(2) His son, Halfon ben Sa'adyah (with family birth records dated 1469-1506 CE on pp. 647–648);
(3) Sa'adyah ben [?] Ownership note on p.1;
(4) Jacob ben Shalom el-Abyad (purchase note, p. 1, dated 1645 CE);
(5) Salem ben Sa'id Massakh (and another owner whose name was erased) their inscriptions, p. 1;
(6) R. J. Crawley (acquired, ca. 1877, substantiated by letters about the manuscript sent to Crawley, loosely laid in case);
(7) By descent to his son, George A. Crawley (his sale, Sotheby's, 9 May 1927, lot 74);
(8) David S. Sassoon (his sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 12 May 1981, lot 9);
(9) Valmadonna Trust Library, MS 11
David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts (Oxford, 1932), Vol. II, no. 964, pp. 604–607.
ibid. no. 942, pp. 607-608.
Michael Rigler, "Benaya the Scribe and His Descendants: a Family of Scribes from Yemen" Pe'amim 64, (Summer, 1995), pp. 54-67, (Hebrew) and the extensive sources listed there, including a complete list of surviving manuscripts of Benayah and his family.
On the accuracy and beauty of Benayah manuscripts, see Colette Sirat and Malachi Beit Arie, Manuscrits médiévaux en caractères hébraïques portants des indications de date jusqu' à 1540, I, 1972, p. 171, and III, 1986, p. 112.
On Benayah's authorship of Emunah Yotzrah, see Malachi Bet-Arie, "A Colophon-Poem in Yemenite Pentateuch Manuscripts" in Papers on Medieval Hebrew Literature Presented to A.M. Habermann on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday, Jerusalem 1977, pp. 37-50 (Hebrew); as well as: Yehuda Ratzabi "An Early Scribe's Song in Praise of the Torah", Alei Sefer 3, pp. 54-62 (Hebrew).
On Mahberet ha-Tijan, see J. Derenbourg, Manuel du Lecteur d'un Auteur lnconnu, publié d'aprèss un manuscrit venu du Yémen (Paris:1871), pp. 6-150.
EXHIBITED: A Sign and a Witness: 2000 Years of Hebrew Books and Illuminated Manuscripts, New York Public Library, October 1988—January 1989, Exhibition object no. 26: Illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, ed., Leonard Singer Gold (New York/Oxford, 1988), p. 39.
Benayah ben Sa'adyah has long been acknowledged as the greatest scribe of Yemenite Jewry and as patriarch of an entire family of Yemenite scribes which flourished beginning in the latter half of the fifteenth century, in and around the capital, San'a. In addition to Benaya himself, at least four of his children (three sons and a daughter) and two of his grandsons followed in his footsteps and penned Hebrew manuscripts. According to Yemenite tradition, the Benayah family is said to have copied some 400 volumes. Many of them are unilingual Pentateuchs (Tijan), which include the large and small masorah in the margins and Mahberet ha-Tijan, which deals with matters affecting the traditional reading of the scriptural text and with grammar. Sadly, of the total scribal output attributed to the Benayah family, only 36 books, less than ten percent, have survived; only a mere thirteen volumes remain from the prolific production of Benayah himself. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the few surviving manuscripts of the scribe Benayah and his family remain so highly prized.
The books copied by Benayah and members of his family, particularly the Scriptures, are noted for accuracy and beauty, and for very good reason. The apparatus on p. 643 ends with the statement that the present work is "completely according to the arrangement of the book which was in Egypt, which was edited by Ben Asher...." The reference is of course to the work known as the Aleppo Codex, universally recognized since the time of Maimonides as the most accurate recension of the Hebrew Bible. The statement mirrors the words of Maimonides in his Hilkhot Sefer Torah. Maimonides had indeed personally examined "the book which was in Egypt, which was edited by Ben Asher." Benayah's confident assertion was based on his having meticulously adhered to the rules set forth by Maimonides. Scholars have subsequently established that there are nevertheless minor differences between the present manuscript and the Aleppo Codex. Thus, for example, while the text of Ha'azinu in the present lot comprises 67 lines, as in the Aleppo Codex and as in authentic manuscripts of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the division of the lines in Deuteronomy 32:25 proves that Benayah, while adhering to Maimonides' instructions (dividing at the word gam), could not have seen the Aleppo Codex itself (which divides at the other instance of the word gam in the same verse.)
p. 1: Ownership notes
pp. 2-3: Two full-page micrographic carpet pages with masoretic rubrics in micrographic script, arranged in multiple intersecting arcs within a circle, within a diamond diaper patternThe textual material of Yemenite carpet pages was often biblical, though in the present manuscript, only Masoretic notes are included.
pp. 4-77: Mahberet ha- Tijan (Masoretic and Grammatical Introduction to the Bible). The version presented here includes significant additional material not recorded by Derenbourg.
p. 78-79: Blank, save for pen trials.
pp. 80-644: Biblical text; Genesis, pp. 80-222; Exodus, pp. 222-342*; Leviticus, pp. 342-427; Numbers, pp. 427-544; Deuteronomy, pp. 545-644. *Three leaves in Exodus, comprising pp. 273-4 (Ex. 12:10-26), and pp. 323-6 (Ex. 34:11-35:20) bound out of order. Each page of biblical text features extensive micrographic decoration comprising the Masoretic apparatus which included both Masorah Magna and Masorah Parva, forming zigzags, diagonals, triangles and other geometric designs. Yemenite Hebrew micrography reached its zenith in the fifteenth century.
p. 645: Masoretic apparatus and scribal colophon. Between the apparatus and the colophon, Benayah declaims the manuscript's textual accuracy and masoretic fidelity, by virtue of its having been written in complete accord with the Aleppo Codex.
p. 646: Benayah's poem, Emunah Yotzrah. Includes references to the manuscript and reprises the date, as in the colophon.
pp. 647-648: Seven birth entries by early owners of the manuscript, with dates ranging from 1469 to 1506 CE .
pp. 649-50: Blank.
In both appearances of the date, in the colophon (p. 645) and in the poem (p.646), a later hand clumsily attempted to alter the date in order to make the manuscript appear older.
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