Details & Cataloguing

Western Manuscripts & Miniatures


The Tite Miniature Torah Scroll, in Hebrew, manuscript on vellum [northern Europe / Ashkenaz (probably southern Germany or France), eighteenth century]
a scroll, 51 membranes, 120mm. by 14200mm., the text in 265 columns (each approximately 90mm. by 40mm. and with 42 lines) in dark brown ink in a formal square Hebrew script, annotated in red ink with Bible chapters, stitching between some membranes becoming loose, small areas of discolouration, else outstanding condition, with original or near-contemporary turned and elaborately chip-carved ivory rollers terminating in carved crowns (one set perhaps a near-contemporary replacement), Torah cloak embroidered with gold and silver thread, turned ivory Torah pointer, and early nineteenth-century mahogany portable Torah ark with silk lining and polished brass fittings, feet and silk curtain embroidered with gold thread (thread coming loose in one or two places)
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(1) Written in the eighteenth century, most probably for a wealthy Jew, whose itinerant travel prevented his regular attendance at normal religious ceremonies. Miniature portable scrolls have remained in use in this way up to the present day, accompanying observant Jews to the Western states of America in the early eighteenth century, and more recently under the sea in Israeli navy submarines and into Space on the Columbia space shuttle.

(2) Manuel J. Johnson (1805-59), Radcliffe Astronomical Observer at Oxford: his sale in our rooms, 27 May 1862, lot 57, as “one of the most elegant Hebrew Rolls ever offered for sale”, to Ellis for £30.

(3) Sir William Tite (1789-1873), the architect who designed the Royal Exchange in the City of London, antiquary and “book collector of omnifarious taste” (Quaritch, Contributions towards a Dictionary of English Book Collectors, 1969, pp.288). It was the subject of a public lecture by Tite, and this study privately printed in a monograph in 1863: A Bibliographical and Literary Account of a Manuscript Hebrew Roll Containing the Pentateuch. Notes for this publication prepared for and by him are enclosed. The sale of Tite's vast 4000-volume library took 16 days in our rooms in May and June 1874; the present scroll was lot 244 on 19 May, to Quaritch for £36, 10s; their Gen.Cat. (Supplement), 1875-77, p.904, no.11972.

(4) Jonathan Peckover of Wisbech (1835-82), younger brother of Lord Peckover; bought on 4 May 1876 from Quaritch for £50 (receipt enclosed); and by descent to his sister Algerina Peckover (1841-1927) of Sibald’s House; the collection principally dispersed in our rooms from 1925 to 1951, the present item most probably sold privately.

(5) Acquired by the father of the present owner in the London booktrade in the 1950s.


Catalogue Note

text and script

Torah scrolls are sacred and austere documents, prohibited from having any decoration or illumination. Their script must stand alone as the only remaining artistic outlet of the scribe, and that here is notable for its delicacy and raw beauty. Scrolls of such minute dimensions are of extreme rarity, and the present one of especial note for the interest shown in it by Christian collectors in the nineteenth century, doubtless as a record of the Old Testament in its earliest form.

The scroll comprises: Genesis (Bereshit  בראשית, membranes 1-14); Exodus (Shemot שמות, membranes 14-24); Leviticus (Vayikra ויקרא, membranes 24-32); Numbers (Bamidbar במדבר, membranes 32-42); and Deutronomy (Devarim דברים, membranes 41-51).

Western Manuscripts & Miniatures