History of Science and Technology in Islam
CRITICAL REASSESSMENT OF THE GEBER PROBLEM
Jabir (Geber)’s Standing in the Latin West And the Translator of the Liber fornacum
We have seen in part one of this study that the central assumption of Berthelot was that Geber’s Latin works were written by an author from the West who attributed them to Jabir (Geber) because of the latter’s high reputation among the Latin learned community. This assumption is unwittingly repeated until now by most contemporary historians of science.
The anonymous author of Liber de LXX
Until the end of the thirteenth century, the name of Jabir (Geber) was virtually unknown to most Latin intellectuals who wrote about alchemy. His name did not occupy a place of eminence as that of al-Razi, Ibn Sina or Khalid.
The Book of Seventy was the only book for Jabir (Geber) that was translated partially into Latin by Gerard of Cremona during the twelfth century. But the Latin translation did not carry his name. In the list of Gerard’s translations written by his students the Book of Seventy is given as “Liber divinitatis de LXX” without the name of an author. Petrus Bonus (1330) in Margarita pretiosa made use of the book thinking, like many other late medieval writers that it was a work of al-Razi. 
This lack of knowledge of the real author of the Book of Seventy continued until the end of the nineteenth century, where we find that all historians of alchemy and chemistry did not mention the Liber de LXX among Geber’s Latin works. It was only at the end of the 19th century that Berthelot realized that the Septuagenta is in fact the Book of Seventy that was listed by Ibn al-Nadim among Jabir (Geber)’s works.
It is important to know also that the existing Latin manuscripts of the Liber de LXX do not carry the name of Geber. MS. BN Latin 7156 at the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris which was published by Berthelot does not carry the name of Geber but the name of an unknown person called Johannis. We find also in MS cod. speciale conserved at the bibliothèque communale of Palermo, and also in MS 1400 (II), conserved at Cambridge University, Trinity College, that the Liber septuagenta (Liber de LXX) is attributed to al-Razi. In some other manuscripts the author is anonymous. These include B.L. MS Arundel 164; Yale University MS Mellon 2; Ferguson MS 39; and others. .
The relative insignificance of the Liber de LXX to the Latins can be discerned from the fact that during the centuries since the advent of printing the major works on Arabic alchemy were printed several times but the Liber de LXX was not among them.
Other than the Book of Seventy we do not know that any other treatise carrying the name Geber (Jabir) had appeared before the last decades of the thirteenth century.
Let us elaborate on this fact by reviewing briefly the extent of awareness by the foremost Latin scientists of the century of the name of Geber.
Geber was not cited by any of the thirteenth century writers
It was not until the thirteenth century that we see the first interest in alchemy by a Latin scholar. An alchemical treatise, which some scholars believe to be of Arabic origin, carried the name of Michael Scot, who died in 1232. Several greatly distorted Arabic names are given, but Jabir (Geber)'s name is not among them . .
Another work was that of Vincent de Beauvais, which was written around 1256-59. In the alchemical part, Vincent's only dominant authorities were al-Razi, ibn Sina and Aristotle. Jabir (Geber) was not among them.
The foremost scientists of the thirteenth century in Europe were Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon. The only authority for Albertus (1206-1280) in alchemy was Ibn Sina, In his discussions, he disapproved of Khalid ibn Yazid , Albertus is reported to have used the Liber de LXX in his De mineralibus ; but he was unaware of the identity of the author.
Berthelot considered the non-existence of the name of Geber in the writings of Vincent de Beauvais and of Albertus Magnus to be a proof of the later date of the Summa. This is logically true, but it also indicates, as we have mentioned above, that Geber was not known at all at that time in the 13th century. This statement of Berthelot works against his conjecture that a pseudo Latin author had used the name of Geber because of his reputation and high standing.
Roger Bacon (1214-1294), believed in the great importance of alchemy and in transmutation. He did not mention Jabir (Geber) in his works although he became acquainted with alchemy from the Latin translations of Arabic works..
