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Il8 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 1
i. There are two ways of studying Hebrew MSS. illu-
minations, just as there are two ways of studying various
other branches of knowledge, such as languages or religions.
One of these ways may be called the isolated method, and
the other is the comparative method. If the first-named
method were adopted in the present case, all that one would
have to do would be to note carefully the features exhibited
by illuminations found in Hebrew MSS. Comparison with
other kinds of MSS. illuminations would have to be ex-
cluded. In following the comparative method, on the
other hand, one would have to aim not only at knowing
what Hebrew MSS. illuminations are like, but also at
ascertaining their relationship to other branches of MSS.
Now it is clear that a subject that is included in a
University scheme of study should be studied in University
fashion; and as the comparative method, which, by the
way, is the very soul of modern study, has by this time
gained a perfectly firm footing in University teaching, it
would hardly do for Hebrew MSS. illuminations to lag
behind the times ; and I would, therefore, first of all recom-
mend that those who intend to make a more or less special
1 This paper was originally written as a lecture to be delivered at the
Cambridge Summer Meeting, 1906, though there was only time to read
portions of it on that occasion. This explains the personal form of address
which is occasionally used. To the same cause is due the frequent
breaking up of passages into short paragraphs, such a method being well
suited to the style of a lecture of this kind. Instead of remodelling the
paper in order to make it conform to the usual style of an article, it has
seemed best (some few alterations excepted) to leave it as it originally
HEBBEW ILLUMINATED MSS. 119
study of the subject we are now considering should by way
of preparation make themselves acquainted with the main
features of European and to some extent also of Eastern
MSS. illuminations in general.
Nor should students of the general subject of MSS. illu-
minations put the Hebrew part of it on one side, as if it did
not exist. The general subject is, to begin with, obviously in-
complete if one branch of it is left out ; and secondly, I may
even in these preliminary remarks, draw attention to one
chapter of the art in which the Hebrew section fills a gap—
or what is almost a gap — in the collections of illuminated
MSS. in England and elsewhere. I refer to illuminations of
Spanish origin. Specimens of this branch of early Gallic
art (for specialists hold that the art of miniature painting
was in the first instance imported into Christian Spain
from France) are admittedly rather rare in our collections,
and even illuminations that can be shown to have been
executed in Spain are on examination often found not to
exhibit at all } or but very slightly, the peculiar features
which art critics have noted in illuminations of the
decidedly Spanish manner. Here the Hebrew section steps
in, for some at any rate of the illuminated Haggadahs,
or Passover-night Services, in the British Museum and
elsewhere, are not only of undoubtedly Spanish origin, but
also exhibit some strongly marked features of genuine
Spanish art. I admit that most of these MSS. have yet
to be subjected to a special and accurate study in detail
before a verdict can be pronounced on all points, but in
the meantime the results of such a brilliant art-student as
Dr. Julius von Schlosser, co-editor of the Haggadah von
Sarajevo, who in forming his general estimate of these
illuminations had reproductions of several of the British
Museum Haggadah illuminations before him, are sufficient
to justify the statement that students of the general subject
of MSS. illuminations are likely to find in Hebrew MSS.
specimens of Spanish art calculated to afford help in future
investigations of this branch of early miniature painting.
120 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
2. Coming now to slightly closer quarters with our
subject, it may be useful to remark that though its extent
is not very wide, it is capable of a double division.
It may be divided (a) in accordance with the origin of
the MSS. and the art which they exhibit, such as Spanish,
French, Italian, or German. This clearly is a division
which in itself fully demonstrates the necessity already
insisted on that an effective study of Hebrew MSS. illu-
minations must follow the comparative, and not the
But it may be divided (6) in accordance with the subjects
illuminated, such as Bible, Prayer-books, Legal Codes, &c.
The most serviceable plan, however, seems to be to
divide first by subjects, and then — so far as materials
allow — each subject by schools of the illuminative art.
3. Literature. The task of giving an account of work
already done in this special branch of study is not a diffi-
cult one, and this for the simple reason that the sin of
" making many books without end " has not yet pervaded
this outlying region of research. Let the ground by all
means remain sacred, but may the select few not be
all too few.
To be mentioned first and foremost is Die Haggadah
von Sarajevo (Wien, 1898), by Drs. D. H. Miiller and
Julius von Schlosser, to which we shall have occasion
to refer frequently later on. It should, however, be
mentioned now that, although treating mainly on the
Haggadah or Passover-Night Service, there is a very con-
siderable amount of general information in it on the whole
subject, more especially so in Prof. David Kaufmann's
essay Zur Geschichte der jiidischen Handschriften-Illus-
tration, pp. 253-311.
Next in order should be named L'Ornement JiSbreu,
by Baron David Gunzburg and M. Vladimir Stassof. Of
this work we shall also speak presently.
Dr. Gaster has done good service in publishing (London,
1 901) his Hebrew Illuminated Bibles of the Ninth and Tenth
HEBEEW ILLUMINATED MSS. 121
Centuries, containing reproductions of some fine specimens
of early oriental illuminations.
A large number of Hebrew illuminations have been
furthermore reproduced in different volumes of the Jewish
Encyclopedia ; and some reproductions are also found in
various catalogues of Hebrew MSS., and in illustrations of
articles in the Jewish Quarterly Review, the Revue des
Etudes Juives, and other publications.
References to a few other works will be found in Baron
Gunzburg's 'Avant-Propos ' which accompanies L'Ornement
Hebreu already referred to.
B. The Jeavish Element.
i. Having now said what seemed necessary by way of
introduction, we may proceed to consider an important
question which has recently been brought to the fore by
Baron Gunzburg and M. Stassof s publication.
Is there such a thing as a specific Jewish art of MSS.
This question was by the courtesy of the editors dis-
cussed in the The Jewish Quarterly Review, July,
1906, and I will therefore on the present occasion confine
myself to a few additional remarks on it.
