The Rothschild Miscellany
The most lavish of all Hebrew manuscripts.
948 pages containing 70 religious and secular works including the Passover Haggadah and Siddur.
816 illuminated pages and miniatures illustrate in exquisite detail almost every custom of Jewish life. Executed in northern Italy in 1479.
A strictly limited facsimile edition of 550 numbered copies.
ISBN 0 948223 030
The Rothschild Miscellany was commissioned by Moses ben Yekuthiel Hakohen in 1479. It was a time when the Jews in Italy came into contact with all sectors of society and many adopted the way of life of the gentile aristocracy. They enjoyed the favourable attitude of some of the great Italian Princes such as the Medici of Florence and the Este of Ferrara. The prohibition by the Church for Christians to lend money for interest was beneficial to the Jewish community, many of whom prospered. The wealthy Jew became a man of the Renaissance with a taste for letters and art, and pleasure in affluent living. Nonetheless, the Jews never became estranged from their Jewish intellectual and religious heritage. This was a period of unprecedented cultural activity amongst Italian Jewry, producing scholars, artists, poets and physicians.
The Rothschild Miscellany, as it is now known, is the most elegantly and lavishly executed Hebrew manuscript of that era. From its inception it was planned as a sumptuous work to encompass, in minute detail, almost every custom of religious and secular Jewish life. The figure drawings and border decorations of the miniatures mirror the rich Italian Renaissance influence and were probably made in a workshop in the Ferrara region. Fanciful landscapes, spatial perspective settings and the precision of human and animal representations echo the style of the best artists who worked for the court of the Este in the third quarter of the fifteenth century. They may have been connected with the workshop of the artists who illuminated the famous Latin Bible of Borso d'Este.
The complete history of the Miscellany is somewhat of a mystery. From 1832 to 1855 the manuscript was in the Solomon de Parente collection in Trieste. It was later sold to the Rothschild family in Paris and remained there until it was stolen during the Nazi occupation and reappeared after the war in New York when, in May 1950, the Berlin bookseller Hugo Streisand, offered it for US$5,000 to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Alexander Marx, the Seminary's librarian, recognised it as stolen from the Rothschilds and returned it to them in London. James de Rothschild was persuaded by Mordechai Narkiss, director of the Bezalel Museum in Israel, that a manuscript of such importance was a national treasure and therefore belonged in Israel. In 1957, on hearing of Narkiss' illness, James de Rothschild sent it as a gift to Jerusalem.
The Rothschild Miscellany consists of more than 37 religious and secular works. Among the religious books are Psalms, Proverbs and Job and a yearly prayer book including the Passover Haggadah. All have textual illustrations for each festival and prayers for special occasions. The secular books include philosophical, moralistic and scientific treatises. The text throughout the manuscript is accompanied by marginal notes and commentaries of the sages.
This large collection of miscellaneous yet connected texts became the framework for an unprecedented programme of illumination. It contains a wealth of material illustrating almost every custom of daily life in a Jewish Renaissance household. Of 948 pages, 816 are decorated in minute detail in vibrant colours, gold and silver. No other Hebrew manuscript equals the richness and scope of the illumination of this Miscellany.
A comprehensive list of the contents of the Rothschild Miscellany, in Hebrew and English, was prepared by Binyamin Elizur in Jerusalem. Download
|1||Psalms, Job and Proverbs, with vocalization, cantillation marks and Masorah parva; Rashi's commentary in the margin Folios 1r-40v.|
|2||Prayer Book for the entire year, including festivals, with a variety of liturgical hymns for special occasions (yozerot, selihot, piyyutim, hosha`not, etc.). Fols. 79v-274v.|
|3||Tashbez - a compendium of religious laws and customs for the entire year, from the school of R. Meir of Rothenburg, the major Ashkenazi sage of the XIIIth century. Margins, fols. 79v-123v.|