It is significant to mention here that Roger Bacon wrote his Opus tertium around the year 1266. In this book he describes the state of knowledge of alchemy among the learned circles in the Latin World in the second half of the thirteenth century: He says that: of theoretical and practical alchemy “we have nothing in the books of Aristotle; nor do natural philosophers know of these things, nor the whole Latin crowd of Latin writers” 
No other works for Jabir (Geber) were known to exist before the end of the thirteenth century
Other than the Book of Seventy we do not know of any other work for Jabir (Geber) that had been translated into Latin before the last decades of the 13th century. Had there been any such work, it would have been cited, as was the case with the works of al-Razi, Khalid and Ibn-Sina.
In addition to the Summa and the Investigatione perfectionis, the only other works of importance to appear by the end of the 13th century were the Liber misericordiae and the Liber claritatis, and there is no indication that these were known before that time.
From all this we conclude that Jabir (Geber) did not enjoy before the appearance of the works carrying the name,Geber, towards the end of the thirteenth century any reputation or prestige in the West. It is inconceivable therefore to accept the assumption that a talented Latin pseudo-writer or writers can attribute a whole corpus of exceptional treatises to a hitherto unknown person.
The unlikelihood of the pseudepigraphy in the case of Geber, - some indications
The motives that led Berthelot to come out with his hypothesis of ascribing Geber’s works to a Latin author or authors will be discussed later in this study. We shall allude here only to the fact that all Geber’s Latin works were considered to be written by Latin authors with the exception of the two works where the Arabic originals were known and could not be denied. These were the Book of Seventy and the Book of Mercy. According to the pseudo-Geber hypothesis at least six Geber works should be attributed to Latin authors, namely the Liber Claritatis, the Summa perfectionis, the Investigatione perfectionis , the De inventionis veritatis, the Liber fornacum and the Testamentum.
This raises the question: how many pseudo-Gebers had existed ? And should we believe that most of Jabir (Geber)’s Latin works were written by several Latin pseudo-Gebers? And why should we accept such assumptions without concrete proofs?
We like here to remind again of the case of the Compositione alchemiae. Ruska attributed this treatise to a Latin author despite all historical and literary proofs to the contrary. Ruska was the acknowledged authority on Arabic alchemy and chemistry in his time and his conjectures decided several important issues. It was only after the recent discovery of the Arabic originals of Compositione alchemiae that historians of science realised the truth.
The purpose of this whole study is to investigate the question of pseudepigrahy as applied to the works of Geber, However, it is useful to give here some examples signifying its weak foundation:
a-The Liber Claritatis
The manuscript of Liber claritatis of Geber was discovered and published by Darmstaedter between 1925 and 1928.  This treatise is clearly a collection of chemical recipes that are literal translations from Arabic. This is acknowledged by both Darmstaedter and Ruska. Although the work carries the name of Geber, yet both Darmstaedter and Ruska decided that this was a compilation from Arabic done by a Latin author. Ruska thought that the ultimate source of the recipes was al-Razi. The error of both Darmstaedter and Ruska in this case is caused by the wrong belief that Jabir (Geber)’s alchemy is mystical and allegoric and therefore devoid of practical chemistry. And since the Liber claritatis is a collection of Arabic practical recipes it cannot be from Jabir (Geber), and the compiler should be a Latin one.
We shall devote a space in this study to show that most recipes of Liber claritatis are found in Jabir (Geber)’s Arabic treatises on practical alchemy.
b- A unique Latin codex devoted to Arabic alchemy
Another case of significant importance is reported also by Darmstaedter. He discovered a unique codex in Florence (MS Riccardiana 933) containing valuable Latin manuscripts of Arabic alchemy. He says that :
“it is a Latin parchment manuscript going back to the end of the 13th century. It is completely extraordinarily interesting. This out of the ordinary codex is easily the most valuable collection of alchemical writings that I have seen till now. It contains not only the oldest manuscript of the Summa Perfectionis of Geber that I know, but also among other things the Liber Geberis de investigation perfectionis "
He continues that this important volume contains also the writings of the Chalid filii Jazid (Khalid ibn Yazid), a Jafar  and Liber Miserlcoraiae of Jabir (Geber). (Which he recognised to be the translation of kitab al-rahma of Jabir (Geber)).