The conclusion to which the large body of evidence
irresistibly leads is, as I believe every careful student will
admit, that the general homogeneity presented by the plates
published by Baron Gunzburg and M. Stassof is to be
accounted for not by the supposed existence of a specifically
Jewish art of illumination, but by the oriental or semi-
oriental provenance of the MSS. from which those plates
were taken. The imitative character of the Hebrew MSS.
illuminations produced in different parts of Europe can be
proved beyond a shadow of doubt, and the corollary is
that the same verdict holds good with regard to Hebrew
illuminations executed *n countries lying eastward \ There
1 It may here be remarked that the same kind of indebtedness meets
us in Jewish architecture. The persistence of the Moorish style in the
122 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
is even prima facie no reason whatever for assuming that,
so far as art is concerned, the Jews of the Crimea, Egypt,
Palestine, Mesopotamia, Yemen, and other eastern countries
were more independent and original than the Jews of
France, Italy, Spain, and other countries of the West.
This imitative character of the St. Petersburg illumina-
tions was indeed fully recognized by the late Prof. David
Kaufmann, who had an almost unparalleled experience in
such matters. In a note on p. 261 of the Haggadah von
Sarajevo, Prof. Kaufmann wrote as follows : —
" Die Handschriftenschatze der Kaiserl. Bibliothek in
St. Petersburg und das Nachleben byzantinischer Kunst in
der judischen Manuscriptmalerei wird das grosse Tafelwerk
von Stassow und Baron David Gunzburg, das seit Jahren
vorbereitet wird, eingehend beleuchten."
The art, therefore, which is exemplified by the repro-
ductions contained in the Portfolio was regarded by Prof.
Kaufmann as in the main at any rate of Byzantine origin,
and it may in addition be suggested that a comparison of
these plates with the fine set of Byzantine, Syriac, Coptic,
Arabic, and other oriental illuminations published by
M. Stassof himself in his L'Omement Slave et Oriental
(St. Petersburg, 1887), will reveal a general family likeness
between eastern Jewish illuminations and the other branches
of the illuminative art as practised in the East. Only in
the Jewish branch of it the prohibition of the second
commandment relative to the representation of human and
other figures has been strictly obeyed, whilst the Christian
forms of the same art rather favour these pictorial adorn-
Instead, therefore, of putting forward these plates as
representative of a traditional and specific Jewish art of
building of Synagogues in various countries is no exception to this rule,
as it was borrowed all the same. As an illustration from the Far East
may be mentioned the Synagogue of Kai-Fung-Foo in China, which was
merely a replica of a Chinese Temple (see J. Q. B., XIII, pp. 25 sqq.).
The peculiar form of the reading-desk (Seat of Moses) in the same
Synagogue has, however, yet to be accounted for.
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 123
MSS. illuminations, M. Stassof might have fitly added
a Jewish section to his fine series of Byzantine and oriental
illuminations, given in L'Omement Slave et Oriental. As
we shall see presently, a Jewish oriental variety, distin-
guished by certain subsidiary features from oriental art in
general, may freely be allowed to exist, or rather to have
existed. But this is something quite different from believing
in the existence of a specific Jewish art of MSS. illumina-
Two other brief criticisms 1 on the publication of Baron
Gunzburg and M, Stassof before leaving this part of the
subject. Their own plate A, taken by them to exhibit
the same style of art as the rest of the Portfolio, belongs in
reality — and very distinctly so — to the Gallic type. One
clear deviation of this plate from all the others consists in
the representation on it of the Cherubim by busts of
winged angels, whereas — as has already been remarked —
no form whatsoever of either animal, man, or angel, is
found in Jewish oriental illuminative art. In such matters
the Eastern Jews are at one with strict Mohammedans,
whilst Jewish artists in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany
have, in conformity with the artistic forms flourishing
around them, put such scruples on one side.
The next remark to be made is that M. Ropett's fine
frontispiece intended to embody the " motifs " underlying
the art exhibited in the plates of the Portfolio is misleading
on one important point. The round Byzantine arch, which
is so common a feature in the plates themselves, is entirely
omitted in the frontispiece ; and, as if to complete the mis-
representation, the sacred seven-branched candlestick is,
contrary to its rounded form on the Arch of Titus—
which, as can be seen from the illustrations of the article
"Candlestick" in The Jewish Encyclopedia, is indeed
1 A minor point to be noted is that plate C, taken from a Yemenite MS.
in Baron Gfunzburg's own possession, shows a different style of colouring
from Plates I-XXII, and the design of the ornamentations is also rather
different. The plate in fact represents another branch (the Yemenite) of
the oriental styles of illumination.
124 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
the usual form — there represented with angular branches.
There can, therefore, be no doubt that, as it stands, the
frontispiece gives an incomplete and even wrong impression
of the " motifs " of the art which it was intended to express,
and this error seems to be part and parcel of the general
misunderstanding regarding the place of these Jewish
ornamentations in Eastern art in general.
3. But whilst not able to affirm the existence of a specific
Jewish art in MSS. illuminations, we must take note of
some special Jewish features in illuminated Hebrew MSS.
A Hebrew illuminated MS. of, say, French origin, impresses
one at once as something different from a Christian MS.
belonging to the same school of ornamentation; and the
same kind of difference between Jewish and non-Jewish
ornamentation lies on the surface of MSS. belonging to all
schools. But these special features, such as the choice of
subjects, the introduction of Jewish symbols, and — nega-
tively speaking — the exclusion of symbols belonging to
a foreign cult, are clearly not essential to the style adopted,
but are — so far as the art itself is concerned — of a merely
subsidiary nature. There is also often the indefinable
Jewish tone that rests on Hebrew MSS. illuminations to be
considered. We are there face to face with the Jewish
spirit making itself perceptible in one way or another to
the mind not only, but also to the eye ; but the technique
and forms of the art as such are borrowed all the same.
