4 volumes, comprising: (a) Weekday Evening prayers, 24 leaves (including 3 flyleaves), 190mm. by 115mm., complete, collation i14, ii10, single column, 11 lines in oriental script in black ink with nikkud, excellent condition, nineteenth-century cloth over pasteboards, with volume number "IX" on front cover; (b) Exodus, 10:1-13:16 (the weekly reading Bo), 24 leaves (including a blank flyleaf and the paper covers), 160mm. by 160mm., complete, collation i-ii12, single column, 9 lines in oriental script in black ink, contemporary binding of faded green silk over card (frayed at edges and spine), with title on silk tag pasted to front board (most probably volume number 38); (c) Exodus, 27:20-30:10 (the weekly reading Tetzaveh), 22 leaves (including 2 flyleaves), complete, collation i12, ii10, as previous item, original card binding (without silk cover) preserved within nineteenth-century cloth binding, volume number "XLII" on front cover; (d) Deuteronomy, 16:18-21:9 (the weekly reading Shoftim), 24 double-ply leaves, 112mm. by 95mm., complete, collation i-ii12, 7 lines of oriental script in black ink with nikkud added in brown ink, contemporary binding of green silk (in fresh and outstanding condition) preserved within nineteenth-century cloth binding, volume number "LX" on front cover; all excellent condition
1. Almost certainly written in Kaifeng, eastern China, during the rebuilding of the synagogue there, following its destruction (along with the community's books and scrolls) by the flooding of the Yellow River in 1642.
2. The Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews; acquired through the aid of Bishop George Smith of Hong Kong, who sent two Chinese Protestant converts, K'hew T'heen-sang and Tseang Yung-che, to Kaifeng in winter 1850 and summer 1851, to purchase the community's Torah scrolls and 63 books. These manuscripts were taken to Shanghai and described in the North China Herald and the journal Chinese Repository in 1851, and formed the basis of their publication on rice paper, Fac-Similes of the Hebrew Manuscripts, obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in K'ae-Fung-Foo (Shanghai 1851). The manuscripts were then sent to the Society's headquarters in London (and more extensively studied and discussed in Jewish Intelligence in 1853, later reprinted in the Jewish Chronicle). They remained there until 1924, when 59 of the volumes were sold to the Library of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. Pollak (pp.95-7) suggested that the remaining 4 were lost while on loan to the 1907 Palestine Exhibition in London. In fact they had been mislaid and remained in the holdings of the Society, until their recent rediscovery. They are offered here by the same society.
A. Neubauer, 'Jews in China', Jewish Quarterly Review 8 (1896), pp.123-39
M. Pollack, 'The Manuscripts and Artifacts of the Synagogue of Kaifeng', From Kaifeng ... to Shanghai: Jews in China, 2000, pp. 81-109
Of all the groups of Jews who scattered during the diaspora, none travelled as far or remained in such long isolation as the Jews of Kaifeng. It appears that in the ninth or tenth century about one thousand Jewish inhabitants of one of the Persian communities set out on a long eastward journey, eventually entering China and being invited by the emperor to settle in the regional capital of Kaifeng. In 1163 under the leadership of Ushad Leiwei (ushad meaning Rabbi in Persian) they built a synagogue and a study hall, and prospered, their numbers reaching 5000 in the seventeenth century. For much of their history they were completely isolated from other Jewish communities and, unless these were the Chinese Jews briefly noted by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century, they had no contact with any Westerners until the meeting of a Kaifeng Jew named Ai T'ien with a Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, in 1600. The community began to disintegrate in the early eighteenth century after the sudden death of their Rabbi without a successor. By the 1850s the synagogue was a deserted ruin.
The accounts of other Jesuit missionaries who came into contact with the community record that the Jews of Kaifeng had a large and extensive collection of books, perhaps even including the exceedingly rare Ecclesiasticus of Jesus ben Sira (of which Maimonides complained that he could not find a copy, and it was doubted to have existed until the discovery of fragments in the Cairo Genizah and among the Dead Sea Scrolls). Only a small remnant of this remarkable library survives. 59 volumes are in Cincinnati (as above). The only other recorded Hebrew manuscripts from Kaifeng are 6 Torah scrolls: London, British Library, Add.19250; Cambridge University Library, Add.283; Oxford, Bodleian, MS. Huntington Add.B; Vienna, ÖNB. Cod.Hebr.219; New York, JTS, Sulzberger collection L-12; Bridwell Library, Harrison collection; and 2 fragments of scrolls: New York, American Bible Society, ABS 698, Acc.37219; and 12 leaves from a Genesis scroll sold in our New York rooms, 18 December 1986, lot 88. The present manuscripts are likely to be the last to emerge from this community, and certainly are the last with a secure provenance leading back to the city of Kaifeng.
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