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Teller, Issachar Baer

TELLER, ISSACHAR BAER

TELLER, ISSACHAR BAER (b. c. 1607), physician and surgeon. Teller, a barber-surgeon in the Bohemian capital Prague, was the author of what is believed to be the first printed medical book in Yiddish, Be'er Mayim Ḥayyim ("Well of Living Water"). The book was printed in Prague without any date, but it must have been before 1655. This is an extremely rare book: the only complete copy known is the one in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; another copy, with the title-page missing, is in the Rosenthaliana Library in Amsterdam. Teller wrote his book as a practical manual of therapeutics. He chose the Yiddish idiom for readers not sufficiently acquainted with Hebrew. In a rhymed introduction and an epilogue he explained his main object: to help poor people who could not afford doctors' fees. Teller was well-versed in the Latin literature of his time, as his quotations – in Hebrew characters – show, and was progressive enough to oppose the astrological medicine so popular in his time. The small book is interesting not only from a medico-historical point of view, but also as source material for linguistic studies of the Yiddish of the period. The portrait of Teller which appears in the book is probably the only authentic portrait of a Jewish barber-surgeon in existence.

A facsimile of Be'er Mayim Ḥayyim, produced in Jerusalem in 1968 with prefaces in Hebrew and English, includes as an appendix the Aphorisms of Hippocrates translated into Hebrew by Teller's teacher, Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo.

bibliography:

Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 1065 – 66; J.O. Leibowitz (ed.), Be'er Mayyim Ḥayyim (1968).

[Joshua O. Leibowitz]

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