COHN [or COHEN], Tobias (1652-1729). Ma'aseh Toviyah, kolel ha-arba'ah 'olamot (The Book of the Worlds or the Works of Tobias). Venice: Stamparia Bragadina, .
4o (223 x 160 mm). 164 leaves. 3 parts in one, titles within 2 different woodcut architectural title borders (the same border used for parts 2 and 3), fine engraved portrait of the author by Antonio Luciani on verso of first title, 10 engraved and 13 mostly small woodcut diagrams and illustrations, woodcut and type-ornament head and tail-pieces. (Small repaired hole to first few leaves, affecting title border and a few letters, another small hole to title-leaf catching 3 letters, second title border shaved at top, headlines of table at end slightly shaved, occasional small marginal repairs.) Modern sheep antique (joints and extremities rubbed). Provenance: early inscriptions on title (faded), occasional early marginalia; Abram e Mandolin of Holland (18th-c. inscription on front flyleaf).
FIRST EDITION OF "THE ONLY SIGNIFICANTLY ILLUSTRATED EARLY BOOK ON MEDICINE IN HEBREW" (Garrison-Morton), and one of only a handful of 17th- or 18th-century Hebrew medical books. Cohn, who studied medicine at Frankfurt an der Oder, was "one of the first Jews from the Eastern ghetto to obtain a medical education at a German university" (ibid.). He pursued his studies at Padua, and went on to serve as court physician to the Turkish Sultan. Although his treatise is in fact a compendium of scientific knowledge of the period, containing sections on cosmology, astronomy, botany and the four elements, approximately half of the text relates to medicine. Included are chapters on syphilis and other diseases, hygiene, anatomy, and an illustrated discussion of Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood. Cohn supported Harvey, but he did so using a rhetorical image directly derived from Biblical literature, comparing the main vessels of the heart to the four rivers of Paradise. One of the larger engravings, and the most celebrated, illustrates Cohn's innovative comparison of the human body to a house, another analogy that may have its source in Jewish semiotics. Nonetheless, Cohn stressed the chemical aspect of diseases of the digestive organs. He attacked superstitious practices, and applied exact measurements in his discussions of the physical sciences. For all of these reasons he is considered one of the pioneers of the Jewish enlightenment,
RARE. Only 3 copies are recorded in North American libraries. Garrison-Morton-Norman 6496.1; NLM/Blake, p. 93; Waller 2044; Wellcome II, p. 367.