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Saufe vel seufe arabice spongia ut in libro de doctrina arabica verum apud Avicennam vocatur asfungi imitatione greca.


Saufe ABC e | Sanfe f {'u' misread as 'n'}

ut AC ef | ul' B

in om. AC

verum om. B

verum apud Avicennam vocatur asfungi imitatione greca om. e, adding from the next entry Sauich: secundum almansor cao de fluxu ventris

asfungi AC | afungi B | affongi f {"long s" misread as 'f'}

imitatione (ĩmi- B) ABC | imitacione f


Saufe or seufe is Arabic for Latin spongia {"sponge"} according to the liber de doctrina arabica; but in Avicenna it is called asfungi imitating the Greek name.


Simon's often quoted source, the liber de doctrina arabica, has so far not been identified, but cf. what must be a similar glossary/dictionary- Vocabulista - ed. Schiaparelli (1871: 131): ﺻﻮﻓﺔ /ṣaufa/ Spongia [[1]; (1871: 589): SPONGIA ﺻﻮﻓﺔﺍﺕ /ṣaufa/ ~āt/ [[2]].

Dozy (1877-81: I.853) under ﺻﻮﻓﺔ /ṣūfa/ says only briefly: Eponge, Voc., qui prononce ﺻﻮﻓﺔ /ṣaufa/ {i.e./ṣūfa/ 'sponge': but Vocabulista pronounces it /ṣaufa/}.

Lane (1984: 1748) has ﺻﻮﻒ ﺍﻟﺒﺤﺮ /ṣūf al-baḥr/ lit. "wool of the sea", which he interprets as "seaweed resembling wool". N.b. ﺻﻮﻒ /ṣūf/ means "wool" in Arabic and ﺻﻮﻓﺔ /ṣūfa, ṣaufa/ are listed under the root ﺹﻭﻒ /ṣwf/.

Simon observes correctly that in Avicenna the word ﺍﺳﻔﻨﺞ /isfunğ/ is used, which is indeed ultimately derived from Greek σπόγγος /spóngos/ {i.e. "sea sponge"}. Cf. Siggel (1950: 14): ﺍﺳﻔﻨﺞ ﺍﻟﺒﺤﺮ isfunğ (al-baḥr)/ Spongia officinalis L., Meerschwamm σπόγγος /spóngos/ {i.e. "sea sponge"}; Wehr (1976: 17):ﺍﺳﻔﻨﺞ /isfanğ, isfunğ/.

The word is used by Avicenna e.g. in the second book of the Canon in his chapter entitled in the Arabic original, p. 131: ﺍﺳﻔﻨﺞ /isfanğ/ [[3]].

This is in its Latin translation: [Goehl] Capitulum 602. De spongia maris {(annotation: asfengi albhar)} "On the sea-sponge". Also available online in Lyon edition (1522: 119): De spongia maris Ca. dcii [[4]].

ﺍﺳﻔﻨﺞ /isfanğ, isfunğ/ is also used e.g. in [Goehl] Capitulum 406 {404}. De lapide spongiae (annotation: hagiar alsefengi) – "On the sponge-stone". Lapis spongiae quid est? Est lapis inventus in corpore spongiae – "What is the sponge-stone? It is a stone found in the {inner} body of the sponge". Also available online in Lyon edition (1522: 101): De lapide spongie Ca. ccccvi [[5]].

Cf. the Arabic original pp. 180/181: ﺣﺠﺮﺍﻻﺳﻔﻨﺞ /ḥağar al-isfunğ/ ﺍﻟﻤﺎﻫﻴﺔ ۞ ﻫﺬﺍ ﺣﺠﺮ ﻳﻮﺟﺪ ﻓﻰ ﺟﺮﻡ ﺍﻻﺳﻔﻨﺞ /al-māhīya - hāḏā ḥağar yūğadu fī ğirm al-isfunğ/ [[6]], [[7]].

Biological remarks:

Corcerning what substance 'sponge-stone' is meant to be, consulting Croker, Williams & Clark (1765: 120), reveals: "In the larger and coarser pieces of spunge {sic}, there are often small stones found embedded in the substance of the matter; and yet, more frequently, a crustaceous sparry matter gathered round the surface of certain parts of the plant; both these substances are called by the common name of lapis spongiae, the sponge-stone, … "

N.b. At times this substance was confused or equated with pumice stone and meerschaum {in Latin: spuma maris}; cf. Karbstein (2002: 38, 8) Meeresschwamm/ Bimsstein/ Meerschaum.

WilfGunther 21:44, 28 September 2014 (BST)

See also: Spongia, Asfengi, Gefafe

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