|4||Hayyei `Olam (Eternal Life) - a moralistic and admonitory text by R. Jonah Gerondi, a prominent Spanish sage of the XIIIth century. Margins, fols. 124r-133r.|
|5||Minhagim Book - a manual of customs and usage relating to festivals, prayer and synagogue, arranged according to the months of the year, by R. Samuel, an Ashkenazi scholar who flourished around the mid-XVth century. Margins, fols. 133v-155r.|
|6||Hilkhot hamez u-mazzah (Laws of Leavened and Unleavened Bread), excerpted from Maimonides' great legal code Mishneh Torah. Margins, fols. 155v-166r.|
|7||Maimonides' commentary on Perek Helek. Margins, fols. 166v-174v.|
|8||Maimonides' commentary on Tractate Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) in the Mishnah, including his long introduction, known as Shemonah Perakim (Eight Chapters). Fols. 174v-197r, first on the margins and subsequently in the body of the page.|
|9||Sefer ha-Kabbalah (Book of Tradition) by R. Abraham ibn Daud, one of the great Spanish scholars of the XIIth century. A talmudic-rabbinic chronology from antiquity to the author's times. Margins, fols. 175r-191r.|
|10-11||Mevo ha-Talmud (Introduction to the Talmud) by R. Joseph ibn `Aknin, a disciple of Maimonides, and Ma'amar `al ha-Mishkalot ve-ha- Middot (Treatise on Weights and Measures) by the same author. Talmudic methodology. Margins, fols. 191v-202v.|
|12||A moralistic epistle attributed to Aristotle. Margins, fols. 202v-206r.|
|13||The book of Josippon, a mediaeval Jewish chronography written in the IXth century, relating the history of the Jews from biblical times to the destruction of the Second Temple. Fols. 206r-274 (margins); 275r-298r (body of page).|
|14||Sefer ha-Ma`alot (Book of Degrees) by R. Shem Tov Falaquera. Ethics and philosophy. Body of page, fols. 298v-334r.|
|15||Meshal ha-Kadmoni (Proverb of the Ancients) by R. Isaac ibn Sahula, a Spanish scholar of the second half of the XIIIth century. Aphorisms and didactic fables in rhymed prose. Body of page, fols. 298v-371r.|
|16||Divrei ha-Yamim mi-Moshe Rabbenu (Chronicles of Moses) - a midrashic work on the life and death of Moses. Margins, fols. 334-341r.|
|17||Midrash va-yissa`u. Midrashic work about the battle of the twelve tribes against Shechem. Margins, fols. 341v-342v.|
|18||Ma`aseh Hiram (Story of Hiram) - midrashic work about the siege of Sidon. Margins, fols. 343r-343v.|
|19||Maimonides' letter to the scholars of Lunel denouncing astrology. Margins, fols. 343v-347v.|
|20||Behinat `Olam (Examination of the World) by R. Jedaiah ha-Penini. Moralistic work in rhymed prose and verse. Margins, fols. 347v-357v.|
|21||Ketav Hitnazzelut (Apologia), sent by R. Jedaiah ha-Penini to R. Solomon Adret. In defense of the study of philosophy and secular sciences. Margins, 357v-381v.|
|22||Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir (The Prince and the Hermit). Didactic prose, translated from the Arabic. Fols. 372v-418r.|
|23||Minhat Yehudah Soné ha-Nashim (Tribute of Judah the Misogynist), by Judah b. Isaac ibn Shabbetai. Humorous polemical poem about the wiles and wickedness of women. XIIIth century. Margins, fols. 382r-393r.|
|24||Sha`arei Dura (Gates of Dura) by R. Isaac of Dura. Halakhic treatise on forbidden foods, etc. The author was one of the leading halakhic authorities in XIIIth century Germany. Margins, fols. 343v-440r.|
|25||Sod ha-Sodot (Secret of Secrets), pseudo-Aristotelian treatise on political science. Fols. 418v-433v.|
|26||Muserei ha-Philosofim (Apothegms of the Philosophers) by Isaac ibn Hunayn. Fols. 433v-464r.|
|27-30||Halachic rulings of R. Isaac of Corbeil. XIIIth century. Margins, fols. 440r-445r.
Takkanot (halachic enactments) of R. Gershom Me'or ha-Golah. Margins, fols. 445v-447r.
Testament of R. Judah he-Hasid. Margins, fols. 447v-449r.
Differences (in religious custom) between Palestinian and Babylonian Jewries. Margins, fols. 449r-450r.
|31-33||Mishpat Hibbut ha-Kever (Beating of the Grave). Margins, fols. 450r-451r.
Alfabeta de-Ben Sira (Alphabet of Ben Sira). Margins, fols. 451r-454v.
Collection of rabbinic sayings beginning with the words "Three things...". Fols. 455r-462r.
|34-37||Rules for determination of the calendar. Fols. 463r-469v.
Ke`arat kesef (Silver Bowl), a popular poem by Joseph ha-Ezovi. Fols. 464v-467r.
Piyyutim of R. Judah ha-Levi for Purim and Passover. Fols. 467v-470v.
Calendar. Fols. 471r-472v.