Some very interesting remarks on this part of our subject
are made by Dr. von Schlosser in the Haggadah von
Sarajevo, pp. 331-3. A case in point is the sinking of the
dead body of Joseph in the Nile represented on fol. 20 of
the Haggadah of Sarajevo. This special feature in the
miniature rests on a later Jewish legend, but it is clearly
a mere subsidiary detail. There would, in fact, be no reason
why a Christian artist, hearing of such a legend, should
not proceed to represent it pictorially.
3. Quite different from the question as to the existence
of a specifically Jewish art of MSS. illuminations is that
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 1 25
proposed by the late Prof. Kaufmann and others, as to
■whether the ornamentations of Hebrew MSS. were executed
by Jews or Gentiles. The answer to this question will, in
substantial agreement with that of Prof. Kaufmann him-
self, have to be that, broadly speaking, Jewish artists of
different schools are responsible for the Hebrew MSS. illu-
minations that have come down to us.
The ornamented Masorah, which forms so strong a feature
in the plates published by Gunzburg and Stassof, are of
Jewish workmanship on the face of them ; for the art is
there literally part and parcel of the text itself, and no one
will affirm that any but Jewish Scribes were in those days
— or are indeed in our own day — capable of grappling with
a subject like the Masorah. Indeed — if you will allow
a short digression — the Masorah in so intricate and often
so wayward a subject that even an experienced Masorite
may at times find himself compelled to own his ignorance,
a confession, by the way, which should in many another
branch of study be more often made than is actually the
With regard to the other kinds of illuminations, a dis-
tinction ought to be made between ornamentations which
are closely interwoven with the text illuminated and full-
page or part-page illuminations detached from the text.
In the former case a Jewish artist ought everywhere to be
assumed. In the latter case the work will, in the vast
majority of cases, also be found to be Jewish, though there
no doubt are cases in which it would seem more reasonable
to assign the illuminations to a Christian artist.
Thus the representation of the Creator resting on the
Sabbath Day depicted on fol. % in the Haggadah von
Sarajevo is, with very good reason, assumed by Dr. Julius
von Schlosser to have been executed by a Jewish artist, the
figure of the Deity being quite different from the usual
Christian representation of God 1 . In the Gebhardt Bible,
preserved in the Benedictine Convent, Admont, we have, on
1 See, however, I. Abrahams, Festival Studies, p. 50.
126 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
the other hand, on the first panel in the pictorial history of
the creation, as reproduced in Monumenta Judaica, vol. I,
the Creator depicted much in the likeness of one form or
another of the Christ in mediaeval art, with one winged
figure on his right and another on his left, and all three
with halos behind their heads. A miniature of this kind
one naturally imagines to have come from the hand of
a Christian artist. But it is impossible to exercise too
much caution in such matters. Dr. Julius von Schlosser
informs us, for instance, that the Deity showing himself to
Moses in the burning bush is represented in an Italian
MS. of the Haggadah in the Kaufmann collection (now
public property in Budapest) in perfect conformity to the
type of Christ in Christian art ; yet the illuminations of
that MS. are supposed to have been executed by a Jewish
artist. But again, a Hebrew Biblical MS. in the Laurentian
Library at Florence is by Dr. Kaufmann himself shown to
have been undoubtedly illuminated by a Christian hand 1 ,
although the illuminations themselves would, according
to the same authority, be regarded as harmless from a
Jewish point of view.
The following two considerations should be kept in mind.
The first is that in Europe, and more especially in France
and Italy, Jewish artists had at a very early period eman-
cipated themselves from the original Jewish objection to
paint figures of men, angels, and even the Deity himself in
illustration of the sacred story ; and as their art was based
on Christian models, it is very difficult for us to determine
how near to Christian types a Jewish artist may at times
have allowed himself to stray.
The second consideration is that in by far the largest
1 Mr. E. N. Adler also thinks that the illuminated Hebrew MS. from
the Ashburnham Collection which was sold some years ago at Sotheby's
was really the work of Giotti and one of his pupils (see J. Q. R., XI,
pp. 679-82). Dr. Kaufmann's statement that the Laurentian MS. re-
ferred to in the text is the only known example of a Biblical MS.
illuminated by a Christian hand would in any ease seem to be
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 1 27
number of Hebrew MSS. illuminations deep and intimate
sympathy with the subject is so unmistakable that it is
impossible to think of any but a Jewish hand having
executed them. It would not be quite natural that in
those early days of general intolerance a Christian artist
should have succeeded — or even seriously attempted— to
identify himself so completely with the Jewish religious
and national element that pervades many of these artistic
4. Names. One other matter has to be considered
before proceeding to a general survey of our materials.
If we assume Jewish artists to have illuminated all or
most of the extant illuminated Hebrew MSS., why is
a mention of the artists' names so rare in these MSS. ?
It might be held that the name of a Christian artist was
likely to have been purposely suppressed in a Jewish MS. ;
but what reason could there have been for omitting from
such a MS. the name of a Jewish artist ?
To this question two satisfactory answers can be
t. In the first place the same absence or rather rarity of
names meets us in all other kinds of illuminated MSS.
If you glance through any large collection of such MSS.,
including various specimens of say French, English, or
Italian illustrations, you will find that names of artists are
everywhere conspicuous by their absence rather than by
their presence. The mention of the artist's name is, in
fact, the exception, not the rule, in all kinds of illuminated
MSS., Jewish as well as non- Jewish. There indeed seems
to have been much less individualism in those earlier days
than there is now, and there was therefore also much less
eagerness on the part of artists to inscribe their names on
3. Thanks mainly to the labours of the late Prof. David
Kaufmann, we are in possession of a certain percentage of
names of Jewish artists to justify us in assuming the
existence of an unbroken line of such artists covering the
128 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
whole period to which the extant illuminated Hebrew
It will on the present occasion be sufficient to mention
a few representative names recorded in Prof. Kaufmann's
Essay, together with one or two other names from fresh
Beginning with Spain, we have, for instance, the name
of Israel b. Israel of Toledo (a member, therefore, of an
early Spanish Israeli family), from whose hand there are
illuminated Bible codices of the years 1272 and 1277,
preserved respectively at Paris and Parma.
