Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Or 157
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Dr. Justine Isserles, chercheure associée, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-Saprat (Paris), 2020.

Handschriftentitel: Biblical and ethical miscellany‎
Entstehungsort: Italy
Entstehungszeit: 1322
Beschreibstoff: Fine to medium quality parchment and sometimes vellum (e.g. pp. 304-324)‎
Umfang: VI + 716 + VI (pages)‎
Format: 150 x 106-108 mm‎
Seitennummerierung: Pagination from right to left in Arabic numerals in grey pencil in the top margins of each page. There are 716 numbered pages in the manuscript (equivalent to 358 folios).‎
Lagenstruktur: There are 38 quires in this manuscript.‎ I quaternion (1-16); II-III quinions (17-56); IV septenion (57-84); V-VI quinions (85-124) ; VII senion (125-148) ; XVIII septenion (149-176) ; IX quinion (177-196) ; X-XI senions (197-244) ; XII-XV quinions (245-324) ; XVI-XVII senions (325-372) ; XVIII-XXIV quinions (373-512) ; XXV ternion (513-524) ; XXVI quaternion (525-534)* ; XXVII-XXXIV quinions (535-694) ; XXXV folio (695-696)*2 ; XXXVI quaternion (697-712) ; XXXVII folio (713-714) ; XXXVIII folio (715-716). ‎
  • * : 3 folios missing from the end of this quaternion.
  • *2 : stub glued to page 695.
‎ Catchwords decorated with some scrolls or a frame at the end of every quire, except on pages 16 and 512.‎
Zustand: Well-preserved manuscript. Some restorations around the edges of the parchment throughout the manuscript. The first and last two folios are darkened and the last two folios contain wormholes. Some humidity stains and other unidentified stains on some pages of the manuscript.
Seiteneinrichtung: Pricking and ruling: Very few traces of outer pricking, since the lateral margins of the manuscript were cropped. Visible only on a minority of pages (e.g. pp. 102-127, 169-176 and 191). ‎ Brown pencil ruling pp. 3-16 and hardpoint ruling pp. 17-713.
‎ Justification: 2+1 columns throughout the manuscript.‎
Exceptions : ‎
  • pages 57-64, 461 and 529-534: 2+2+2+2+2+2+2 columns.‎
  • pages 596: 3+3 columns.
  • ‎pages 597-712: 1+2+1 columns. Ruling to accommodate marginal glosses.‎
There are mainly 20 ruled lines for 21 written lines throughout the manuscript. Pages 4-16 have 17 ruled lines for 16 rules lines.‎ ‎ Letter elongation and compression at the end of lines. Sometimes the end of words overlaps into the lateral margins (e.g. pp. 175, 285, 575, 638).‎
Page and textual layout: ‎Full page layout. Inner and outer indentations of the text around the initial words.
Schrift und Hände: Ashkenazi script.‎

Monumental and large square script for the initial word panels, followed by large sized square script for the initial words in the text and medium to small sized bookhand script, partially vocalized (pp. 3-78 and 713-714).‎ One scribe copied this manuscript in two modules of writing:
  • Medium module bookhand script with more space between words on the page: pp. 3-77; 86-461; 713-714.‎
  • Small module bookhand script with a more compact textual layout: pp. 78-85; 463-528.‎
  • Between pp. 535-712 medium and small module bookhand script alternately.
The scribe has identified himself several times in the manuscript on pp. 46, 176 and 314 as Menaḥem ‎‏ (מנחם)‏‎ (see colophon).
Buchschmuck: The decoration of the manuscript is listed below in decreasing order of importance:‎
  • Figurative fill page illumination in red and green of a Menorah‏ ‏with the word ‎גביע‎ (goblet/cup) several times on each of the branches and base. An illegible word is written within the red circles: p. 715.‎
  • Illuminated full page initial word panels on several pages of the manuscript (red, green, brown, gold, silver or just red and green): pp. 3, 86, 246, 536, 596.‎
  • ‎Illuminated initial words of monumental module: pp. 26 (red and green), 46 (brown, beige, green colour), 57 (red).
  • Illuminated initial words of large module (green, red, brown or just red): pp. 191, 206-207, 245, 246, 595.
  • Rubricated words in small or medium module in the main text: pp. 522-528, 566, 571, 573, 578, 598-651, 656-683, 687-712.‎
  • Geometrically structured frame surrounding the end of the text on page 594, coloured alternately in green and red, as well as a rubricated catchword (red/green).‎
  • Manicule in lateral margin in writing ink, p. 314.