- Rashi's commentary on Psalms
- Rashi's commentary on Job Rashi commentary on Proverbs
- Sefer Hayyei 'Olam
- R. Meir b. Barukh of Rothenburg Sefer Haminhagim (Customs); Maimonides, Hilkhot Hamez Umazzah (Treatise on Passover)
- Abraham Ibn Daud Sefer Haqabbalah (Historical Treatise) Isaac ben Israel Yesod 'Olam (Historical Treatise)
- Joseph b. Yehuda of Barcelona Seder Hatana'im (Historical Treatise) Joseph Ibn Aqnin of Barcelona Seder Olam Inyan Hamatbe'ot (Historical and Numismatic Treatise)
- Yosipon (Medieval pseudo-Josephus) (Historical Treatise)
- Yehiel ben Yequtiel ben Benjamin harofe. Sefer Hama'alot (Moral Treatise) Chronicles of Moses
- Midrash Wayissa'u (Historical Treatise) 'Inyan Hiram Melekh Zor (Historical Treatise) Maimonides' Epistle to the Jews of Montpelier Yeda'yah hapenini Behinat 'Olam (Philosophical Treatise) Yeda' yah hapenini Ketav Hitnazlut
- Epistles to Solomon ben Aderet (Philosophical Treatise) Judah Halevi Testament of Tahkemoni (Moral Treatise) Isaac of Duran She'arey Dura (Halakhic Treatise)
- Isaac of Corbeil. Ritual Decisions
- R. Gershon b. Yehuda Taqqanot (Halakhic treatise) Testament of Judah Hehasid (morals and customs treatise) Divergences of customs in Palestine and Babylonia. Judgement after the death (moral midrash)
- Alphabet of Ben Sira (moral)
- Aggadot of the Talmud (historical treatise) Rules to establish the calendar
When Linda and Michael Falter embarked on the Kennicott Bible facsimile, few believed that the colossal project could ever come to fruition. Five years later the Bodleian Library was moved to write that it was "perhaps the most faithful and exact copy ever to be produced".
The Rothschild Miscellany at The Israel Museum, proved to be an even greater challenge, for the publishers' philosophy dictates that a facsimile must be as close to the original as possible. Tremendous efforts were made to acquire the finest materials and craftsmen to impart to each volume not only the presence but also the feel of an original manuscript.
In order to reproduce the Rothschild Miscellany in the same uncompromising way, a great deal of research and further technical development was required for the manuscript is lavishly decorated on almost every page. The Falters moved to Italy to supervise every stage of the facsimile's production and by combining craftsmanship and dogged determination with modern technology, remarkable results have been achieved.
The original manuscript was hand-copied and illuminated on foetal vellum which is soft and translucent. Its folios were measured for thickness, weight and opacity and a new type of 'paper' virtually indistinguishable from the manuscript's vellum, was specially milled in Italy. The result is a fine, neutral pH vegetable parchment with the same natural characteristics of skin that makes printing on it very difficult indeed. The edges of the pages of the Miscellany are brown with age and irregular, so, in the facsimile each one has been laboriously cut to exactly the same size and shape as the original and then "aged".
Photographing the manuscript is the first stage in the production of the facsimile. David Harris, the renowned Israeli photographer, photographed the manuscript at the Israel museum in Jerusalem using large-format Ektachrome film in order to capture the finest details. To completely eliminate any curvature close to the spine the manuscript was disbound so that it could be photographed flat. Specially manufactured glass which is both ‘optically flat’ and ‘optically white’ was used to hold the disbound folios flat during photography. The printed page is, therefore, exactly the same size as the original.
Colour Separation, Proofing & Printing
The printing of the minutely-detailed exquisite illuminations in twelve colours demanded a great deal of skill and perseverance by the Italian master-printer. Colour separations were made from the photographs for each of the 948 pages; every one individually checked against the manuscript in Jerusalem and then re-proofed in Italy (up to four times for each page) until the colour-match was exactly right.
No printing process can adequately simulate a manuscript's gold leaf so it was decided that the only way to faithfully reproduce raised burnished gold was to lay metal leaf by hand, thereby achieving the richness and 'feel' of the original gold. The raised gold of the original has been reproduced without embossing. Craftsmen applied the gold-coloured metal leaf by hand to 812 pages using a special building-up process to give the same raised effect as in the original. This facsimile is the first to reproduce burnished gold accurately. In addition, the manuscript contains thousands of illustrations decorated with powdered and flat gold and this too has been faithfully reproduced in the facsimile.
