Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Heidenheim 52
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Dr. Justine Isserles, Associate Researcher, EPHE-SAPRAT, Paris, 2020.

Manuscript title: Sefer Mitsvot Qatan by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil with glosses by Perets ben Elijah of Corbeil
Place of origin: Ashkenaz
Date of origin: 14th century‎
Support: Parchment. Medium quality (several holes, e.g. ff. 39, 50, 53, 60, 71); stitches (e.g. ff. 13, 34, 55).
Extent: III + 78 + IV
Format: 195-197 x 150-154 mm (when Prijs measured the manuscript, its height was 223 mm. It seems that the top margins of the folios may have been cropped since then, in order to fit another binding, see Prijs, 2018, p. 117).‎
Foliation: Foliation in Arabic numerals in grey pencil from right to left at the top left corners of folio. Some folio numbers are doubled.‎
Collation: The manuscript, which contains many stubs and is many missing folios, was restored with a diverse reorganisation of the quires (which should have been quaternions as is the custom in Ashkenaz), rendering it impossible to count the quires.‎
One catchword on folio 36v.‎
Condition: Incomplete manuscript with stained parchment, particularly at the beginning and at the end. Many folios have had their lateral margins cut (e.g. ff. 27-30, 53-54, 61, 63, 77-78) and their bottom margins cut (ff. 35, 76) or complete folios which have been mutilated and cut out (e.g. fragment between folio 50 and 51; ff. 57-58), see also stubs between folios 41 and 42, between folios 43 and 44 and at the end of the manuscript. The manuscript has been cropped on its top, bottom and lateral margins. Erased text on folios 40r-41v. Joseph Prijs in his description of this manuscript (Prijs, 2018, p. 117) mentions two numbered subjects which no longer exist today (see below under ‘content’). After verification in the 1921 catalogue of the Heidenheim collection by Avraham Schechter, the latter states that there were 93 folios (see Schechter, p. 54). However, when Joseph Prijs described the manuscript between 1934 and 1935, it contained only 78 folios. Therefore, since 1934/35 15 folios are missing from the manuscript.‎
Page layout: Inner and outer pricking. Lead point ruling.‎
2+2 columns of text. 35-36-37 or 38 ruled lines for 34-35-36 or 37 written lines. Letter elongation and compression at the end of lines.‎
Full page layout. Inner and outer indentations of the text around the initial words.
Writing and hands: Ashkenazi bookhand script for the main text and square script for the titles and initial words. One scribe copied this manuscript.‎
Decoration: No decoration, aside from a manicule on folio 42r and folio 42v drawn by a later hand in the lateral margin.‎
Additions: There are numerous later additions in the margins by various later hands as well as paragraphs of text by later hands in blank spaces and on full blank pages of the manuscript (ff. 18v, 42r/v).‎
Binding: New white parchment binding with new pastedowns and flyleaves. The shelfmark ‘Ms. Heid. 52’ is written on the inner board at the beginning of the volume and a paper sticker at the bottom of the spine with the shelfmark ‘Ms Heid 52’, printed on it.‎
The Sefer Mitsvot Qatan or « Small Book of Precepts » is a halakhic compendium, which also includes ethical, aggadic and homiletical material, written ca. 1276-1277 by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil, one of the great codifiers and French Tosafists of the 13th century (Kanarfogel, pp. 81-91). The work is also called « Sheva Ammudei ha-Golah » or the « Seven Pillars of the Exile », due to its division into seven sections, corresponding to the seven days a week, encouraging its daily study. This work is an abridged version of the Sefer Mitsvot Gadol (Semag), another halakhic compendium completed in 1247 by Moses ben Jacob of Coucy (1st half 13th c.), which itself is a simplified and comprehensive code, widely influenced by Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. The Sefer Mitsvot Qatan (Semaq) went one step further than the Sefer Mitsvot Gadol, in omitting the lengthy Talmudic discussions, conflicting opinions, references to the Mishneh Torah and the commandments which were no longer applicable in the post-Temple era; and providing instead a synopsis of each of the 248 positive and 365 negative commandments (Galinsky, pp. 80-81). Consequently, with a much more accessible halakhic code, the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan achieved widespread popularity, receiving recognition from rabbinical authorities from Franco-Germany.
Moreover, although R. Isaac of Corbeil had no personal contact with the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz - studying rather at the Talmudic academy of Evreux (Kanarfogel, pp. 59-65, 89, 241) - he was deeply influenced by the conceptual and textual German pietistic agenda in popularizing Jewish law to all strata of society (Galinsky 2015, pp. 77-92; Galinsky 2017, pp. 87-88), and in enjoining them “…to higher levels of ethical and religious conduct…” (Kanarfogel, p. 89). Both these aspects are clearly seen in the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan, on the one hand, in its simple organization of the positive and negative commandments, divided into seven groups, each to be studied during one of the seven days of the week, identified by different parts of the body, and on the other hand, by the wish of R. Isaac toward his readers to at least recite the list of commandments each day of the week (see a letter attributed to R. Isaac, included in the preface of the editio princeps of the work, published in Constantinople in 1510). An example of such a list is found at the end of the liturgical section the Mahzor Vitry (Paris, Alliance Israélite Universelle, Ms 133H, ff. 2r-27v), where the list of the commandments from the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan are found for the first five days of the week, following the Seder ha-Ma‘amadot (a compilation of various readings from the Bible, prophets and Psalms, in which is inserted the Seder ha-Ma’arakhah by the 11th century liturgical poet Elijah ben Menahem ha-Zaqen of Le Mans (describing the incense service in the Temple in Jerusalem), daily supplications (teḥinot) and accompanied by the theological hymn Shir ha-Yiḥud, attributed to R. Samuel b. Qalonymos he-Ḥasid (end-12th c.) (On the presence of the Seder ha-Ma’amadot including a Shir ha-Yiḥud in other manuscripts, see Kanarfogel, pp.179-180, and n. 110), ending with the Decalogue for the second and fifth day of the week.
