On fluidity of the textual transmission in Abraham bar Hiyya’s Ḥibbur ha-Meshiḥah ve-ha-Tishboret

Michael Friedman, David Garber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We examine one of the well-known mathematical works of Abraham bar Ḥiyya: Ḥibbur ha-Meshiḥah ve-ha-Tishboret, written between 1116 and 1145, which is one of the first extant mathematical manuscripts in Hebrew. In the secondary literature about this work, two main theses have been presented: the first is that one Urtext exists; the second is that two recensions were written—a shorter, more practical one, and a longer, more scientific one. Critically comparing the eight known copies of the Ḥibbur, we show that contrary to these two theses, one should adopt a fluid model of textual transmission for the various manuscripts of the Ḥibbur, because neither of these two theses can account fully for the changes among the various manuscripts. We hence offer to concentrate on the typology of the variations among the various manuscripts, dealing with macro-changes (such as omissions or additions of proofs, additional appendices or a reorganization of the text itself), and micro-changes (such as textual and pictorial variants).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-174
Number of pages52
JournalArchive for History of Exact Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


The authors warmly thank Reimund Leicht for extremely helpful and productive conversations; many aspects of our discussion about the fluidity of the text were influenced by intensive conversations with him, and we plan to continue this cooperation with him in the form of a research project for a digital edition of the Ḥibbur, which reflects the complexities of its textual history in Hebrew and Latin. The authors also thank Naomi Aradi, Sonja Brentjes, Leo Corry, Gregg de Young, Idit Chikurel, Tony Lévy, Israel Sandman, Roy Wagner, Ilana Wartenberg and Stefan Zieme for their helpful comments, as well the two anonymous referees of a previous version of this paper. The first author acknowledges the support of the Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material” funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy—EXC 2025—390648296. The second author acknowledges the support of Holon Institute of Technology.

FundersFunder number
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftEXC 2025—390648296
Athlone Institute of Technology


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