Documents: 14

Sub-project: Hebrew Manuscript Library of Switzerland

September 2018

Status: In progress

Financed by: Susanne & René Braginsky Foundation

Description: Several hundred Hebrew manuscripts are preserved in Switzerland today in various private and public collections. The Hebrew Manuscript Library in Switzerland project aims to shed light on a selection of medieval and pre-modern Hebrew manuscripts from the cities of Basel, Bern, Geneva, St Gallen and Zurich, chosen to be highlighted predominately for their rarity in content, but also for their codicological, palaeographical and decorative features. The digitization and scholarly descriptions of these manuscripts on e-codices will undoubtedly help to establish the importance of these precious witnesses from Swiss collections, many of which have been unacknowledged until now. This project is generously supported by the Susanne & René Braginsky Foundation

All Libraries and Collections

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Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 359
Parchment · 109 ff. · 24-24.5 x 17.5-18 cm · Italy · 2nd half of the 15th century
Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra, Sefer ha-Yashar

The Sefer ha-Yashar is one of two Bible commentaries by the great R. Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089/92-1164/67). Written in Lucca, Italy ca. 1142-45, this work attained great recognition and popularity during the Middle Ages and has been preserved in numerous manuscripts and printed books. This 15th century Italian copy is of particular interest since it belonged, at some point during the 16th century, to Theodore de Bèze (1519-1605), the famous Genevan Calvinist theologian and Professor, who then gave it to one of his disciples and colleagues, Antoine Chevalier (1507-1572), the first Professor of Hebrew language at the Académie de Genève. (iss)

Online Since: 06/13/2019

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Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 22
Parchment · 1 f. · 305.4 x 32.8 cm · Ashkenaz · c. 1500
Megillat Esther (מגילת אסתר) / Esther Scroll

Early 16th century Esther scroll from Ashkenaz, for private use with intricate floral and animal type ink drawings located over some of the monumental letters in the list of Haman’s sons. (iss)

Online Since: 12/14/2018

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites Latentes 69
Parchment and paper · 82 ff. · 15 x 11-11.7 cm · Vienna · 1756 and 18th-19th century
Pesach Haggadah

This handwritten Haggadah Comites Latentes 69 was created in Vienna in 1756. It is decorated with black ink and masterfully imitates copper engraving. The author is the famous scribe and illustrator Simmel ben Moses from Polna (active between 1714 and 1756), who produced about thirty dated manuscripts that have survived until today, of which, however, only 17, including CL 69, are autographs. His works of art are among the most remarkable examples of Hebrew manuscript decoration in 18th century Central Europe. The Song of Solomon, copied by later hands, concludes this magnificent manuscript. (iss)

Online Since: 06/22/2017

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites Latentes 173
Paper · VI + 173 + VI ff. · 21.7-21.9 x 15-15.5 cm · Velletri · between 1565 and 1599
Sefer Ḥokhmat Nashim

This legal manuscript with the title Sefer Ḥokhmat Nashim is part of a vernacular literary genre for women that was widely read in Ashkenazic and Italian communities since the Renaissance. This manual of prescriptions in Judeo-Italian is said to have been copied from the famous Italian kabbalist and preacher Mordechai ben Juda Dato during the second half of the 16th century. (iss)

Online Since: 09/26/2017

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites Latentes 278
Paper · III + 1 + II f. · 25.7 x 17-18 cm · 12th century
Kitab al-Hidaya ila Faraiḍ al-Qulub

This rare Judeo-Arabic fragment is from the Kitab al-Hidaya ila Faraiḍ al-Qulub (Guide to the Duties of the Heart ) by Baḥya ben Joseph Ibn Paquda (2nd half of the 11th century). This work is of fundamental importance since it sets out the first Jewish system of ethics. The manuscript tradition of this Judeo-Arabic work is quite fragmentary because few textual witnesses remain today. (iss)

Online Since: 09/26/2017

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. heb. 3
Parchment · I + 131 + I ff. · 21.5 x 14.5 cm · Northern France · mid-13th century
Hebrew Bible (Pentateuch and Book of Esther)

This medium format bible from northern France arrived at the Bibliothèque de Genève between 1667 and 1701 and is one of the oldest donations to this library, once called the Académie de Genève. Furthermore, this bible was also used as one of the 615 biblical manuscripts collated for Benjamin Kennicott’s Vetus Testamentum hebraicum variis lectionibus (1776-1780). (iss)

Online Since: 12/14/2018

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. heb. 4
Parchment · 1 f. · 208.3 x 13.5 cm · Amsterdam · around 1641
Megillat Ester (מגילת אסתר) / Esther Scroll

This Megillat Esther consists of thirty round text medallions, surrounded by multicolored engraved decorations with floral, animal and baroque architectural designs. It is a sixth, not yet listed, scroll with the motif “lion, lamb and bear,” produced by the famous engraver Shalom Italia (ca. 1619-1664). He is also the creator of numerous other engraved Esther scrolls that are held in special collections, museums and libraries throughout the world. (iss)

Online Since: 10/13/2016

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. heb. 10
Parchment and paper · I + 118 + I ff. · 21.5 x 16 cm · Sephardic · 14th century
Composite manuscript of arithmetical, astronomical and ethical texts

