Monday, March 31, 2014

Who wrote the work Maaseh Tuviah, what type of work is it, and where was it printed?

The physician Tobias/Tuviah Cohn (Tobias the son of Moses Cohn), who lived from 1652 to 1729, wrote the book Maaseh Tuviah. He grew up in the town of Metz in a Rabbinic family, lived in Poland, and studied medicine in Frankfurt on Oder and at Padua in Italy (Margalith, 2007). As court physician in Turkey, he served five sultans (Muntner, 2007).
Maaseh Tuviah contains five sections. Sections one through four (Book One) include: The Upper World- philosophy, The Middle World- Astronomy, The Small World- “things under the moon,” and Foundations of the World- “the four foundational elements.” Section five (Book Two), titled The New World, deals with medicine. Maaseh Tuviah serves as Cohn’s intellectual magnum opus, in that it contains the extent of all of his scientific knowledge on medicine, astronomy, botany, zoology, and philosophy.
The Bragadini family, a family of Venetian publishers, published Maaseh Tuviah in 1708. Hebrew books printed in Venice in the eighteenth century bore the symbol “Nella Stamperia Bragadina” (stamp of Bragadini) because Hebrew books in Venice were required to be published only under the nobleman Bragadini, with payment (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906). The term “Stamperia Bragadina” appears on publications to indicate that the Christian printers who printed the Hebrew books worked for the Bragadini family (Ibid.). The Bragadini family had a long history of publishing Hebrew books. After the printer Bomberg, who had printed the first Talmud, became less prominent, a competition emerged for the printing of Hebrew books, and the Bragadini family emerged at the forefront, such that in the mid-1500s in Venice, the Bragadini family had jurisdiction over the printing of Hebrew books (Ibid.). It seems that jurisdiction continued through the mid-1700s.
The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America owns a first edition of Maaseh Tuviah, with the call number of RB 144:4. The book was published in Hebrew and consists of one volume containing multiple works, for a total of 321 pages. Many later printings of the book occurred: Venice- 1715, 1728, 1769, and 1850, Jessnitz-1721, Lemberg- 1867, 1875, Cracow- 1908, Jerusalem- 1967, 1978, and Brooklyn- 1974 (Ruderman, 1995, p. 229).  The library’s copy has Quarto binding (collation formula: [6] [158]ff ([6]ff, 1-39^4, 40^2)), its outer binding consists of contemporary sprinkled calf, and it measures 22.5 by 17 centimeters. The book includes one end page at each end, Hebrew and Arabic pagination, with four pages per number (e.g. 13: 1-4), a catchword at bottom of the page, appendices (in the form of a summary of contents of each section before each section), and errata (in the form of a table of errors in back of the book). The book includes neither footnotes, end notes, nor glosses. The print features monochrome ink, and the book includes many scientific illustrations.

Jewish Encyclopedia. (1906). Bragadini. Retrieved from

Margalith, David. (2007). "Cohn, Tobias ben Moses." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. (Vol. 5, pp. 44-45). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. Retrieved from

Muntner, Suesmann et al. (2007). “Medicine.”  Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik .  2nd ed.  (Vol. 13).  Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

Ruderman, David B. (1995). Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.