Further Darmstaedter remarks that “All these treatises were copied by the same hand, probably on behalf of a collector and a connoisseur for which they represented a certain unity as to their origin and content. This spatial composition from Arabic into Latin garb, with writings which one tends now to regard as original Latin like the Summa Perfectionis, deserves some consideration” ( in other words some re-consideration).
As soon as Darmstaedter published his paper, Holmyard realised its importance in regard to his stance in relation to the assumptions of Berthelot. He agreed with Darmstaedter that the exixtence of the manuscript of the Summa in one volume (codex) devoted to Arabic alchemy at the end of the 13th century is something of great importance. He concludes that Darmstadter;s discovery “ certainly affords support for the view that a systematic search might be rewarded by the discovery of the Arabic originals of the Latin works, and in any case brings the problem a long step nearer to solution.”
c- Boerhaave and Jacobus Golius
This is a report about a possible translator of Jabir (Geber) from Arabic.The following story is given here because of its extreme importance to our present discussion. According to the information given here, there is probably one Latin work of Geber that was translated from Arabic by a well known Arabist in Leiden.
Herman Boerhaave (1668 -1738), who gave the information, was a most distinguished scientist. He is considered the first great clinical teacher, and the founder of the modern system of medical instruction. Thomas Thomson  the historian of chemistry considered him " perhaps the most celebrated physician that ever existed, if we except Hippocrates" He spent most of his life in Leiden where he held the chairs of medicine and chemistry. His writings in medicine and chemistry were of great influence on the whole of Europe. The last major work which he had written in 1724 was Elementa Chemiae in two volumes. The Elementa deals with the history, science, and practical experiments of chemistry. Soon it became the most popular treatise on the chemistry of the period. The Latin text passed through ten editions between 1732 and 1759 which were published in several cities in Europe, and it was translated into German, French, and English in several editions. Thomson says that it "was undoubtedly the most learned and most luminous treatise on chemistry that the world had yet seen." 
In discussing Jabir (Geber), Boerhaave says that "His works were translated into Latin by several hands, and published by Golius"  .In the footnotes he gives the following details:
"Golius , professor of the oriental languages in the University of Leiden, made the first present of Geber's pieces, in manuscript, to the public library; and translated it into Latin, and published it in the same city, in folio; and thence afterwards in quarto, under the title of Lapis Philosophorum. It contains abundance of curious and useful things about the nature of metals, their purification, fusion, malleability, etc. with excellent accounts of salts, and aqua fortes. Several of his experiments are verified by present practice, and have passed for modern discoveries; the exactness of his operations is really surprising, except perhaps in what relates to the philosopher's stone" 
Jacobus Golius (1596 -1667) was a celebrated seventeenth century Arabist in the Netherlands. He was also a scientist and engineer. He travelled twice to the Arab countries, one time to al-Maghrib and another to the Near East where he stayed four years. In both visits he collected rare Arabic manuscripts. Some of these were given to Leiden University and some remained for his own collection. His private collection was sold at an auction at a later date after his death. He also compiled an important Latin-Arabic dictionary. Therefore, as an Arabist, scientist and a collector of rare Arabic manuscripts, Golius was best qualified to translate Jabir (Geber)'s works 
Thomas Thomson, (1773-1852) who was professor of chemistry at Edinburgh, wrote The History of Chemistry in 1830, nearly 60 years before Berthelot. He gave a full account about Golius' translation as reported above. He further mentions in his book that:
"Golius was not, however, the first translator of Geber. A translation of the longest and most important of his tracts into Latin appeared in Strassburg in 1529. There was another translation published in Italy, from a manuscript in the Vatican. There probably might be also other translations. I have compared four different copies of Geber's works, and found some differences, though not very material. I have followed Russell's English translation most commonly, as upon the whole the most accurate that I have seen. " .
The above report about Boerhaave and Golius attracted the attention of Kopp and of Partington  Partington examined the catalogue of the library of Golius and found an Arabic manuscript bearing the name of Geber. He remarks that “The Lyden MS may have been lost (as some of the Greek ones at Paris have been) “ 
Partington’s paper was criticized by both, von Lippmann and Darmstaedter.  One reason for von Lippmann was the strong criticism by Partington of the adoption by von Lippmann and others of the method of hastily discounting earlier historical works as pseudepigrahy without giving convincing substantiation for their claims. Darmstaedter criticised Boerhaave as being not a historian.