Lastly, the Sefer Miṣvot Qatan was one of the most copied works in medieval Franco-Germany and due to its notoriety, and numerous glosses were added to the work. The most popular was by the main disciple of Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil, namely Perets ben Elijah of Corbeil (died 1297), one of the most important tosafists of his time and also influenced by the German pietists (Kanarfogel, pp. 62, 124, 239, 241, 260). His glosses were first published along with the Sefer Miṣvot Qatan in Cremona in 1559 (Encyclopedia Judaica, pp. 284-285; Kanarfogel, pp. 89 (note 169), 124 and 241; Urbach, p. 585).
[e.g. the Bodleian Library in Oxford possesses several 13th and 14th century Ashkenazi manuscripts including the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan with Perez ben Elijah’s glosses (Ms Shelfmark with Neubauer’s cat. Number): Ms Opp. 339 (n°883), Ms Opp. 337 (n°884), Ms Opp. 338 (n°874), Ms Opp. 340 (n°875), Ms Hunt. 499 (n°885), Ms CAN. Or. 30 (n°886) et Ms Opp. 335 (n°1130).]‎‎‎

  • Incomplete copy of the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil (died 1280) and glosses by Perets ben Elijah of Corbeil (died 1297). Numbered subjects in the lateral margins beginning at 93 (‎צג‎) on folio 1r (Prjis erroneously read siman 92/‎צב‎ on folio 1r) and ending before the end of the manuscript at 280 (‎רף‎) on folio 70v (Prijs mentions a last siman of 282 (‎רפב‎) on folio 78v. Today the lateral margin on this folio was cropped. Additionally, he also mentions siman 195 (‎קצה‎) which no longer exists either).‎
    For a comparative manuscript see, Zurich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms Heid. 145 (ff. 76r-166v) where there is a complete copy of the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan but without Perets ben Elijah’s glosses. The text of the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan in Ms Heidenheim 145 is also divided into Simanim (numbered sections), numbered from 1 (‎א‎) to 289 (‎רפט‎) (the text and the index have the same number of chapters). There is also an index (ff. 167v-170v) which is divided into portions to be studied during the seven days of the week. The printed edition (Ed. Prin., Constantinople, 1510) has five more chapters than in this manuscript and ends with n°294 (‎רצד‎).‎‏ ‏As mentioned under the catchwords, the catchword on folio 83v does not correspond with the first word of the next page because it is in fact the last word of chapter 54 (Siman 54) of the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan. Therefore, no text is missing in this copy of the Sefer Mitsvot Qatan.‎
Provenance of the manuscript:
  • There is only one owner’s note:‎ f. 18v: bottom margin:
    ‎ Transcription:‎ אני [...] קלונימוס בהקר' ר' יעקב זצל' המכנ' קלמן מהנוועלט
    Translation:‎ I am Qalonimos son of the holy rabbi Jacob may the memory of the Just be blessed, known as Qalman from Hanfeld.‎ ‎(Hainfeld is a municipality near the city of Speyer in the Rhineland).
  • This manuscript was part of the collection of Moritz Heidenheim (1824-1898), a German Jewish scholar from Worms, who converted to Anglicanism. After several years studying in London, Heidenheim came to Zurich in 1864 and became an Anglican chaplain, where stayed until his death in 1898.‎
Acquisition of the manuscript: In 1899, the collection of 211 Hebrew manuscripts (189 paper and 22 parchment manuscripts) and 2587 printed books entered the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich. This collection encompasses a wide variety of subjects, including biblical, exegetical, halakhic, liturgical, grammatical, lexicographical, cabbalistic, astronomical and apologetical literature, and conveys above all, Moritz Heidenheim’s scholarly and scientific interests as a 19th century bibliophile (O. Franz-Klauser, 2006, pp.116, 241, 246).
No old shelfmarks but presence of a black seal from the Zentralbibliothek, Zürich stamped on the outer board at the end of the volume.‎
Manuscript catalogues:
  • J. Prijs, Die hebraïschen Handschriften der Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Im Auftrag der Verwaltung der Zentralbibliothek beschrieben von Joseph Prijs (7 vols.), vol. 2, Nr. 75, pp. 146-147.‎
  • A. Schechter, Die hebraïschen Manuscripte der Zentralbibliothek zu Zürich (Abt. Heidenheim) von Abraham Schechter. Abgeschlossen am 15. September 1921, (Hebrew), pp. 53-54.
Printed catalogues and secondary literature:‎
  • I. ben Joseph of Corbeil, Sefer Amudei ha-Golah (Sefer ha-SeMa’’Q) (Jerusalem: Mefitsi Or, 1959).‎
  • O. Franz-Klauser, Ein Leben zwischen Judentum und Christentum. Moritz Heidenheim (1824-1898) (Zurich: Chronos Verlag, 2008).‎
  • J. D. Galinsky, “Between Ashkenaz (Germany) and Tsarfat (France): Two Approaches Toward Popularizing Jewish Law”, in Jews and Christians in Thirteenth Century France, eds. E. Baumgarten and J. D. Galinsky (New York: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2015), pp. 77-92.
  • J. Galinsky, “Rabbis, Readers, and the Paris Book Trade: Understanding French Halakhic Literature in the Thirteenth Century”, in Entangled Histories. Knowledge, Authority and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century, ed. Elisheva Baumgarten, et al… (Philadelphia: 2017), 73-77; 286-292.
  • E. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices, Mystical, Magical and Pietistic Dimensions in the Tosafist Period (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000).‎
  • 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. 116-117.‎