Institut des Traditions Textuelles - FR33

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>>George Saliba

The Arabic Manuscripts in the Dioscorides Cycle

This illustrated talk will explore the complex nature of the transmission of Greek scientific texts through a case study of Dioscorides’Arabic Materia Medica. Being an illustrated pharmacological text, touching on matters of life and death, the difficulty of its transmission is further complicated with the issue of the illustrations of the material medica which were part of the original Greek. So for transmission purposes, one had to consider whether the illustrations were to mimic the original, to be modified by being redrawn in the iconographic vocabulary of the receiving culture, or to be completely disregarded and simply substituted for with linguistic tools that were not dependent on the skills of the painters producing the illustrations. All those considerations had to be faced before one had to say anything about the actual language of the text itself.

By investigating a relatively large sample of the extant Arabic manuscripts attributed to Dioscorides, some with illustrations some without, the talk will focus on the following issues : First it will highlight the distinction between the illustrated manuscripts versus the non-illustrated ones and will expose the compromises that were made in producing the illustrated texts. Second, the talk will highlight the linguistic aspects by pointing to the editorial liberties that were taken with the original : at rare times trying to produce relatively close translation of the Greek original, but mostly trying to emend the text to make it more malleable to the use of the practicing physician. The latter process involved adding material to it, editorially embellishing its language, or producing completely reworked versions of it that remained open to further additions depending on the competence and needs of the practicing physicians and pharmacologists using the text. Thus the talk will gaze closely at the anatomy of intercultural transmissions.


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