This story is still of great importance since it was not convincingly challenged. Its personalities are very reliable and it deserves therefore a full investigation.
The Tranlator of Liber fornacum
Liber fornacum is one of the main Latin works of Geber that are claimed to be written by a pseudo-Geber.
The summa perfetionis magisterii,declares itself to be the sum of 'our whole science of chemistry, that we have variously collected from ancient writings and set down in abbreviated form in our volumes' . As to what 'our volumes' may have been, the Summa  makes reference to two only, one is De investigatione perfectionis, and the other is Liber fornacum. The De investigatione, De inventione, and Liber fornacum all cite the Summa. The Testamentum, is mentioned in the Liber fornacum (which is itself mentioned in the Summa).
This cross reference between the Summa, the Liber fornacum and the Testamentum indicates that the Liber fornacum is an extremely important link in this chain.
A principal support on which the pseudo-Geber hypothesis is built is that the name of the translator from Arabic into Latin is not known, and since the Arabic originals themselves do not exist, therefore the whole corpus is not of an Arabic origin.
What was ignored or unnoticed till now is that there is a translator for the Liber fornacum. We know the name of the translator, the location where the translation took place and the date of the translation.
In 1922, Ernst Darmstaedter published his now classic German translation of Geber’s Latin works including the Testamentum.  In his edition he gave a list of the MSS that were known to him at the time of his publication. In June 1924 Darmstaedter published a short report ((Mitteilung)  in which he announced the existence of a manuscript at Bologna University in Italy containing the Summa, the Testamentum and the Liber fornacum. This is MS Cod. Lat. 448 (756) of Bologna.
The exciting thing for Darmstaedter for which he devoted most of his Mitteilung is a note (Vermerk) written by the scribe. He edited carefully this note and found it to read as follows:
“Explicit liber fornacum Jeberis translatus in Caliax (Cahax?) al(ias?) Vaheito(?), anno arabum (1) 720, per Rodogerum Hyspalensem (?).”
Darmstaedter professed here that according to this note the Liber fornacum was translated by Rodogerum Hyspalensem in Spain in the Arabic year 720 of Hijra which is equivalent to 1320 AD.
The use of the Arabic (Hijra) calendar is in itself significant. We have examples where Christian writers in Spain were using sometimes the Arabic calendar during the centuries when there was still Arabic rule in parts of Spain.
We must note here that Darmstaedter had translated the Latin works using the Nuremberg compendia of 1541 in which the name of the translator was given (Fig 1). But he edited that text by eliminating the name of the translator from his 1922 translation. Apparently, however, this was a bewildering discovery for him. In that period in the history of science the debate was acute between the advocates for a Latin-Pseudo-Geber and those who believed that the Latin works were translations from Arabic, Holmyard was a lone fighter against an enormous torrent of support for the Latin pseudo author. Renowned historians of chemistry like Von Lippmann and Ruska supported the Latin Pseudo-Geber theory and they used their immense authority to give it weight. Even within that prevailing atmosphere Darmstaedter had the courage to declare that:
“Immerhin erscheint. es nicht unmöglich. daß der Liber Fornacum eine Übersetzung aus dem Arabischen ist, die in Spanien entstanden ist.“
which reads: “Nevertheless it appears that it is not unlikely that the Liber Fornacum is a translation from Arabic which was completed in Spain.”
Darmstaedter exposed further that two printed editions of the Latin works gave the name of the translator of the Liber fornacum and these were the Nürnberg edition of 1541 and of <Bern> 1545.
[Der Vermerk ist in jedem Falle von Bedeutung, auch deshalb, weil der Name der Rodogerus Hyspalensis als übersetzer auch in dem Drucke des Liber Fornacum, Nürnberg 1541 und <Bern> 45 genannt wird. Der Titel lautet dort: „Gebri Arabis Philosophi Solertissimi ..Liber Fornacum. Interprete Rodogero Hispalensi "]
This reads: [The note <at the end of the MS> is in any case of importance because the name of Rodogerus Hyspalensis as translator of the Liber fornacum appears also in the printed texts in the Nuernberg editions of 1541 and 1545.  The title reads there: "Gebri Arabis Philosophi Solertissimi..Liber Fornacum. Interprete Rodogero Hispalensi"]
Darmstaedter then remarked that those publishers of the sixteenth century were not producing works of fantasy. They were publishing serious works and when they refer to translators in their published editions they rely on old and reliable sources.
