A much-travelled Jewish miscellany

ms French Miscellany Hebrew dog and dragonAnother example of ‘Dog and Dragon’ from an astonishing Jewish text, a French miscellany of 1,494 pages, almost all filled with imagery.

The pages measure 165mm x 125 mm near enough.

More importantly, it travelled with its owners from place to place between the fourteenth and sixteenth century, for much of that time from cities in the Adriatic.

Its style of drawing is not much like the Vms’, but its story seems to strike a chord. It is certainly in keeping with my present theme of Jews, the Adriatic, pharmacy and (yet to come) glass. Here’s the manuscript’s story:

A deed of sale written in a German rabbinic hand shows that the manuscript was sold in 1431 by Samuel b. Hayyim to Abraham b. Moses of Coburg.* The manuscript probably left France when its owners were banished during the wave of persecution in 1306. By 1479 it had reached Mestre in Italy and a little later was in Venice. In 1480 it was in Padua and in 1481 in Iesi, near Ancona.

By the end of the fifteenth century it had found its way to north-eastern Italy and was rebound in Modena, near Bologna, in the sixteenth century. The magnificent calf binding that still survives bears the arms of the Rovigo family, one of whose most eminent members, Rabbi Abraham b. Michael, a kabbalist writer, may have owned the manuscript. In the seventeenth century it was examined by a censor and later came into the possession of the Barberini family whose famous golden-bee insignia can still be made out on the binding under a later decorative motif.

* see additional note (June 24th) at end.

That passage, and the picture below come from the website of a company making facsimile editions ~ their page is worth a look for the treasures it offers.  Their general page for Hebrew  and their full description of the Miscellany, the original being held now by  the British Library.

manuscript Hebrew Northern France

Additional matters ~

Somewhat exciting… I’ve just traced a fragment from the Cairo Geniza.  It is the personal handlist of a pharmacist-alchemist. It is written in Hebrew script, but the language is Arabic. And it will certainly date to before 1415.

The piece consists of three bifolios.  And wait for it…

They are exactly the same height, and exactly double the width, of folios in ms Beinecke 408.

And they are on paper.

I have to check this, but it looks as if wherever the pharmacist lived  (I have to wait to see the original and catalogue entry), it was somewhere paper was sold in sheets of exactly the right size not only for the Vms folios, but for making the fold-outs.

Sizes 225.00 x 320.00 cm

(Isn’t that exciting?)

So far, Baresch’s “hypothetical” scenario is testing well.

He says that the material was brought back and then made by that good man into what we have now  ~  on the more enduring medium of parchment. And it looks as if that first occurred in northern France, northern Italy or the Adriatic. (England and Spain are not out of the running, though).

Was he more literally a ‘good Samaritan’?

For manuscripts and fragments from the Cairo geniza, the Jewish Theological Seminary website; the GOLD project at Cambridge; and the Friedberg Geniza Project are good.  The last I found a bit intrusive. You have to provide your telephone number, and register with them, in order to access the site. In addition, you may have to download a new version of Java.  That’s where I decided to opt out, but you may not feel the same.

I very much enjoyed writing this post  –  I do hope you enjoyed reading it.

Georg Baresch, if I may say it, rocks!


Additional note (June 24th):

COBURG, city in Bavaria, Germany.

At the beginning of the 14th century mention is made of a “Jewish lane” in the city, closed by the “Jews’ gate,” and a village near Coburg is called Judenbach. [Between that time and pogroms of 1348-49, one Abraham b. Moses ‘of Coburg’ purchased  The North French Miscellany. Where the purchase was made is not certain. – D].

The Jewish community in Coburg suffered in the Black Death massacres, 1348–49. By 1420 it consisted of only eight families which in 1423 received permission to establish a cemetery, later known as “Jews’ hill.” In 1447 the Jews were expelled from the city, and the synagogue and cemetery were confiscated.

Jews again began to settle in Coburg only during the second half of the 19th century.

– from ‘Coburg’ in The Jewish Virtual Library.

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