Two other illuminated Bible codices, one of which is
preserved at Oxford and the other in a private library
at Tripolis, were executed by sons of Abraham ibn Gaon,
namely, Joshua ibn Abraham ibn Gaon and Shemtob ben
Abraham ibn Gaon, in the years 1306 and 131 2 respec-
Special mention should be made of the fact that there is
extant a treatise on the preparation of colours and gold for
purposes of illumination by the Hispano-Jewish writer
Abraham b. Yehudah ibn Hayyim. This treatise is preserved
in Codex de Rossi 945, and was written in the year 12,62.
There is here indeed additional reason for thinking that
illuminated Hebrew MSS. of Spanish origin, when duly
taken notice of, are likely to fill what is almost a gap
in even our larger collections of illuminated European
MSS. in general.
Turning now to Italy, described by Prof. Kaufmann as
" das gelobte Land der hebraischen Handschriften-Illus-
tration," we may add two names of Jewish artists to the
very scanty results of Dr. Kaufmann's researches. The
name of Moses b. Isaac is expressly mentioned in the epigraph
of the first edition of Bahya ben Asher's Commentary on
the Pentateuch (Naples, 1492), not only as a clever type-
cutter, but also as skilled in the preparation of woodcuts
(YD nBTiro D3n) ; and as early printing as well as the
illuminations accompanying it were — as in the nature of
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 129
things it could indeed not be otherwise — taken over bodily
from the art of the scribe and the MSS. illuminator, we
may fairly assign this Moses ben Isaac a place in our list.
The second Italian name to be mentioned is that of
Solomon Italia, who flourished about the middle of the
seventeenth century, and from whose workmanship the
British Museum possesses copper-plate engravings of an
Esther scroll, containing architectural and floral designs
over each column, with a female figure holding a palm-
branch in her hand resting on each side of the rounded arch.
The figures of Ahasuerus, Esther, Mordecai, and Haman are
placed in regular succession within the columns. The text
of the Megillah is in manuscript, and we thus have another
link between writing and the art of printing.
In Gandellini's Notizie istoriche degli Intagliatori (Siena,
1808), p. 136, Italia is described as " forse di natione Ebrea"
(perhaps of the Hebrew nation), but as there again the only
work mentioned is the engraving of a portrait (dated 1641)
of the Jewish artist Judah Leon, known by the name of
Templo, his Jewish origin — as indeed the name Salomon
sufficiently suggests — may be assumed as practically cer-
The name of Judah Leon or Templo brings us to
Holland. He acquired the appellation Templo from his
colossal models of the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple,
which were purchased in 1643 by Queen Henrietta Maria
of England. This artist, though not introduced here as
a MSS. illuminator, serves to strengthen our belief in
a continuous line of Jewish artists who took sacred things
as the subjects of their art.
But the largest number of known names of Jewish
artists belong to the eighteenth century, when there was
quite a revival of MSS. illuminations — not indeed of a very
original or very elevating kind — in Germany, Poland, and
some of the adjacent countries.
Prominent among those names is that of Israel ben Asher,
of Selz in Lithuania, who wrote and illuminated in 1748
VOL. XX. K
130 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
Hayyim Vital's Kabbalistic work D w n Y$ ("tree of life"),
the MS. being preserved in the library of Copenhagen
Mose Juda, son of Benjamin Wolf Broda, of Trebitsch in
Moravia executed in 1723 an illuminated Haggadah for
Lazarus von Geldern, an ancestor of Heinrich Heine.
A third name is that of Aaron Wolf Herrlingen of
Gewitch (also in Moravia). Illuminated MSS . from his hand,
dated 1749, 1751, &c, are preserved in private collections.
C. General Survey of Extant Materials.
I. The Bible.
We naturally begin with the Bible, which, notwith-
standing the higher and even the highest critics, still
somehow continues to exist.
Here we have two kinds of illuminations to consider;
(1) the Masorah in the form of designs, and (a) Pictorial
and border illuminations.
1. The finest specimens so far known of the illuminated
Masorah are reproduced in Gunzburg and Stassof s Port-
folio. I would more particularly direct your attention to
Plates VII and VII* in which the Masoretic diagrams are
very elaborately worked out in gold and colours. The date
of the MS. from which these two plates are taken is a.d. ioio,
and its provenance is Cairo. It appears very likely that
most, if not all, the specimens of illuminated Masorah in
this Portfolio are of Karaite origin. Artistic designs in
Biblical books, as indeed in Hebrew books in general, must
have been regarded even in Geonic times in the light of an
innovation \ There is no trace of the art of illumination,
not to speak of miniature painting, in Talmudical litera-
ture 2 ; and it is, therefore, very likely that the Karaites,
1 On the tradition preserved by Philo and Josephus that the Code of
the Law sent by the high-priest from Jerusalem to Ptolemy Philadelphus
was written in gold, see Gaster, Hebrew Illuminated Bibles, p. 9. See also
DnoiD roDa, I, 9. In rate, fol. 103 b, it is enacted that a min idd in which
the divine Names (nroiH) are written in gold should be hidden away.
2 See Gaster, Hebrew Illuminated Bibles, p. 10.
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 13 1
who, by the way, were in early days very numerous in
Cairo and Palestine, were the first to override the old
objection to illuminations, and follow in this respect —as
they did in several other matters — the lead of the Moham-
medan world. This innovation extended, however, only to
the representation of arches, sacred utensils, and diagrams
of all kinds. Miniatures of any sort remained — as in the
illuminations of the Koran and Mohammedan religious
books in general — strictly excluded.
The Rabbanites may be presumed to have adopted — and
this notwithstanding the protest of several authorities J —
the art of illumination later on, having found it to be
harmless and a relief from the tedium of unbroken serious-
ness. Among western — and, therefore, certainly Rabbanite
— specimens of the Masorah in diagrams, I would, in
addition to those given by Kaufmann, mention the British
Museum MS., Add. 21,160 (circa 1300), a page of which is
reproduced in Dr. C. D. Ginsburg's Portfolio of Facsimiles
(2nd edition), PI. XI. This MS. was written in Germany,
the home at that time mainly of grotesque rather than
beautiful illustrations. Strange-looking animal figures are
the main stock of these designs.
