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Country of Location
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Library / Collection
Braginsky Collection
Manuscript Title:
Manuscript Title
Mahzor according to the Ashkenazic Rite (Nussah Ashkenaz)
Parchment · 118 ff. · 13.5 x 9.4 cm · [probably Rhineland] · [around 1400]
Manuscript Summary:
Manuscript Summary
This obviously much-used manuscript is in good overall condition; it is written in an elegant square and semi-cursive Ashkenazic script. It contains daily prayers and piyyutim for holidays and special occasions. In addition, it contains the entire text of the Haggadah, which at this time already tended to be copied out separately. The manuscript contains interesting evidence of the influence of censorship. During the Middle Ages, the prayer Alenu le-shabbeah was believed to contain an insult to Christianity. As in many other cases, here, too, the controversial passage was omitted by the copyist (f. 19r-v). In the 16th century, the entire manuscript was inspected by Dominico Irosolimitano in Mantua, one of the most active censors of Jewish writings in Italy. However, he did not expurgate a single passage, but merely signed the last page of the manuscript (f. 112v), thus confirming his inspection. (red)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
DOI (Digital Object Identifier
10.5076/e-codices-bc-b-0253 (
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Zürich, Braginsky Collection, B253: Mahzor according to the Ashkenazic Rite (Nussah Ashkenaz) (
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Document Type:
Document Type
14th century, 15th century
Liturgica hebraica:
Liturgica hebraica
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e-codices · 11/28/2014, 16:40:25

Jewish books almost always show evidence of active use. This is especially true of prayer books, which tended to be used intensively. The overall condition of this medieval prayer book, therefore, is noteworthy. The graceful Ashkenazic square and semi-cursive hands and the fine parchment used resulted in an elegant volume. It contains daily prayers, selected piyyutim for festivals and certain special occasions, a variety of special prayers, and the full text of the Passover Haggadah, the first page of which (folio 54v) is reproduced here. The Haggadah, which had grown within the daily prayer book from the days of the Geonim onward, was already considered to be a separate book when this prayer book was copied; its inclusion in a prayer book, however, was not yet uncommon.
The manuscript presents an interesting example of the impact of censorship. During the Middle Ages the Alenu le-shabbeah prayer, which is recited at the end of the statutory services, was believed to contain an implied insult to Christianity. The verse “for they prostrate themselves before vanity and emptiness and pray to a God that does not save” was seen as a reference to Jesus, in spite of the fact that the second part of the text is from Isaiah 45:20 and therefore precedes the New Testament. In this manuscript (fol. 19r–v), as is the case in so many others, the anonymous copyist decided not to include the problematic text. He left an open space, however, perhaps for a later owner to add the omitted passage.
In hindsight this common case of medieval Jewish self-censorship was only a prelude to the active inquisitional censorship that the Jews of Italy would have to deal with later. From the second half of the sixteenth century onward, Christian censors in Italy, many of whom were converted Jews, inspected Hebrew books, signed them, and often expurgated controversial passages (also see cat. no. 25). Jews usually had to pay for this “service.” Among the most important censors were Camillo Jaghel, Hippolitus Ferrarensis, and the censor of this prayer book Dominico Irosolimitano, who worked in Mantua. He did not expurgate any passages, but only signed the last page of the manuscript. Signatures and entries by censors are proof, of course, of Italian ownership at the time of censorship.

From: A Journey through Jewish Worlds. Highlights from the Braginsky collection of Hebrew manuscripts and printed books, hrsg. E. M. Cohen, S. L. Mintz, E. G. L. Schrijver, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 50.

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A Journey through Jewish Worlds. Highlights from the Braginsky collection of Hebrew manuscripts and printed books, hrsg. E. M. Cohen, S. L. Mintz, E. G. L. Schrijver, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 50-51.

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