1285-1291), but the focus of his medical activity gradually shifted to Montpellier, where he wrote most of his works.

In 1293, Arnau became royal doctor to James II of Catalonia-Aragon (1267-1327, also known as James the Just), as well as the king's spiritual ad-visor. King James married Blanche of Anjou, daughter of Charles of Naples, in October 1295. Beautiful and fertile, Blanche gave birth to 10 children during her 14-year marriage to the king. Hypochondria was a notoriously prominent feature in the life of the royal couple and, together with the plagues of the era, it caused them to change home repeatedly in search of a healthier environment.

Considering that prevention is better than cure, Arnau wrote a Regimen sanitatis in Latin for King James II between 1305 and 1308, a work containing frequent references to the monarch's status and his ill health. Given that the work also had potential benefits for common people, the queen ordered Berenguer Sarriera, the court's surgeon, to translate it from Latin to Catalan, which he must have done between 1307 and 1310.

Two manuscripts of Sarriera's full version of the work in Catalan have been preserved. One is kept in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid (code 10078) and the other in the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona (code 1829). There is also an abridged version of the Catalan text in the Vatican Apostolic Library (code Barb. lat. 311). Rather than the original Latin text, it was the Catalan version, in both its full and abridged forms, that was translated into Hebrew.

Word of Hebrew translations of Arnau de Vilanova's works has mainly reached us from 19th century scholars. The information that they set out in their works was used and repeated by many 20th century authors, who were convinced of its accuracy. We now know, however, that the confusion arising from the information related by the aforementioned scholars with regard to Hebrew translations of the Regimen sanitatis essentially stems from the fact that they were only aware of the existence of the Latin version of the work, published in the 16th century, and never suspected that it had been translated into Catalan in Medieval times. The translators named in the prologues to or colophons of the Hebrew translations of the Regimen sanitatis constitute a source of further confusion, due to their identities having been determined on the basis of poorly founded speculation.


There are Hebrew versions of the full work in the following manuscripts:
Paris MSS, Hébreu 1128 and 1176, translated from Catalan by Samuel ben David Eben-Shoham, a native of Corfu, in Taranto in 1466, with a colophon by the translator (only found in MS Hébreu 1128).

New York MS, 8111, translated by Joseph ben Judah ha-Sefaradi, with a
prologue by the translator, but without a date. Moscow MS, Evr. 209, contains the same translation, but in fragments and without the prologue.

There are Hebrew versions of the abridged text in the following manuscripts:

Munich MS, Cod. hebr. 288, translated by Israel ben Joseph Caslarí, with
an extensive introduction by the translator. The same version is found in Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), and Saint Petersburg MS, Evr. B-290, minus the introduction in both cases.

Vatican MS, Vat. hebr. 366, firstly contains a translation from Latin of
chapter 18 on haemorrhoids, with a colophon. It is followed by a translation of the abridged version, as if it were a separate work, from chapter 11 to the end.


El Escorial MS, G-III-20, translated by Crescas des Caslar, according to the  colophon by the translator, in which no date is specified. The same work, minus the colophon, can be found in Munich MS, Cod. hebr. 288, Vatican MS, Vat. hebr. 366, and Florence MS, Plut. 88.26. Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), and Moscow MS, Evr. 209, contain parts of the work (the same parts in each case).


Second regimen (= John of Toledos De conservanda Sanitate)

Vatican MS, Vat. hebr. 366, Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), and Saint Petersburg MS, Evr. B-290, all contain the Second regimen, which, in each case, forms a single unit with and is preceded by the translation of the abridged version of Arnau de Vilanova's Regimen sanitatis, and features a colophon by the translator, Crescas des Caslar, dated 1327/28. The Second regimen also appears in Munich MS, 288, but the translator's name and the date are not specified.

New York MS, 8111, contains a different translation of the Second regimen, in this case entitled “Brief Regimen sanitatis of the Aforementioned Christian” (i. e. Arnau de Vilanova). The translation in question is preceded by the authentic Regimen sanitatis in the manuscript.


Samuel ben David Eben-Shoham translated the full text of Arnau de Vilanova's Regimen sanitatis, in 1466 (Paris MSS, Hébreu 1128 and 1176).

Joseph ben Judah ha-Sefaradi translated the same work at an unspecified date (New York MS, 8111). Following the Regimen sanitatis, the manuscript in question contains a Hebrew translation of the Second regimen which differs from that produced by Crescas des Caslar, probably carried out by Joseph ben Judah ha-Sefaradi himself.

Israel ben Joseph Caslari translated the abridged text (Munich MS, Cod.
hebr. 288, and fragments in Vatican MS, Vat. hebr. 366, Saint Petersburg MS, Evr. B-290, Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), and Moscow MS, Evr. 209) at an unspecified date, although it is stated in the prologue that Arnau de Vilanova had written the work 20 years earlier. Given that the Regimen sanitatis was written between 1305 and 1308, and that Berenguer Sarriera translated it from Latin immediately (prior to 1310, the year in which Queen Blanche died), the reference to a 20-year period suggests that Israel ben Joseph Caslari translated the abridged version at the same time as Crescas des Caslar was translating the Second regimen, a task completed in 1327/28, according to the translator himself.

Crescas des Caslar translated the Second regimen (i. e. John of Toledo's Book of health preservation, attributed to Arnau de Vilanova) in 1327/28 (Vatican MS, Vat. ebr. 366, Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), Saint Petersburg MS, Evr. B-290, and Munich MS, Cod. hebr. 288; the translator's name is not specified in any of these manuscripts). He also translated the text of the Arnaudina at an unspecified date (El Escorial MS, G-III-20, a translation that also appears in Munich MS, Cod. hebr. 288, Vatican MS, Vat. ebr. 366, and Florence MS, Plut. 88.26, as well as in fragments in Lyon MS, Hébreu 15 (13), and Moscow MS, Evr. 209).

This article is accompanied by a full transcription of the Hebrew version of the Regimen sanitatis, as contained in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Hébreu 1128, plus a glossary of names of plants and animals mentioned in the text.