It is of importance to learn that prior to Darmstaedter, Hermann Kopp noticed in 1875 that the Basil printed edition of 1572  gave the name of the translator of the Liber fornacum, namely Interprete Rodogero Hispalensi. 
Both, Kopp’s information and Darmstaedter’s report or Mitteilung went unnoticed from the time when they were published in 1875 and 1924. No historian of science or chemistry ever since had referred to them.
With this concrete evidence of the Arabic origin for Liber fornacum historians of science need to look thoughtfully now at the whole question of the Geber Problem.
Up to the present time the following MSS mention the name of the translator of Liber fornacum:
- Bologna University MS Cod. Lat. 448 (756), anno 1420
Geberi Arabis Summa perfectionis Magisterii cum Testamenta ac Libro Fornacum. translatus in Caliax (Cahax?) al(ias?) Vaheito(?), anno arabum (1)720, per Rodogerum Hyspalensem (?).
- Venice, Biblioteca Marciana MS. Lat. VI. 215. [3519.], anno 1475
Geber. Liber de inventione perfectionis. Liber Fornacum
translatum. per Rodericum Yspanensem.
- Ferguson MS. 232., 17th Century.
f72v-76 Geberi Arabis Philosophi sollertissimi rerumque
naturalium peritissimi, liber fornacum ad exerienda [...]
pertinentium interprete Rodogero Hispalensi.
- British Library MS. Sloane 1068. 17th Century
6. Ejusdem 'liber fornacum, ad exercendam chemiam
pertinentium; interprete Rodogero Hispalensi'. f.369.
[Printed Basiliae, 1561, p.193].
The name of the translator of Liber fornacum occurs also in the following printed Latin works:
Nürnberg 1541  (Fig 1)
Bern 1545 
Basiliae (Basel) 1561 
Summary of part II
1. The only work of Jabir that was translated in the 12th century, the Book of Seventy, did not carry the name of Jabir. The real author (Jabir) was known only at the end of the 19th century.
2. No Latin scientist of the 13th century knew the name of Geber.
3. Therefore Jabir (Geber) was not known in the Latin West before the last decades of the 13th century. He did not occupy a place of eminence to induce a possible Latin writer to attribute any work to him.
4. We know the name of the translator of Liber fornacum, the place of the translation in Spain and its date in the Arabic calendar (the Hijra).
5. Four Latin manuscripts and three printed editions mention the name of its translator from Arabic.
Figure 1 Title Page of Liber Fornacum from the
of 1541 showing the name of the translator
 Gerard of Cremona, ‘ A List of Translations Made from Arabic into Latin in the Twelfth Century’, Translated from Latin and annotated by Michael McVaugh, in A Source Book in Medieval Science, edited by Edward Grant, Harvard University Press, 1974, p. 38, item 65. ; As a result of the publication of the Latin translation by Berthelot (see the reference below), the modern catalogues of Latin manuscripts started to recognise the various Latin chapters of the Book of Seventy. Thus Dorothea Waley Singer (DWS) listed the available chapters and gave them the series of numbers from 74 to 102D. Singer, Dorothea Waley. Catalogue of Latin and Vernacular Alchemical Manuscripts in Great Britain and Ireland Dating from Before the XVI Century. Union Académique Internationale. 3 vols. Brussels: Maurice Lamertin, 1928-1931.
 Newman, William, R., The Summa Perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber, A Critical Edition, Translation & Study, Brill, 1991, p. 86 and note 56.
 .The title of the MS Latin 7156 at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France is Liber de Septuaginta Jo, translatus a Magistro Renaldo Cremonensi, de Lapide animali. It was published in Paris:.Berthelot, Marcellin , Archéologie et histoire des sciences: Paris, Gauthie Villars, 1906.
 Kraus, Paul, Jabir ibn Hayyan, vol. I, reprinted by Georg Olms, Hildesheim, 1989, p. 42.