This manuscript consists of four texts: an anonymous treatise on arithmetic and astronomy, an anonymous commentary on the Sefer ha-Mispar by R. Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1092-1167), the treatise She'elot Tiviot (Problemata Physica) attributed to Pseudo-Aristotle, and the ethical and didactic poem Musar Haskel by R. Hai ben Sherira Gaon (ca. 939-1038). The She'elot Tiviot, translated from Arabic into Hebrew by Moïse Ibn Tibbon (died ca. 1283), are especially important since Ms. heb. 10 contains a version in four chapters. Of a total of seven known surviving manuscripts in the entire world containing the She'elot Tiviot, only three other manuscripts comprise these four chapters. (iss)

Online Since: 10/13/2016

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Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. heb. 12
Parchment and paper · II + 103 + III ff. · 21.4 x 14.8-15 cm · Sephardic · end of the 13th - beginning of the 14th century
Logica Aben Resched

This manuscript contains an anonymous Hebrew paraphrase of the first five books of Averroes' (Abu al Walid Muhammed Ibn Rushd, c.1126-1198) Commentaire Moyen (middle commentary) on the Organon attributed to Aristotle. From the 13th century on, Hebrew paraphrases and compilations of certain books of the Organon were written by intellectual Jews from Provence, such as Jacob Anatolio Abba Mari (ca. 1194-1256); more than fifty manuscripts of this work of his have survived. The anonymous paraphrase found in the Bibliothèque de Genève’s Ms. heb.12 is part of the same series. (iss)

Online Since: 10/13/2016

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Genève, La Bibliothèque juive « Gérard Nordmann », HEB 0002
Paper · I + 186 + VI ff. · 20.7 x 17.3 cm · 18th century
Astronomical and geographical work

In all the world, only six manuscript exemplars and an old print of this work (1743) still exist. Its author is the famous Bohemian rabbi, astronomer and mathematician R. David ben Salomon Gans (1541-1613), student of Maharal of Prague, R. Judah Loew (1525-1609) and of Rema, R. Moses Isserles (1520-1572). In his 1974 monograph about David Gans, André Neher referred to this copy as the Manuscrit de Genève. A colophon in the manuscript gives the date as 1613, but a current study about the history of the transmission of this work suggests that it is an 18th century copy. (iss)

Online Since: 06/14/2018

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St. Gallen, Kantonsbibliothek, Vadianische Sammlung, VadSlg Ms. 326
Parchment · IV + 134 + IV ff. · 12.3-12.5 x 9-9.5 cm · Italy · 14th century
Mahzor according to the Roman rite

This small mahzor according to the Roman rite was written in Italy during the 14th century. It contains a first section with abridged prayers for the festivals of the Jewish liturgical year (Pessah, Shavuot, Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atseret) and a second section, enclosing many liturgical poems accompanying the prayers. This prayer ritual was not only written for personal use, due to its size, but may have also been destined for a woman, since a word, found in the vidui (confession), situated in the manuscript at the end of the Yom Kippur afternoon prayers, ends with a feminine suffix. (iss)

Online Since: 06/13/2019

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Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Heid. 125
Parchment · I + 142 + I ff. · 14.9-15 x 10.8-11.1 cm · Sepharad · 14th century
Siddur according to the Sephardic rite

This 14th century Sephardic Siddur for personal use is composed of the daily and sabbath prayers, as well as a text on the interpretation of dreams. Moreover, there are additions for the prayers of the new month and the festivals of Hanukkah, Purim and Pessah, the latter of which has been followed by the Haggadah, read at the Seder itself. However, the importance of this Siddur lies within the presence of some instructions on the structure of the Seder in Judeo-Spanish, or more precisely, medieval Castilian. (iss)

Online Since: 06/13/2019

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Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Heid. 136
Parchment · IV+ 152 +IV ff. · 9.8-10 x 7-7.6 cm · Italy · 2nd half 15th century
Siddur according to the Italian rite

This small format siddur for personal use can be characterized as a vademecum for Jewish religious and communal life. It is divided into three parts, relative to liturgy, Jewish ceremonies, and a last miscellaneous one. The latter includes, among other significant texts, a rare and intriguing list of the names of books and incipits of chapters of all 24 Books of the Bible, with the Hebrew and Latin names, spelled out in Hebrew characters. (iss)

Online Since: 06/13/2019

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Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Or. 159
Parchment · I + 161 + III ff. · 10.3 x 7 cm · Ashkenaz · 1433
Book of Psalms (Sefer Tehilim)

This pocket format 15th century Hebrew Book of Psalms from Ashkenaz, is representative of private use hand copies, which are more seldom preserved in separate textual units rather than incorporated in the Hagiographs section of Hebrew bibles and liturgical manuscripts. Nonetheless, this genre of biblical literature is already attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Additionaly, Ms Or. 159 contains 149 Psalms, rather than the canonical 150, which is only one among many configurations found in early and late medieval Hebrew manuscripts, enclosing between 143 and 151 Psalms. Lastly, two medieval Hebrew manuscript fragments of an Esther Scroll have been reused as flyleaves for the 16th century leather tooled binding, protecting this little exquisite Book of Psalms. (iss)

Online Since: 06/13/2019

Documents: 14