PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED COLLECTION
The unparalleled precision and beauty of Spanish Hebrew bibles have long made them particularly desirable to collectors of Hebrew books. With the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century, Sephardic Jews were dispersed to every corner of the known world. With them they took their most precious possessions, their books. Even so, complete Hebrew bibles written in pre-expulsion Iberia are exceedingly rare.
In addition to the biblical text itself, the manuscript includes the masorah, the system of extra-biblical notations which ensures the correct transmission of the writing and reading of the Hebrew Bible. The masorah was copied into the margins of biblical codices and often fashioned by scribes into the kinds of geometric designs seen here. The manuscript includes both masorah magna and parva (great and small masorah) The notes of the masorah parva are expressed in extreme brevity, generally by abbreviations in the margins of the biblical text. The longer masorah magna, provides a more detailed explanation and expansion of the masorah parva as well as additional notes. Due to its more expansive nature it was not written at the side of the text but in the upper and lower margins of the page.
The biblical text is complete, comprising Genesis (pp.2-112), Exodus (pp.113-205), Leviticus (pp.205-70), Numbers (pp.271-363) and Deuteronomy (pp.363-441); the Masora Magna and Parva is written in a minuscule square Hebrew script along three margins and between columns, and is sometimes laid out in decorative patterns or simple micrographic diagrams (as on p.144, for example); weekly parashiyot are marked throughout in the margins and occasionally sedarim are noted as well (e.g., p.388); seven full-page Masoretic rubrics, comprising triple columns within triple text frames, executed in various large and small square Hebrew scripts follow the biblical text. In several locations, instances of the tetragrammaton or other divine names, salvaged from other sacred books or scrolls, have been pasted into the inner margins of this codex, apparently as a way of preserving their sanctity (see for example pp. 174, 248).
In the detailed colophon at the foot of p.441, the copyist identifies himself as Jacob ha-Sofer (the scribe), son of Moses ha-Sofer (the scribe), who wrote these five books of Moses for the illustrious:
(1) Don Abraham ben Joseph ibn Crespin, and completed it on Wednesday, the first day of the month of Adar in the year 5247 [January 24, 1487]. The Crespin family are recorded in Toledo from the late thirteenth century and rose to prominence the first half of the fifteenth century, mainly through land dealing (see Baer, Die Juden im Christlichen Spanien, 11, 1936, p.281, and J.B. Miguel, Toledot, Historia del Toledo Judio, c.1990, p.134). Jews with the Crespin name were also found in England before the expulsion of 1290 and the family name likely derives from one of several small villages named Crespin in the Pyrenees. According to a partially erased note on p.450, the Humash seems to have been sold by:
(2) Israel [...], of Toledo, to;
(3)Yakob ben Elijah, perhaps in the year 1590 (the date is unclear; and 1490 would make better historical sense). Sometime afterwards it passed to;
(4)Joseph ben Mordecai Soncino (p.450). The next several recorded owners all derive from the Ma'tuk family of Baghdad, among whose members were several notable scribes and poets, including:
(5) Solomon ben Sasson Ma'tuk (p.443),
(6) Mordecai ben Solomon Ma'tuk (p.442),
(7)Solomon ben Abraham ben Sasson Ma'tuk (p.454),
(8)David ben Sliman ben Abraham Ma'tuk (p.451) and,
(9) Joseph ben Sliman ben Abraham Ma'tuk (p.454);
(10) The next owner, Moses ben Daniel purchased the manuscript in 1740 (p.453); Other names recorded in the manuscript and presumably owners are:
(11)David Daushid (p.452), and;
(12) Yahya ben Saleh ben Salem (inside front cover);
(13) David Solomon Sassoon 1880-1942), with his armorial bookplate, his MS.916;
(14) Offered for sale in our New York rooms, 12 May 1981, Important Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts from the collection formed by the Late David Solomon Sassoon, lot 11, and
(15) purchased by present owner.
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