Gabriele Ferrario (Cambridge University Library) Ebrei e alchimia nel medioevo: una relazione controversa (Jews and Alchemy in the Middle Ages: a controversial relationship)
The nature of the relationship between Jewish people and alchemy has often been a matter of debate. On the one hand, alchemical literature by non-Jews is rich in references to the Jewish people as the original depositaries of the secrets of alchemical arts; on the other hand, only a small number of original alchemical works by Jews have come down to us and some scholars have argued for a lack of Jewish interest in alchemy. In my paper, I address this problem by providing a critical overview of the known sources regarding the relationship between Jews and alchemy during the Middle Ages, and offer the results of my recent research on the alchemical fragments from Cairo Genizah. The alchemical fragments of the Cairo Genizah constitute a significant – and yet unexploited – source for our understanding of alchemy as practiced by Jews in medieval Islamic lands.
Giancarlo Lacerenza (Università di Napoli “L'Orientale”) Ya'aqov Anatoli the Alchemist: Verifying a Tradition (Ya'aqov Anatoli alchimista: analisi di una tradizione)
In various texts dealing with the history of Alchemy in the Medieval West, as well in some studies on the history of Jewish Philosophy, it is often repeated that the translator, physician and philosopher Jacob (Ya- 'aqov) Anatoli (Marseille 1194 - ? 1246/1247) probably worked as an alchemist at the court of Emperor Frederick II. This reputation derives from a passage of the Ars alchemie by the renowned Michael Scot – who acted as astrologer for the emperor – in which mention is made to a magister Iacob iudeus, seen at work on metals in an alchemical process that Scot had learned and then successfully repeated several times. Since it has been well established, long time ago, that Scot and Anatoli had worked together, in the same context, sharing their knowledges and expertises in Naples and elsewhere, it seemed obvious to identify the magister Iacob with Jacob Anatoli. This study aims to demonstrate how such identification is lacking of any serious foundations, and that various different explanations can be offered for the magister Iacob quoted in the Ars alchemie. Moreover, I will introduce a coeval document – published years ago, but overlooked and apparently unnoticed by scholars up to these days – demonstrating that in the same years in which both Scot and Anatoli worked in Naples, in this same town lived another magister, who acted as personal physician of Frederick II, who was called, as well, Ya'aqov.