 Ferguson MS. 49.; Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale MS. Palat. 887; Modena, Biblioteca Estense MS. Latin 357.
 Multhauf, Robert , The Origins of Chemistry, London, 1966, pp. 168 -170
 Multhauf,op. cit., p. 168; see also , Newman, op. cit, pp. 15 -16.
 Newman, op. cit., p. 17
 Halleaux as reported by Newman, op. cit., p. 86 and note 55.
 Stillman, John Maxon, The Story of Alchemy and Early Chemistry, Dover, New York, 1960, pp. 262 -65.
claritatis totius alkimicae artis, Bologna Cod. lat.
dem arabischen Alchemisten Geber zugeschrieben,
deren Autor "Geber" genannt wird).Archivio di
Storia della Scienza
Vol. 8: Archeion)
1925. pp. 319-330; 7. 1926. pp. 257-265; 8. 1927.
pp. 95-103, 214-229; 9. 1928.
462-482 Reproduced by Fuat Sezgin, Natural Sciences
in Islam, vol. 71, Jabir ibn Hayyan vol III.
 Darmstaedter, Ernst: Liber Misericordiae Geber. Eine lateinische Übersetzung des größeren Kitâb alrahma. Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin ,(Leipzig) 17. 1925. pp. 181-197
 Probably Ja’far al-Sadiq the master of Jabir (Geber).
 Thomson, Thomas, The History of Chemistry, vol. 1, London, 1830, note to p. 116.
 Stillman, op. cit., pp 431-33
 Boerhaave, Herman, A New Method of Chemistry; including the History, Theory, and Practice of the Art: Translated from the original Latin of Dr. Boerhaave's Elementa Chemiae, as published by himself, etc. by Peter Shaw, M. D., second edition, London, 1761. Vol.1, pp. 26-27
 Boerhaave, op. cit., p. 26, note k. 3
 ISIS Cumulative Bibliography, Vol. I, ed. Magda Whitrow, London, 1971, p. 502. AI-Aqiqi, Najib, AI-Mustashriqun, vol. II, in Arabic, Cairo, 1965, pp. 654 -55.
 Thomson, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 116-17, and notes to these two pages; Holmyard, E. J. , The Works of Geber, Englished by Richard Russell, 1678, London, 1928, Reprinted by Samuel Weiser, 1994.
Ansichten über die Aufgabe der Chemie ...
(1875), p.28; Partington, J. R. , The identity
of Geber. Nature, New York, 111, 1923,, pp.
E.O., Über den Dschâbir des 8. und den sog.
Geber (Pseudo-Geber) des 13. Jahrhunderts.
Chemiker Zeitung, 47,, 1923, p.121;
Darmstaedter, E., Dschâbir und Geber. Chemiker
Zeitung, 47, 1923, pp 621-622. Both
reprinted in Natural Sciences in
Islam, Vol. 69, Jabir ibn Hayyan, I,
edited by Fuat Sezgin, Frankfurt, 2002,
 Russell. op. cit., the De investigatione is mentioned on pages 153 & 155; the Liber fornacum is mentioned on p. 157.
 Darmstaedter, Ernst, Die Alchemie des Geber, , Berlin, 1922. Reprinted in Natural Sciences in Islam, Vol. 71, Jabir ibn Hayyan, III, edited by Fuat Sezgin, Frankfurt, 2002, pp. 69-298.
 Darmstaedter, Ernst,“ Geber Handschriften“, (Vorläufige Mitteilüng), Chemiker Zeitung, (Cöthen) 48, 1924, pp 441-442 Reprinted in Natural Sciences in Islam, Vol. 71, Jabir ibn Hayyan, III, edited by Fuat Sezgin, Frankfurt, 2002, pp. 299-300.
 The 1545 edition is that of Bern.
 We found it in the 1561 edition.
 Kopp, Hermann, op. cit., p. 34..
Bernæ: Mathias Apiarius, Ioannes Petreius excude faciebat 1545
Verae alchemiae artisque metallicae, citra
aenigmata, doctrina, certusque modus, ...Investigatione,
Summa, Inventione, Liber Fornacum
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