In Spanish MSS. the Masorah is as a rule written out in
a purely straightforward fashion. Specimens, however, of
the Masorah, neatly shaped in the form of candlesticks, &c,
are found in the B. M. MS. Add. 12,250, which probably
belongs to the thirteenth century. A page of this MS. is
reproduced in Dr. Ginsburg's Portfolio, plate xvii. Mr.
David Sassoon's Biblical MS. written in Spain in 1383 also
deserves special mention.
2. In speaking of pictorial and border illuminations,
a sharp distinction has to be made — so far as the Pentateuch
is concerned — between the scroll and the codex. In the
scroll, intended as it was—and is— for use at Divine
worship, no additions whatsoever are allowed, not even
vowel-signs or accents (although a number of Yemenite
1 e. g. Yehudah Hasld, in the second half of the twelfth century.
132 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
Pentateuch scrolls exhibit -what is known as dry points
to mark the pauses). But in the codex or MS. in book-
form, which was intended for private use, the prohibition
not to add anything was not generally held to apply,
and the scribe thus felt free to introduce all kinds of
Many examples are described by Kaufmann, but we
may here mention a few specimens drawn chiefly from
Beginning with oriental ornamentations, there are, besides
the MSS. represented in Gunzburg and Stassof s Portfolio,
some fine specimens in Dr. Gaster's possession, reproduc-
tions of which can be seen in his publication entitled
Hebrew Illuminated Bibles of the Ninth and Tenth
Centuries, to which reference has already been made.
Akin to these, and quite as early, are the undoubted
Karaite specimens of ornamentation preserved in the
B. M. MS. Oriental 2540. A page of this MS., showing
the Hebrew text of a part of Exodus in the Arabic
character, provided with Hebrew vowel-points and accents,
and exhibiting ornamentations in gold to mark the " open "
and " closed " sections l in the text, has been reproduced
in the B. M. Catalogue of Hebrew MSS., vol. I, pi. v.
A few ornamentations of Persian origin and a number of
Yemenite illuminations are reproduced from British Museum
MSS. on plate B of Baron Gunzburg's Portfolio, and plate C
of the same publication represents a Yemenite Biblical
MS. in Baron Gunzburg's own possession. To these
should be added the B. M. MS. Or. 2348 (dated a.d. 1496),
foil. I54 1 ", 155* of this MS. exhibiting elaborate ornamenta-
tions interwoven with the date of the MS. and the name of
its first owner. Red of different shades, but never of a very
clear or bright hue, predominates in all the illuminations
hailing from Yemen.
Specimens of North-African Biblical illumination of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are to be found in the B.M.
1 The romrDi nimnD do not, however, tally these with the usual order.
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MS8. 133
Add. MS. 15,^83 (formerly in the collection of the Duke of
Sussex). The border illuminations on the opening pages
of the books of the Pentateuch exhibited in this MS.
resemble for the most part Byzantine patterns given in
M. Stassof's L'Omement Slave et Oriental, but the illus-
tration at the beginning of Genesis reminds one of what may
be called Hispano-Italian patterns of the fifteenth century.
Of Portuguese origin (dated Lisbon, 1483) is the beautiful
MS. of the Old Testament numbered Or. 2626-8 in the
B. M. Collection. The text itself is left unornamented
(plate iii in B. M. Cat. vol. i), but the list of the 613
Commandments and the Masoretic rubrics given at the
beginning and end of the volumes are placed within finely
executed Arabesque borders, and whole sentences, tastefully
arranged, are frequently written in gold. It must be
remarked, however, that these and other ornamentations,
though produced in the Spanish Peninsula, exhibit much
likeness to Italian and partly also to French ornamenta-
tions of the same period.
Italian Biblical ornamentations of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries are worthily represented by, e.g., the B. M.
MS. Add. 15,423 (formerly in the collection of the Duke of
Elaborate representations of the golden candlestick and
other Temple utensils are found — again in addition to
those mentioned by Kaufmann and the reproductions in
Baron Gunzburg's Portfolio — in the B. M. MSS. King's 1
(a.d. 1383) and Add. 12,250 (thirteenth and fourteenth cen-
turies) already mentioned. These two MSS. may be described
as being of Hispano- French origin, the writing being
Spanish, and the form of ornamentation belonging to the
An interesting specimen of decidedly German art is the
B. M. Add. 15,282. It has full-page illuminations at the
beginning of each of the books of the Pentateuch, consist-
ing mainly of Gothic architectural designs, and various
human and animal figures, the latter both natural and
134 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
grotesque. Smaller illuminations are found at the begin-
ning of each of the Megilloth, Lamentations excepted. The
designs and the colouring are worth studying. Gold pre-
None of the MSS. so far mentioned contain pictorial repre-
sentations of biblical passages or historical scenes. It will
be seen further on that the main repository of such represen-
tations is the illuminated Haggadah. They are rather rare in
Biblical MSS. One such specimen, is, however, preserved in
the Library of this University (Cambridge). I am referring
to the MS. Ee. 5, 9 which, besides a number of other orna-
mentations, contains a frontispiece to the Book of Job
representing the patriarch seated on a dunghill, tormented
by Satan, whilst his wife stands before him offering evil
counsel. This MS. is of German origin, and is dated
3. A word must be said on illuminated rolls of the book
of Esther. A sharp distinction has to be drawn between
the scrolls intended for use in the synagogue, or, more
generally speaking, for public liturgical recital, and those
prepared for private use. In the former kind no additions
of any sort were allowed. But in the case of private scrolls
illuminations were popularly considered a proper adjunct to
Of the various extant specimens I will here only mention
two. The B. M. MS. Or. 1047, which is of German origin
and probably belongs to the sixteenth century, contains on
the upper and lower margins and in the spaces between the
columns a large variety of coloured drawings, representing
the events recorded in the book. The person who illu-
minated this MS. was a caricaturist with a genuine vein of
humour, and his coloured drawings are well worth looking
at. The diminutive waist of Queen Vashti, for instance,
shows what probably was the high " mode " in Germany at
the time, not unlike, indeed, the superlatively high " mode "
of modern days. No wonder that, with such a waist, Queen
Vashti came to grief.
