Project (2023-)

Latin into Hebrew: Medieval Natural Science across Linguistic Boundaries

The Latin-into-Hebrew transmission of scholastic texts is a neglected chapter in the prolific history of medieval European knowledge-making. Most of the historical actors involved have today been marginalized, if not forgotten entirely. This project examines one of them, Judah ben Moses ben Daniel Romano (ca. 1292–after 1330). Judah made some of the works of his most famous Latin colleagues—including Albert the Great (1200–80), Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), and Giles of Rome (1243–1316)—available to a Hebrew readership soon after their initial publication in Latin. As a result, Hebrew may have been the first European language ever to provide a non-academic and non-Latin-reading audience with large portions of scholastic texts.

The project focuses on the numerous Hebrew translations of Albert the Great’s De anima and De natura et origine animae that form the philosophical nucleus of Judah’s engagement with scholastic natural sciences. A rabbi, teacher, and scholar active in Rome or Naples, Judah Romano is known today as the first and only medieval Hebrew translator of Albert’s work. However, his many translations have not yet been edited completely or analyzed systematically in the context of cross-cultural European knowledge-making. By introducing the entire Hebrew corpus of Albert’s works to present-day research, this project establishes the intellectual profile of Judah Romano as a Latin-into-Hebrew transmitter and a Hebrew philosopher in his own right. In the early fourteenth-century scholastic natural sciences, Judah Romano became the first Hebrew Albertist of his—and all—time.