(2) Nethanel ben Shabbetai Norzi (acquisition note, May 5233=1473. Acquired upon the division of assets among four family members: Nethanel, his brother, Noah Raphael, and their uncles, Eliezer and Jehiel, f. 4r;
(3) Jacob ben Nethanel Norzi (list of books in his possession, 5279=1519), f. 4r
(4) Hezekiah ben Nethanel [of the same family?]
(5) Record of family [unknown] births, 5241–5261=1481–1501, f. 4r
(6) Herzoglicher S. Meiningischer Bibliothek (stamp f. 269v and shelfmark on lower pastedown and spine)
(7) Leo Samuel Olschki, antiquarian bookseller in Venice (d. 1940). Sold to:
(8) Sholem Asch, Yiddish novelist, dramatist, and essayist. Sold by his heirs to:
(9) Valmadonna Trust Library, MS 4
Brad Sabin Hill, Manuscripts and Early Printed Books from the Library of the Valmadonna Trust; an exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library (New York, 1989), no. 3;
G. Margoliouth, Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum, Part I (London, 1899; reprinted 1969), pp. 146–147;
L.M. Ottolenghi, "Description of Decorated and Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts in the Ambrosiana Library," in Hebraica Ambrosiana (Milan, 1972), p. 133, no. IX, pl. VII;
F. Delitzsch, in Serapaeum, xx(1859), pp. 369-372.
Jacob Maitlis, "Encounters with Sholem Asch" in Yidishkayt, Tel Aviv: February 1977, p. 23 (Yiddish)
This illuminated manuscript of Psalms is lavishly decorated with elaborate flourished frames highlighting the opening words to many of the biblical verses. Delicately penned in red and blue ink, the frames are further embellished with marginal extensions composed of gold balls and a profusion of stylized flower buds in the late Gothic style of Northern Italian illumination. The text incorporates the longer version of the exegetical commentary of Rabbi David Kimhi (1160?-1135?). Widely known by the acronym RaDaK, Kimhi was the most prominent grammarian of the Hebrew language in the medieval period, surpassing all others in simplicity, comprehensiveness, and methodical presentation of the subject matter. Like all of RaDaK’s commentaries on the Prophets and Writings portions of the Hebrew Bible, his commentary on Psalms offers a master grammarian’s running gloss, interweaving text and commentary, and is liberally interspersed with philosophical interpretations, where pertinent.
Kimhi was born in Provence after his father fled the Almohade persecutions in Spain. Both his father and brother were accomplished grammarians in their own right and RaDaK’s philological writings would owe a great deal to their early influence. David Kimhi also shared his father’s penchant for anti-Christian polemic, which especially imbues RaDaK’s commentary to Psalms. Eventually, this polemic material would be collected in a separate work entitled Teshuvot la-Notzrim (Responses to the Christians), and be included in Lipmann Muelhausen’s Sefer Nizzahon. As a result, nearly all surviving copies of Psalms with RaDak's commentary have undergone the indignities of church censorship. The present volume bears the signatures, and the expurgations of two famous Church censors, both of them converted Jews, Domenico Irosolomitano and Giovani Domenico Carretto, each of whom signed the manuscript on the final page. As expected, the anti-Christian polemical sentiments expressed by Kimhi in his commentary to Psalms 2, 19, 22, 110, and 87 have been removed by scraping away the offending passages. What is surprising in this particular manuscript, however, is the absence of censorship in several other locations within the text where numerous other manuscript and printed editions of Psalms with RaDak’s commentary have indeed been censored (e.g. Psalms 7, 15, 72, 119, 129).
This may perhaps be explained by looking at the mechanics of how this manuscript was censored. In the present volume, the textual deletions have been accomplished by scraping away, rather than by the more typical method of inking over, the offending passages in Kimhi’s commentary. This has led some scholars of the Hebrew book to speculate that these erasures were not the work of a zealous censor but rather a preemptive removal of text by a sixteenth or seventeenth century Jewish owner of the manuscript. That would mean that when Irosolomitano and later Carretto would have examined the manuscript, a cursory perusal revealed that their work had been done for them. In the end, it remains unknown whether the scratched out passages in this copy were excised by operatives of the church or whether they were prophylactically expunged at the hands of a Jewish owner of the manuscript.
The present manuscript contains the entire Psalter, divided into 149 chapters, rather than the modern division into 150 chapters. This chapter division follows both the Aleppo Codex and Leningrad Codex, which combine Psalms 114 and 115 into a single unit.
The scribe of our manuscript, Shem-Tov ben Samuel Barukh was active in the years 1399-1404, with manuscripts written in Bologna in 1399 and 1400. In the following year, 1401, in addition to the present manuscript, Shem-Tov also completed at least two other manuscripts, one of Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch (preserved at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan) and the other the commentary by Ibn Ezra (held at the British Library in London).
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