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Preface

When I found the only manuscript copy in the Institute of Microfilmed Manuscripts of the National and University Library of Jerusalem, I little imagined that this wonderful work would become the source of enormous personal and intellectual satisfaction for me, although work on it has not always been easy. The process of understanding and learning the precious knowledge that was dormant in its beautiful words has involved the investment - and I hope improvement - of all my skills as an editor, translator and student of medieval Hebrew texts. My life and my academic interests have also become intermingled in this process. That said, I should explain that two main personal and academic interests were the starting point of this project: my fascination with Hebrew textual production in the West, and my commitment to an understanding of the historical experience of women. By putting both together - a happy chance that I owe to Lola Ferre, who suggested that for my doctoral thesis I work on Jewish women and medicine - I became involved in the enthralling world of the development of medical theory and practice at the end of the Middle Ages, its textual transmission among different traditions, and the interaction between members of the various cultural groups that co-existed at the time in southern Europe. My work with the Book o f Women’s Love, and with other related texts, has also allowed me a glimpse of women’s lives and of their experiences regarding the care of their bodies, a care understood in the broad sense of preserving, beautifying, attending to, and curing.