Spätere Ergänzungen: Very few later additions. Random words in the margins from time to time: p. 83: calculation scribble in bottom margin.‎
Einband: White leather binding on wooden boards of the 16th century (158 x 110 mm). The boards have a blindstamped decoration of a 5-lined rectangular frame, and a 3-lined inner rectangular frame, in which have been inserted tooled medallions with profile portraits of men with different headdresses, interspersed with floral patterns (see the binding of Zurich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Or. 159). The centre of the both boards bear a blindstamped an insignia of a rampant lion holding an open book and leaning on a shield bearing the coat of arms of the city of Zurich, surrounded by ornamental scrolls (this coat of arms would have possibly been stamped onto the boards of the 16th century binding after the volume entered the Stadtbibliothek, founded in 1629). The three banded spine bears an illegible title in brown ink at the top, and the following title in brown ink between the second and third band: ‎ספר מגילות מסכת אבות ‏‎ cum Comentarius. At the bottom of the spine is a paper sticker with the shelfmark of the manuscript Or 157 printed in black ink. Presence of two catchplates, clasps, but only one twirled and decorated metal strap.‎
Beautifully illuminated biblical and ethical miscellany produced in Italy in 1322. This small format manuscript (150 x 106-108 mm), with an exquisite 16th-century white leather binding blindstamped with the coat of arms of the city of Zurich, can be divided into two groups of texts. The first section is made up of the biblical texts of the Five Megillot or Books of Ruth, Canticles of Canticles, Chronicles, Lamentations and Esther, accompanied by three commentaries composed by the great medieval scholars, Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi), Avraham ibn Ezra and Joseph Qara. The second section is of ethical nature and consists in the Mishna tractate of the Pirqei Avot or Ethics of the Fathers and its commentaries. The first is an anonymous commentary and is found in several manuscripts of the Maḥzor Vitry (Isserles, 2021); the second is entitled Shemonah Peraqim by Maimonides, as translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon, and the third is by Rashi and placed in the margins of Maimonides’ commentary. In addition, the manuscript is interspersed with an historical chronology of the books of the Jewish Canon, as well as a list of biblical readings during the Jewish liturgical year; an aggadic text on Mordecai’s dream from the book of Esther; a midrash on the book of Proverbs; mystical commentaries on the Divine Chariot by David ben Joseph Qimḥi; an extract of the Bi’ur ha-millot ve-ha-zorot, by Samuel ibn Tibbon, which contains explanations of the philosophical terms and foreign words in MaimonidesGuide to the Perplexed, a diagram with the qualities, virtues and vices, as well as the elements according to the four temperaments. The manuscript ends with an illuminated drawing of the Menorah.‎
  • pp. 1-77 : the Five Megillot
    • (pp. 1-16) : Book of Ruth
    • (pp. 16-26) : Book of Canticles of Canticles‎
    • (pp. 26-46) : Book of Chronicles
    • (pp. 46-57) : Book of Lamentations
    • (pp. 57-77) : Book of Esther
      Colophon (p. 77).
      נשלם חמש מגילות על יד מנחם בר' אברהם זצל' בר' בנימן ע'ה' בר' יחיאל נע'‏
      The five Megillot are completed by the hand of Menahem son of Avraham may his Just memory be blessed, son of Benjamin on whom should be peace, son of Yehiel may his soul rest in Eden.
  • pp. 78-82 : Aggadic Midrash of the Dream of Mordecai (‎חלום מרדכי‎)‎
  • pp. 82-85 : History of the Canon; chronology of the Canon and customs on the readings of the biblical books, Hagiographs and Tractate of the Fathers on the Sabbath.‎
    • (pp. 82-83) : Historical chronology of the Books of the Tanakh
    • (pp. 83-84) : ‎מספר שנים של ספרים‎ : Chronological duration of the books of the Tanakh
    • (pp. 84-85) :  כך סדר מנהגינו לקראות כל התתובים ואבות בשבת מעט קודם מנחה וחמש מגילות בין הימים טובים : Here is the order of our custom for the reading of all the Readings and the Fathers on Shabbat a little before Minḥah and the five Megillot during the festivals.