The scribe would have purchased the very best vellum available, but occasionally a skin would have a hole in it and, as the cost of vellum was high, the scribe could not afford to discard it. The holes in the facsimile were cut in exactly the same positions as the holes in the manuscript. Where holes appeared in the middle of a page the printing had to be positioned with perfect relative precision so that when the hole was cut no text was damaged.
Pricking & Bookworm
The pages of the manuscript contain the minute pricking holes made by the scribe between which he ruled parallel lines to guide him in the writing of the text. They were often trimmed off before binding but in the Rothschild Miscellany some pricking is still evident on most of the pages. This is the first time that pricking holes have ever been reproduced in a facsimile – demanding a level of precision and accuracy previously unheard of in facsimile reproduction. Similarly, there is evidence that over the ages bookworm have attacked some of the pages - where visible, this has also been accurately reproduced.
The number of each facsimile volume is permanently blind-stamped by hand into the binding using metal dies. All the printing plates were destroyed, with rabbinical consent, so that no subsequent copies could be printed thus ensuring the uniqueness and value of the edition.
As the original binding of the manuscript no longer exists, Mirjam Foot, formerly Director of Collections and Preservation at The British Library, London, suggested an exquisite Italian binding of the period, worthy of the manuscript, which has been copied in minute detail. The facsimile is bound in fine-grain morocco goatskin, blind-tooled on the front and back covers with morocco head and tail bands. The binding is secured by four silver clasps on morocco thongs; the thongs and clasps being attached to the binding by minute silver nails.
The facsimile is presented in a cloth-bound hinged slipcase edged in morocco together with a similar slipcase for the commentary volume. Every set is accompanied by a certificate bearing the seals and signatures of both The Israel Museum and Facsimile Editions.
Each facsimile can be personally dedicated by our calligrapher at no extra charge. Whether the facsimile is intended as a gift to an institution or a private individual, our calligrapher can inscribe a beautifully-illuminated gift certificate with an appropriate inscription in any language. We can either supply it as a loose leaf or paste it inside the front cover of the manuscript facsimile for you. There is no extra charge for the certificate.
Shipping, Packaging & Insurance
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Five eminent scholars contributed to the commentary volume which describes the rich subject matter of the illustrations, the stylistic affinity and differences between the artists and their relation to general Italian illumination of the period, the historical and social background of the manuscript, the codicology, palaeography, religious and liturgical content of the Miscellany, and the binding. The commentary volume is illustrated with full-colour plates. It is produced as a separate volume, the same size as the facsimile, and bound in the finest blind-tooled morocco to complement the facsimile. The two volumes are presented in cloth-covered slip-cases, edged in goatskin.
Contents of the commentary volume:
Excerpts from the commentary volume:
‘The magnificent Israel Museum manuscript known as the Rothschild Miscellany is no mere book – it would be more appropriate to call it a library. The number of literary units (as distinct from works) within its covers, some complete, others incomplete, amounts to thirty-seven, representing a variety of areas of classical and mediaeval Hebrew literature. The books are written side by side, two and even three at a time, some in the body of the page, others on the margin, in what looks like a haphazard jumble. This chaotic impression, however, is deceptive: the breathtaking beauty of the manuscript obscures the meticulous planning invested in the ideological, structural and technical layout of the text, its inner logic and its purpose. The careful thought devoted to the technical and palaeographic aspects of this complex anthology have already been described by Professor Beit-Arié.’
Chapter 4 - Page 55
‘Hayyei 'Olam (Eternal Life)
This book is merely another name for R. Jonah Gerondi’s Sefer ha-Yirah (the Book of Reverence), one of the best-known popular halakhic works in Jewish literature. Woven together in the text are the religious laws governing all details of man’s everyday behaviour, from the moment he rises in the morning until he retires at night, interspersed with admonitory passages on the fear and love of God, as well as the importance of ethical behaviour toward one’s fellow persons. Written in a popular and swiftly flowing style, though nevertheless maintaining a high literary level, the book is intended for the simple, ordinary Jew, wherever and whenever he may live; in fact, this is the first book known to us with this prospective readership in mind. It is traditionally attributed to R. Jonah Gerondi, author of the celebrated moralistic text Sha`rei Yeshuvah (Gates of Repentance), a renowned colleague of Nachmanides, born in Catalonia but active both in his country of birth and in France; in his later years he lived in Spain and headed a great Yeshivah (talmudic academy) in Toledo where he died in 1260.’
|Gilding & Application of Silver Leaf
|Pricking & Cutting
|Shipping, Packaging & Insurance