North French Hebrew Miscellany

Add. Ms. 11639 - British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

Nordfranzösische hebräische Sammlung

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Nordfranzösische hebräische Sammlung

Type
Extent / Format

1,494 pages / 16.0 x 12.0 cm

Origin
Date
1277-1286
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Scribe: Benjamin
Illuminations: Various workshops of St Omer (Artois) and Paris

Illustrations

Numerous full-page miniatures. Gold and silver metal leaf applied in a special hand process to a raised surface on 611 pages, powdered gold applied elsewhere as it appears in the original.

Former owners

Samuel ben Hayyim
Abraham ben Moses of Coburg
M. Reina of Milan
Frederic Madden

Short description

This Hebrew manuscript from the collection of the British Library in London assembles a true treasure trove of medieval Jewish culture: an exceptional variety of texts both biblical and profane, from the Pentateuch, to a prayer boots with the Haggadah, to legal treatises, and poems with calendars. All of these Hebrew texts were accompanied by and illustrated with gorgeous miniatures and impressive visual decoration. The manuscript, originating from northern France at the end of the 13th century, additionally shines because of the numerous names that are associated with its history! One of the most opulently decorated Jewish manuscripts from northern Europe!

Facsimile editions available

Description

North French Hebrew Miscellany

This Hebrew manuscript from the collection of the British Library in London assembles a true treasure trove of medieval Jewish culture: an exceptional variety of texts both biblical and profane, from the Pentateuch, to a prayer boots with the Haggadah, to legal treatises, and poems with calendars. All of these Hebrew texts were accompanied by and illustrated with gorgeous miniatures and impressive visual decoration. The manuscript, originating from northern France at the end of the 13th century, additionally shines because of the numerous names that are associated with its history! One of the most opulently decorated Jewish manuscripts from northern Europe!

Elegant Miniature Decoration

King David with the harp, King Solomon reading, Esther and Ahasver people the splendid miniatures of the North French Hebrew Miscellany. Additionally, one finds other biblical scenes, e.g. the Binding of Isaac, and numerous symbolic depictions. The marvelous miniatures were presented in unusually round, golden frames or in typical rectangular depictions, sometimes in two or more registers. These wonderful, elegant compositions were presented before an ornamental background, which put the focus on the events.

Initials and Ornamentation

Aside from these wonderful miniatures, the decoration of the splendid manuscript consists of countless initials. Dogs, birds, and mythical creatures staff the pictures, e.g. a pelican with its young in the nest. The pages of text are also fancifully designed with exuberant ornamentation. Two pages with depictions of the heavenly body and a row with the zodiac signs round out the grandiose artistic décor of the manuscript – accentuated with rich gold leaf and silver.

The Genesis of the Manuscript

The high-quality miniatures originate from various workshops in St. Omer and Paris. The biblical illustrations are attributed to the Master of Méliacin and the school of the Honoré-Master (active in Paris 1283-85).
These paintings adorn and illustrate the contents of the 1494 page manuscript, both religious and profane texts alike: the Pentateuch, Haftarot, Tiqqun Sofrim, five scrolls, a prayer book for the entire Haggadah, legal treatises, poems, calendars, and the Book of Tobit in Hebrew.
A dating of the manuscript to the period between 1277 and 1286 is possible through two hints: it contains the earliest copies of the Sefer Mitzvot Kattan by Isaac de Corbeil, composed in 1270, and a reference to Yehiel de Paris, who died in 1286.

Owners Mentioned by Name

Numerous indication of earlier owners can be found among the texts and the wonderfully artistic decoration of the Hebrew manuscript. A scribe named Benjamin immortalized himself in the colophon. Additionally, it is marked on fol. 745 that a certain Samuel ben Hayyim sold the manuscript to Abraham ben Moses of Coburg. A few additional hints pointing to other owners in the 15th century can also be found.

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