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 135
Another illuminated roll of Esther (which, however
I have not personally seen) is preserved in the parish
church of Yarmouth. It seems to exhibit affinities with
the B. M. MS. just spoken of.
II. The Haggadak.
In the "Textband" of the edition of Haggadah of
Sarajevo, Haggadah illuminations are grouped under the
following headings: (1) Spanish, (2) French, (3) German,
On the present occasion I will only briefly speak of the
Sarajevo illuminations themselves and of six illuminated
Haggadahs in the British Museum.
But it is first of all necessary to remark that illuminated
Haggadahs of the Spanish school are as a rule provided
with a series of miniatures in illustration of early biblical
history, and more particularly of the events connected with
the Egyptian bondage and the Exodus. These generally
precede the text of the Haggadah, but are occasionally
found at the end. So far, only one instance is known of
a Haggadah of other than Spanish origin being provided
with such a series of pictorial illuminations. This is the
Italian Haggadah of from the thirteenth to the fourteenth
century in the Kaufmann Library at Budapest, described in
TheHaggadah of Sarajevo, pp. 187-99. But the editors them-
selves state that, though the main character of its illumina-
tions is Italian, the Haggadah also shows some decidedly
French elements, besides a few oriental features. The
likelihood is that the idea of adding a series of pictorial
representations has in this case come to Italy from Spain
by way of France, so that the exclusively Spanish origin
of these series of miniatures still remains vindicated.
So far as the Haggadah of Sarajevo itself is concerned,
the editors, after a careful scrutiny, came to the conclusion
that its origin must be sought in North Spain, a conclusion
which finds a striking confirmation in the fact that the first
136 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
page of illuminated text (see the frontispiece of the edition)
includes a coat of arms which is believed to have been
worn by the Kings of Aragon since 1137. It must not be
forgotten, however, that so far as liturgical and other
matters are concerned, the South of France stood in a close
relationship with the North of Spain.
The miniatures begin^as you may see from the " Tafelband "
of the edition, with the history of the creation, continuing
thence to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, and con-
cluding with four illuminated pages showing (1) the blessing
of the people by Moses before his death, and the laying of
his hands on Joshua; (2) a representation of the Ark of the
Covenant together with adjacent architectural features of
the future Temple ; (3) scenes from the " Se'der " ; (4) a pic-
ture of the interior of a Synagogue and worshippers. The
last plate in the " Tafelband " is a reproduction in colours
of a page in the text of the Haggadah.
Of the six B. M. Haggadah MSS. which I should now
like to bring briefly to your notice, five belong to the
Spanish ritual, and one is of German origin.
(a) MS. Add. 27,310 (XlVtk Century) contains a series
of miniatures illustrating the history of Genesis and the
earlier portions of Exodus, the first picture representing
the naming of the animals by Adam, and the last the
preparation of the Passover. Each illuminated page is
divided into four equal compartments, and the sketches,
which are in blue, red, and other colours, are thrown on
gold ground. A page of illuminated text has been repro-
duced in the B. M. Catalogue, vol. II, pi. vi.
(b) In MS. Or. 3884 (XlVth Century) the series of minia-
tures opens with a sketch representing the creation of
Adam, and ends with a representation of the family at
table during " Se'der." All except the last two pages con-
tain two pictures each, one on the upper and the other on
the lower half of the page. Of the last two pages, which
contain only one picture each, that representing a " Minbar,"
or rostrum in the Synagogue with a full complement of
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 137
worshippers has been reproduced in the B. M. Catalogue
vol. II, pi. vii. The impression of this scene, with the
seven characteristic lamps suspended from beams below
the arches or from the ceiling, is decidedly Moorish. The
arch on the left shows, however, the trifolium shape. The
form of the pulpit here represented should have been
included in the illustration of the article " Almemmar " in
the Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. I.
The colour predominating in the miniatures is red. The
initials in the text are partly in gold and partly in silver.
(c) MS. Or. 1404 (XlVth-XVth Century) presents a series
beginning with a sketch of Moses at the burning bush and
ending with representations of the Passover-night services.
Each page contains two pictures, one occupying the upper
and the other the lower half of the space. The paints are
rather heavily laid on, and are often blurred. Much gold
has been used.
This MS. shows mueh likeness to the Crawford Spanish
Haggadah (now in the Rylands Library, Manchester) ; and
it is remarkable that the editors of the Haggadah of Sarajevo
have not noticed this fact. Their idea that the art in it is
an " Abklatsch der gleichzeitigen italienischen Kunst " is, in
the face of what they themselves say of the Crawford
Haggadah, decidedly erroneous. They would no doubt
have judged otherwise if they had had the opportunity of
studying the MS. itself, or if they had had more than one
small specimen of it before them. The Crawford Haggadah
is, however, no doubt superior to it.
(d) MS. Or. 2737 (XlVth Century) is an example of
a Spanish Haggadah with the series of miniatures following
instead of preceding the text. The first subject represented
are the labours of the Israelites in Egypt. The series
continues down to the preparation of the Passover lamb, and
is then followed by four designs illustrating the intended
sacrifice of Isaac. Red is the predominant colour. This
MS. is of octavo size, most of the other Spanish Haggadahs
in the British Museum and elsewhere being of quarto size.
