Fables from the distant Past
The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization
Edited and translated by
The wondrous fables of Ibn Sahula in Meshal Haqadmoni,
presented here in English for the first time, provide
a most unusual introduction to the intellectual and social
universe of the Sephardi Jewish world of thirteenth-century
Ibn Sahula wrote his fables in rhymed prose, here rendered
into English as rhymed couplets. They comprise a series
of satirical debates between a cynic and a moralist, put
into the mouths of animals; the moralist always triumphs.
The debates, which touch on such subjects as time, the
soul, the physical sciences and medicine, astronomy, and
astrology amply and reflect human foibles, political compromise,
and court intrigue.
They are suffused throughout with traditional Jewish law
and lore, a flavour reinforced by the profusion of biblical
This richly annotated edition has much to offer to scholars
in many areas: medieval Hebrew literature, medieval intellectual
history, Sepharadi studies and the history of thirteenth
Both the translation and the scholarly annotations reflect
Raphael Loewe's deep understanding of Ibn Sahula's world
including the interrelationship of Hebrew Greek and Arabic
speculative thought and the interplay between the languages.
Scholars will profit enormously from the textual annotations,
and specialists and non-specialists alike will benefit
from the masterly introduction.
Two full series of illustrations are reproduced alongside
the text: woodcuts from Venice 1547, and the splendid
vignettes in the rothschild Miscellany, a fifteenth-century
Italian manuscript in the Israel Museum.
Rphael loewe was formaly Goldsmid Professor of Hebrew
at University College London, having previously taught
at the university of Leeds and held a research fellowship
at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a visiting
professorship at brown University in Providence, Rhode
Island. His publications concern variouse aspects of judaism
in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, and include much
translations of a substantial number of liturgical poems
for the Passover season are contained in his Rylands Haggadah
(1988) and others- among them the Royal Crown- in his
Ibn Gabirol (1989). His translation of Fitzgerald's Omar
Khayyam into medieval Hebrew verse was published in 1982.
He is also a contributing author of the companion volumes
to the facsimile editions of the Barcelona Haggadah (1992),
the Rothschild Haggadah (2000), the Parma Psalter (1996),
and the North French Miscellany (2004).