  • pp. 86-245 : ‎פירוש חמש מגילות להרב רבינו שלמה נ'ע'‏‎ : Commentary on the five Megillot by our Rabbi Solomon may his soul rest in Eden. Commentary on the five Megillot by Rashi (1040-1105).‎
    Colophon (p. 245) in large module rubricated ink:
    נשלם פירוש חמש מגילות לרבי שלמה ת'נ'צ'ב'ה
    Completion of the Commentary on the Five Megillot by Rabbi Shlomoh, may his soul be bound in the bundle of life.‎
  • pp. 246-460 : ‎פירוש מחמש מגילות לר' אברהם בן עזרע ז'צ'ו'ק'ל'‏ : Commentary of the five Megillot by the Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra may his Just and Holy memory be blessed. Commentary by Avraham ibn Ezra (c.1089/1092-1164/1167).‎
  • pp. 460-469 : ‎פירוש מחמש מגילות לרבינו ישעיה : Commentary of the five Megillot by our Rabbi Isaiah. This title is erroneous and has been corrected by the scribe in another initial panel on p. 462 as : ‎לרבי' יוסף קרא ז'ל' ספר רות ‏‎ ‎פירוש מחמש מגילות‎ Commentary of the five Megillot by our Rabbi Joseph Qara may his memory be blessed. Book of Ruth. Commentary by Joseph Qara (c.1065-1135).‎
  • pp. 470-486 :  ‎פירוש וייצר לר' דוד קמחי ז'ל' ומעשה מרכבה‎ : Commentary on Creation by R. David Qimḥi may his memory be blessed and Ma’asseh Merkavah (Divine Chariot). Mystical and philosophical Commentary on Genesis 2:7-4:26 and the Divine Chariot by David ben Joseph Qimḥi (1160-1235).‎
  • pp. 487-488 : ‎מצאתי כפ' הגאון רבי חננאל פ'ק דברכות‎ : I found this from the commentary of the Gaon Rabbi Ḥananel on the chapter of blessings. Excerpt.‎
  • pp. 489-511 : אחל לכתוב מעשה המרכבה לה'ר' דוד קמחי‎ : I begin to write on the Ma’asseh ha-Merkavah of the Rabbi David Qimḥi. Commentary on the Divine Chariot in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 1.‎
  • pp. 512-513 : ‎מצאתי במדרש משלי בשעה שבקשו סנהדרין למנות שלמה‎ : I found this in the Midrash on Proverbs when the Sanhedrin asked to appoint Solomon. Midrashic text.‎
  • p. 514 : Excerpt from Samuel ibn Tibbon’s (c.1150-1230) Bi’ur me-ha-milot ve-zorot, an explanation of the philosophical terms and foreign words in MaimonidesGuide to the Perplexed, which he translated from Arabic into Hebrew in 1204, accompanied by a diagram displayed in five uneven lines.‎
  • pp. 515-517 : Square diagram with the qualities, virtues and vices, as well as the elements according to the four temperaments : Sanguine, choleric, phelgmatic and melancholic, with accompanying commentary.‎
  • pp. 518-521 : Blank pages.
  • pp. 522-528 : Commentary on the Pirqei Avot (Mishnah Tractate of the Ethics of the Fathers) containing some words in Judeo-French, as it is found in the Maḥzor Vitry (on this commentary, see S. Hurwitz, 1923, vol. 2, pp. 554-563, I. M. Ta-Shma, 1977 and Isserles, 2021 in bibliography).
  • pp. 529-535 : Blank pages.
  • pp. 536-702 פירוש שבות‎ : Commentary on the Pirqei Avot by Maimonides (1135-1204), translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon, entitled Shemonah Peraqim.‎
    • (pp. 536-542) : Preface to the Shemonah Peraqim by Samuel ibn Tibbon.‎
    • (pp. 542-594) : Introduction to the Shemonah Peraqim translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon.‎
    • (pp. 595-702) : פירוש ממסכת אבות לרבינו משה בן מימון ומרבינו שלמה ז'צ'ו'ק'ל' ושלום על כל ישראל‎ : Commentary of the Tractate Avot by our Rabbi Moses ben Maimon and our Rabbi Solomon may their Just and Holy memory be blessed, may there be peace on all Israel. Commentary by Maimonides (pp. 595-702) and marginal commentary by Rashi on pages 596-703.‎
  • pp. 703-711 : Tractate of the Pirqei Avot with Rashi’s commentary in the margins.‎
  • pp. 711-712 : Chapter 1 of the Pirqei Avot.
  • pp. 713-714 : Psalms 137 and 79.‎
  • p. 715 : Illuminated image of the Menorah.‎
  • p. 716 : Blank page.
Entstehung der Handschrift: p. 461: date inserted into circular diagram:‎
‎ ‎וכתבתי אותו בשנת חמשת אלפים ושמונים ושנים לבריאת עולם‏
I wrote this in the year five thousand and eighty-two according to the beginning of the world (Anno mundi) (5082 A.M. = 1322 C.E.)‎
Provenienz der Handschrift: Owners notes in the manuscript:
  • Hebrew owners notes:
    • p. 1: Random words in Hebrew, mostly illegible, many doodles and scribbles.‎‎
    • p. 1: Name of R. Solomon from the community of Borgo (a district of Rome): ‎נשאל...ממ''ר שלמה יזיי''א לבעלי ברית לבורגו‏‎, as well as of a person named Natan (‎נתן‎).‎
    • p. 2: Random notes in Hebrew, doodles and scribbles.