138 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
(e) Add. 14,761 (XlVth Century) is a Spanish Haggadah
without a series of historical pictures. It has by way of
compensation (1) very finely executed representations of
the "Se*der" in its different stages ; (2) pictures of Babban
Gamaliel and other Rabbis; (3) a rather slight sketch
of the Exodus ; (4) a fanciful full-page illustration of a
Matzah ; (5) various border ornamentations. The Spanish
Iiaggadahs accompanied by series of miniatures are, how-
ever, also provided with similar ornamentations of the
The last B. M. Haggadah which I would bring to your
notice is (/) the MS. Add. 14,76a, of German origin. It is
a large quarto, almost approaching to a folio. No series
of miniatures is, of course, to be expected in a German
Haggadah, and this particular MS. is no doubt far surpassed
by the German Haggadahs preserved in the " National
Museum " in Niirnberg and elsewhere ; but I would draw
your attention to a particular feature of German MSS. of
this kind which is well represented on fol. 4 a in this B. M.
MS. It is a feature which embodies a strong humorous
element. I am referring to what is known as the " Jak-
nehas " illustrations. This combination of sounds is only
a memoria technica consisting of the first letters of J"
(wine), W)lp (blessing over the cup), "13 (the ceremonial
light), ninan (ceremony of separating the Sabbath and
festivals from the days following them), and pi (time) —
(the idea of times or seasons lying at the base of all festival
celebrations). In trying to pronounce these letters, some-
thing like "Jaknehas" was produced. This to a German
ear sounded like Jagen Has, i. e. " chasing hare," and, turned
round, it became Hasenjagd (i. e. hare hunting). It thus came
to pass that German illuminators of the Haggadah and other
texts accompany the passages connected with the memoria
technica " Jaknehas " by scenes of the chase, in which,
however, besides hares other innocent creatures, and more
especially deer, are concerned.
It is certainly funny that hares and other creatures
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 1 39
should be hunted down simply because certain Hebrew letters
appeared in their German pronunciation to suggest it.
Scenes of hunting would, however, in any case have been
introduced into the Haggadah and other Hebrew MSS. of
German origin ; for such scenes appear to have been taken
over bodily into Jewish MSS. from Christian models, in
which the spiritual seeking out of people was often thus
symbolized, and the memoria technica " Jaknehas " only
served as a sort of humorous sanction of the practice.
The humour appears, however, to have been partly uncon-
III. Other Subjects.
(a) Service-boohs. You will find a considerable amount
of information on this part of the subject in The Haggadah
von Sarajevo, Textband, pp. 267-77, and an illustrated
German Mahzor, or Festival Service-book, is described
with accompanying illustrations, on pp. 1 14-120 of the
same work. There are also several illuminated Hebrew
Service-books in this country ; but on the present occasion
I will only draw your attention to two illustrated Italian
" Mahzorim " in the British Museum, and a few others in
private London libraries. The B. M. MS. Add. 19,944-5
was executed in Florence in the year 1441 A. D., and may
be regarded as a fine specimen of Jewish workmanship
produced in that artistic city. Some of its illuminations
should be compared with those found in the MS. of the
Pentateuch, numbered Add. 15,423 already mentioned and
Or. 5024 to be mentioned presently in connexion with
legal codes. A specimen page of ornamented text in
Add. 19,944 has been reproduced in the B. M. Cat. II,
The other B. M. Italian illuminated MS., belonging, how-
ever, to a different branch of Italian art, to which I would
draw your attention, is the MS. Harley 5686, dated A. d.
1466. Besides a number of ornamented initials and border
illuminations, the MS. exhibits several pictorial illustra-
I40 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
tions. The most interesting of these is a bridal procession
on fol. 27 b -38 a , the details and meaning of which still
requires study. The drawing and colouring of the two
scenes in the procession are very delicate, though now
Dr. Gaster and Mr. David Sassoon also own illuminated
liturgical MSS. of interest. Mr. E. N. Adler's very im-
portant collection of Hebrew MSS. would, of course, also
furnish interesting examples of this and other branches of
(b) Legal Codes. Of illuminated legal codes I will also
only mention two, it being part of the plan of this lecture
to speak mainly of illuminations that have come under my
A good Italian specimen is the B. M. MS. Or. 5024
(dated A. D. 1374) which contains the "Decisions of Isaiah
of Trani, the younger." Students will do well to compare
this MS. both with Add. 15,423 (the Italian Pentateuch of
the fifteenth-sixteenth century already mentioned) and the
liturgical codex Add. 19.944-5 also already spoken of, as
different stages of the illuminative art can be traced in
them. MS. Or. 5024 is the earliest of the three, Add.
19,944-5 comes last in order of time, and Add. 1 5.423 may
be ranged between the two.
Among the illuminations in this legal code I would
specially mention the strictly ad rem picture placed at
the beginning of the section which opens with the trans-
action of selling a ship. On the side are duly painted in
pleasing colours of blue, &c, a ship, and the buyer putting
its priee into the hands of the seller.
An exceedingly fine legal code containing the Mishneh
Torah or Yad-ha-Llazalca " of Maimonides is the B. M. Codex
numbered Harley 5698-9. It was executed in Spain, but,
as is often the case with fifteenth century Spanish illumina-
tions, the art is in the main Italian. From the reproduction
of a page reproduced in the B. M. Hebrew MSS. Cat. II,
PL III, it can be seen that the original arabesque design
HEBREW ILLUMINATED MSS. 141
has been richly worked over with foliage, blossoms, fruit,
and figures of birds.
(c) Marriage Contracts. Specimens of "Kethuboth"
from the tenth century downward are found in the
Cambridge and also the Oxford share of the Cairo
Genizah 1 , and a few of these are provided with illumina-
tions. One of the earliest illuminated Marriage Contracts
was recently acquired by the British Museum. It is on
a large scale, measuring about a 8 in. by 23^ in. ; and it is
dated Modena, Friday, the 7 th day of Marheshwan, a.d. 5318
(i. e. late in a.d. 1557). The names of the contracting
parties are Ephraim Kalonymus Sanguini and Luna,
daughter of Mordecai Fano.
