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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

 

The Sefer ha-Mevaqqesh (Book of the Seeker) by Shem Tov Ibn Falaquera (Spain/Provence [?]; 1225–1295) is a fascinating blend of prose and poetry, framed as a Hebrew maqama, in the course of which a seeker of knowledge conducts a series of dialogues with representatives of various approaches to the good life, as well as of various professions and sciences, arriving at the end at metaphysics as the ultimate pinnacle of human endeavor, especially in the quest for apprehending the world and its Divine Maker. The first part of the work is composed in rhymed prose, interspersed with poetry, and the second is in straight prose. In its totality, is serves as a holistic representation of the Weltanschauung of a 13th-century Maimonidean intellectual who was perhaps the most broadly-educated Hebrew-writing man of letters and science of his own time. The scientific/philosophical portion of the book, which contains numerous passages translated by Falaquera directly from a wide array of Arabic works—and therefore represents a contemporary scientific “bookshelf”—also serves as a kind of popular encyclopedia, introducing the reader to the scientific program current in Falaquera’s day and setting out the major concerns of each branch of knowledge. Numerous manuscripts of the Sefer ha-Mevaqqesh have been preserved in European libraries, and the book has been printed several times. However, no reliable critical edition based on the manuscript sources exists, and my project is aimed at filling this desideratum. The planned edition will contain an extensive commentary as well as several introductory chapters analyzing various literary, linguistic and scientific aspects of the book. 

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