    • p. 2: Beginning of Psalm 1:1 and small commentary. Name of Moshe (‎משה‎)
    • p. 3: Name of Menaḥem ben Solomon of Fano (Italy): ‎מנחם בכ''מ שלמ[ה] מפנו‎.
    • p. 534: Essay marks and some owners notes, the most significant of which is Eliezer ben Aharon ha-Cohen written twice accompanied by some words in a square and bookhand Italian script.‎
      אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן לקח לו מבנות פוטיא

      ויהי בימי אחשורוש הוא אחשורוש
      לליי [קרישוני] אלעזר בן א אהרון‏
      אלעזר בן אהרון יצו [...]‏
      אהרן הכהן [...]‏
      Eliezer ben Aharon ha-Cohen took for himself amongst the daughters of Putia
      And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus the same Ahasuerus (Es. 1:1)‎
      For me [ ?] Eliezer ben Aharon ‎
      Eliezer ben Aharon may his Rock keep him and grant him life […]‎
      From Aharon ha-Cohen […]
    • p. 714: written in square script toward the bottom of the page: ‎שלי משה‎, translated as it is mine Moshe.
  • Christian owners notes:
    • On the verso of the 3rd flyleaf at the beginning of the volume there is a Christian owner’s note written in Latin, listing the contents of the manuscript:‎
      Contenta huius libri
      I. Qinque ‎מגילות‎ . Scil. RUTH. 2. CANTICUM C.‎ ‎3. ECCLESIASTES. 4. THRENI. 5. ESTHER ‎- SOMNIUM MARDOCHAI‎
      a.II. Commentarius R. SOLOMON IN V ‎‏ .מגילות‏
      b. R. ABRAM F. EZRA in ‎
      c. R. ‎ישעיה‎ …‎
      Hic legitur Circulo : ‎וכתבתי אותו בשנת חמ[י]שת אלפעים ‏ ושמונים ושנים לבריאת עולם:
      III. Commentarius in CAPITULA PATRUM.‎ in Masseceth ‎אבות‎ . R MOSIS MAIMONIDIS
Erwerb der Handschrift: The manuscripts with the ‘Or’ shelfmark, standing for ‘oriental’ came from the Zurich Stadtbibliothek, founded in 1629.‎ Acquisition of the manuscript: unknown.
On the verso of the last flyleaf at the end of the volume, see two old shelfmarks wich have been barred out:‎
  • ‎C 208 written in red ink
  • app: 51. Written in brown ink.
Manuscript catalogues :‎
  • J. Prijs, Die hebraïschen Handschriften der Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Im Auftrag der Verwaltung der Zentralbibliothek beschrieben von Joseph Prijs (7 vols.), vol.1, Nr. 21, pp. 33-37 (Ms Or. 157 A-B) and vol. 2, Nr. 53, pp. 91-94 (Ms Or. 157 C). [Although the manuscript has been divided into 2 shelfmarks of Ms. Or. 157 A-B and Ms. Or. 157 C according to subjects in both Joseph Prijs catalogues, it is one manuscript.‎]
Printed catalogues and secondary literature :‎
  • S. Hurwitz (ed.), Maḥzor Vitry le-Rabbenu Simḥah (Hebrew), 2 vols. (Nuremberg:19232) and Gustav Schlessinger, Die Altfranzösichen Wörter im Machsor Vitry (Mainz: 1899), based on Hurwitz’s edition.‎
  • J. Isserles, « Mahzor Vitry: A Study of Liturgical-Halakhic Compendia from Medieval Franco-Germany», Jewish History (forthcoming, 2021).‎
  • J. Prijs, Die hebräischen Handschriften in der Schweiz: Katalog der hebräischen Handschriften in den Schweizer öffentlichen Bibliotheken … redigiert auf Grund der Beschreibungen von Joseph Prijs (Basel, Benei Beraq: Sefer Verlag, 2018), pp. 68-69 (Ms Or. 157 A-B) and pp. 88-89 (Ms Or. 157 C)‎
  • I. M. Ta-Shma, “‘Al peirush ’Avot she be-Maḥzor Vitry” (Hebrew), Qiryat Sefer 42 (1977), pp. 505-506.‎