Abraham Alfaquín: a translator from the famous Toledo School of Translators


Everybody can read books or watch films in different languages and we remember the actors, the characters, the film or the book. But who is the translator who has translated this book or has prepared the subtitles for the film? Translators have been always as shadows and we don’t think about them as it is natural to buy a translated book into your own language. This is why we do not know who has translated our book or who was been working on the subtitles. This is why we want to introduce you to one of the translators from the famous old Toledo School of Translators: Abraham Alfaquín.

Abraham Alfaquín_ a translator from the famous Toledo School of Translators2

Abraham Alfaquín also called Abraham from Toledo, The Jew Abraham, Abraham Ibn Waqar, Don Abraham, Doctor Abraham ( -1294). Doctor, physicist, reviser, compiler, translator from the famous Toledo School of Translators. Abraham Alfaquín held hostage for five years together with 4 other prominent court Jews by rebellious nobles from the Spanish Court seeking the elimination of port taxes and duties during 13th century. Restored to his position of physician to Alfonso X and his son, Sancho IV the Brave in 1275. Abraham’s work as a translator is often described as “exact, meticulous, and extremely literal”.

He is mentioned in several documents in the Court of Sancho IV the Brave the second son of Alfonso X and Yolanda, daughter of James I of Aragon where he served for several years. This is why we can determine he was working during the 13th century in Spain. He was part of the Jewish Family Ibn Waqar where a good part of his members were working with the Spanish Court. Thanks to several documents we can confirm that Abraham Alfaquín was active working with different translations during 1260 and 1277. In 1263 he translated from Arabic to Castilian Escala de Mahoma or Kitâb al-mi’raj (“The Book of Muhammad’s Ladder”). It was a translation assignment of the King Alfonso X which was translated into three languages: Castilian, French and Latin. Bonaventura of Siena translated the Spanish version into French in Seville in the same year. The first version, the Castilian one, is now lost. For an edition of the French and Latin texts we can take a look at La Escala de Mahoma. Traducción del árabe al castellano, latín y francés ordenada por Alfonso X el Sabio. Edición, introducción y notas por José Muñoz Sendino. The English version is by Reginald Hyatte from 1997.

Abraham Alfaquín - Toledo School of Translators

It is important to know that the “The Book of Muhammad’s Ladder” is the first to present to a French lay audience the subject of Muhammad’s prophet hood. After 1270, Abraham Alfaquín has translated Litab fi-hay’at al-alam, a book about astronomy called in Castilian Libro de la constitución del universo. Between 1270 and 1277 he also translated and adapted the Kitâb fi hay’at al-‘alam (“On the configuration of the world”) from Arabic to Castilian which are his favourite language pairs. The last information about his translations is from 1277 when he participated in the revision and retranslation in a “better and more accurately” way of the Libro de la açafeha originally translated in Latin by Fernando de Toledo.

Written by Olga Jeczmyk: Translator-Interpreter, Social Media and Content Manager as well as Communication and Terminology Trainee. Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg.


  • Biblioteca Virtual de la Antigua Escuela de Traductores de Toledo (2017) Available at: http://bit.ly/2joE0jv (Accessed: 25 January 2017).
  • Diccionario de Lengua Española “Lexicoon” (2017) Diccionario español con sinónimos, ejemplos y traductor de español. Available at: http://lexicoon.org (Accessed: 25 January 2017).
  • García Yebra, V. “Revista de Filología Española. Traducciones de Lucano en la “Primera Crónica General de España”, Real Academia Española, Tomo LXXI, January-June1991, Vol. 1 & 2.
  • Foz, C. “Le traducteur, l’Église et le Roi: Espagne, XIIe et XIIIe siecle”, ‪University of Ottawa Press, 1 ene. 1998. Available at: http://bit.ly/2jdvkZM (Accessed: 25 January 2017).
  • Jeczmyk, O. (2015) Abraham Alfaquín, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona From the subject: “Eines de Recerca” with Prof. Inna Kozlova).
  • Martínez de Lezea, T. (2012) El Jardín de la Oca: ¿Cuál es el misterio que oculta un antiguo tablero de adivinación?, ‪Maeva.