The outer illumination, beginning within about an inch
from the edges, consists of artistically cut out patterns
showing blossoms, fruit, figures of birds, &c. Spaces of
vellum are at regular intervals left uncut, and on these
the signs of the zodiac have been painted, three on each
side, beginning with Aries or n?B in the middle of the
upper space, and continuing in the usual order on the
right side of it. Eed paper (apparently of a later make)
has been pasted underneath these cut patterns in order
to set off the effect of the whole. The signs of the zodiac,
it should be mentioned, connect the marriage-contract
The intertwined circular designs between these outer
illuminations and the main part contain in minute writing
portions of the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and suitable
verses from the Psalms.
The principal design consists of an archway bounded by
waving pillars 2 like those in old St. Peter's Eome, which
1 It almost sounds like a piece of irony to record that whilst the early-
Cairo Kethuboth went to Oxford and Cambridge, the British Museum
has got hold of a number of interesting ancient " Q-ittin."
2 See Die Haggadah von, Sarajevo, p. 224. The waving pillars are also
found on, e.g., the title-pages of "imn 'jipn (Mantua, 1557), the vn
(Mantua, 1558-60), and the illuminated Haggadah printed at Mantua
in 1560 (in this case coloured).
142 THE JEWISH QUAETERLY REVIEW
have exercised so strong a fascination on the artistic
The pillars are garlanded, and looped and knotted bands
hang down from the outer corners of the capitals of each.
An amoretto or cupid, with a trumpet in the right hand
and a budding branch in the left, sits on the inner corner
of the capital of each pillar, and a design which is ap-
parently meant to represent a crown surmounts the
archway, the words rfa b)p) jnn hp nnw b)p) JW hp
(the voice of jubilation and the voice of joy, the voice of
the bridegroom and the voice of the bride), being written
in spaces left free in the upper ornamentation of each.
The " Kethubah " itself is, of course, written in the open
wide space of the archway, the whole producing something
of the impression of an illuminated title-page, with an
elaborate description of the book within the ornamenta-
At the bottom, just over the lower line of the minute
circular writing, are on the left side a group of coloured
figures representing Abraham, Sarah, and Lot leaving
Haran, with the Hebrew text of Genesis xii. 1 in the left
corner. To the right of this group is a coloured figure,
probably representing Israel personified (or, perhaps, the
prophet Isaiah in the act of declaiming his prophecy), with
Isa. xl. 27 in the right corner.
(d) Religious Philosophy and Ethics. As in every other
branch of the literature, so also with regard to philosophy,
the esteem in which a work was held at the time can
be measured by the amount of care bestowed on the
production of copies thereof; and illumination of a fine
and elaborate kind must be taken to mark a very high
degree of such esteem. It does not, however, always
follow that posterity confirms the opinion held of a book
in the earlier days of its circulation. Examples of this
kind are, as every one knows, superlatively common in
our own days ; and antiquity was quite as likely to
exaggerate the value of certain productions as people are
HEBEEW ILLUMINATED MSS. I43
in the present day. Besides, a book may be really of
very high importance at the time of its appearance, and
prove itself of little moment in the ages that follow. It
may have served to grapple successfully with a certain
vanishing phase of thought, or with a certain controversy
that was raging at the time ; and when such a particular
phase of thought had given place to another, or when
the controversy had, partly at any rate, died down, the
once important book had necessarily to give place to works
dealing with other problems and other modes of human
Thus, whilst on the one hand Moses Maimonides'
Doctor Perplexorum, on which the illuminative art has
bestowed so much care 1 , is a leading example of a work
of pre-eminently lasting value thus honoured, there are
also finely illuminated examples 2 of Jacob b. Abbamari's
Malmad hat-Talmidim, a work which justly took high
rank at the time of its appearance in the thirteenth century
as a defence of the religious philosophy introduced by
Maimonides, but is now only of value as exhibiting a
phase in the Maimonidaean controversy.
It is comforting, however, to know that by far the
largest number of illuminated mediaeval Hebrew works
proved of lasting value and importance. Antiquity thus
appears to have been wiser in its day than many book-
producers and book-readers are in the present day.
As in a manner belonging to the subject of ethics may
be mentioned illustrated copies of the Dw W» 3 (Para-
bolae Vulpiwm) of Berachya Nakdan (whom some writers
believe to be identical with Benedictus le Poncteur, who
lived in Oxford in the thirteenth century) and the Fables
of Isaac Sahula, entitled Wttipn i>p».
(e) In speaking of Medical MSS., mention should be
' The finest specimen (dated Barcelona, 1348) appears to be preserved
at Copenhagen (see the Hag, von Sarajevo, Textband, p. 289).
3 See op. cit. p. 290.
s See Sag. von Sarajevo, p. 291.
144 THE JEWISH QUAETERLY REVIEW
made of the Oxford Codex 2113, which contains an illu-
minated copy of Maimonides Q^piS (or Medical Chapters).
But the greatest amount of artistic care was naturally
bestowed on Avicenna's Canon. The most finely illuminated
Hebrew Codex of this great work is 2197 in the University
Library of Bologna. The illuminations are indeed of so
fine a quality that it was one of the Italian art-treasures
which Napoleon ordered to be carried away to Paris,
where it remained till 1815.
(/) Family Megilloth and Testaments. Illuminated
documents relating to family histories are, as far as our
present information goes, of late origin; and illuminated
last wills and testaments also appear to be a late idea 1 .
Dr. Kaufmann mentions the will ornamented with pen-
and-ink designs of Lemle Mose (or Rheingbnheim) executed
Our task is now completed, but at the conclusion
I should like to draw your attention to a kind of illuminated
13 i>3 (" everything in it "). This is the B.M. MS. Add. 11,639,
which is the gem of the Museum collection of Hebrew
illuminated MSS. It is of French origin, and belongs to
the thirteenth century. The miniatures of this MS. are
well worth the honour of having a special treatise written
on them. The same may be said of several other illumi-
nated Hebrew MSS. preserved in English and other
1 See D. Kaufmann, Aus Heinrich Heine's Ahnensaal, p. 68 ; also
Lowenstein, Geschichte der Juden in der Kurpfalz, pp. 170 sqq.