Auction Closed

November 20, 08:47 PM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 USD

Lot Details



47 folios (6 1/8 x 3 5/8 in.; 156 x 93 mm) on paper; early (contemporary?) foliation in pen in Hebrew characters (excepting f. 20, which is foliated in Arabic numerals) in upper-outer corner of recto, with errors (modern foliation in pencil on ff. 19, 44, 46-47; blank between ff. 13-14 not foliated); written in elegant eighteenth-century Sephardic square (titles, incipits, and some initials) and semi-cursive (text body) scripts in brown ink on nineteen to twenty-one lines per page; ruled in blind (ff. 46v, 47v ruled in pencil); justification via dilation and contraction of letters and use of anticipatory letters; horizontal catchwords in lower margins of most pages; intermittent vocalization of individual (usually foreign) words; Portuguese text on ff. 24r, [29r], 43v-[44v]; occasional marginal insertions in hand of primary scribe; text added in a different hand on ff. 46v, 47v. Slight scattered staining; light browning and foxing; edges uneven and corners rounded; pages closely cropped, sometimes affecting individual letters; intermittent modern marginal pencil markings; short tears in gutters at foot of ff. 16, 18, in lower edges of ff. 21, 39, and in upper edges of ff. 22, 31, 34-35, mostly not affecting text; small repairs in gutter at foot of f. 17 and in upper edge of f. 21; f. 19 repaired and mounted on guards with some loss of text in margins. Modern gilt-tooled brown calf, by Weitz-Coleman NYC; title, place, and date lettered in gilt on upper board; spine in six compartments with raised bands; edges gilt; modern marbled paper flyleaves and pastedowns. Housed in a large matching modern gilt-tooled brown calf folding case, by Weitz-Coleman / NYC, slightly scuffed; title, place, and date lettered in gilt on upper board; spine in six compartments with raised bands.

An important source for understanding the history, religious life, and customs of British Sephardim in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Rabbi Moseh Gomes de Mesquita (1688-1751), a member of the Ets Haim yeshiva who sat on the rabbinical court of Amsterdam, was appointed Haham (Chief Rabbi) of the Sephardic community of London in March 1744, in which capacity he served until his death. The present manuscript, apparently written in his hand, can be divided in two. The first part (ff. 1r-13r) comprises prayers recited in the Sephardic synagogue on several historical occasions: following a severe drought in England (1740-1743), the promulgation of an edict of expulsion against the Jews of Prague, Bohemia, and Moravia by Maria Theresa (1744), and news of events related to the Jacobite rising (1745) and its suppression by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1746). The second part (ff. 14r-45v) is a formulary reproducing the texts of numerous legal documents related to marriage (including levirate marriage), divorce, halitsah (the dissolution of leviracy), kashrut certification, the licensing of ritual slaughterers, and the creation of a power of attorney within the Sephardic community. According to scholar of British Sephardic history Moses Gaster, “Of [Gomes de Mesquita’s] literary works or any other achievements nothing has been preserved.” While some of his teshuvot (responsa) and a few other writings have in fact survived, the present lot would appear to be the most significant manuscript of his extant.


ff. 1r-2v: a prayer recited in response to drought;

ff. 3r-7r: “a prayer that I instituted in response to the edict of expulsion of Prague and Bohemia” in 1744;

ff. 7v-8v: “the first supplication I instituted against the rebels” of the Jacobite rising (1745);

f. 9r-v: “the first prayer I instituted immediately upon hearing of the victory” of Prince William Augustus during the Battle of Culloden (April 1746);

ff. 10r-13r: “the last prayer I instituted over the conclusion of the victory against the rebels”; f. 13v: blank;

ff. 14r-20v: seder ha-get, laying out the steps of the divorce ceremony under various circumstances according to the rites of Salonika and Amsterdam – “and so I practiced here in London” (f. 18v) – including a sample get (writ of divorce) sent from London to Amsterdam (ff. 19v-20r), the year used therein being 5506 (1746);

ff. 21r-23r: the text of the ketubbah (marriage contract), tena’im (conditions), and any addenda, with instructions for how to refer to the cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Maarssen, Kleve, and London;

ff. 23v-24r: the text of a ketubbah for a levirate marriage;

f. 24v: the text of a ketubbah for a deaf-mute man who marries a healthy woman;

f. 25r-v: the text of a new ketubbah meant to replace one that was lost;

f. 26r-v: the text of a power of attorney;

f. 27r: the text of a kashrut certificate for one who exports cheese or any other foodstuff out of his city;

f. 27v: the text of a license for a ritual slaughterer of fowl;

ff. [28r]-[29v]: the text of a power of attorney authorizing marriage by proxy;

f. 30r: the text of a license for a ritual slaughterer of livestock, including the attestation that the recipient “accepted upon himself […] that he would not be of the sect that acts leniently regarding rubbing the adhesions” between the lobes of the lungs;

f. 30v: ditto, but specific to the Sephardic community of London;

ff. 31r-39v: seder ha-get as above, with the difference that the husband here hands the get to a messenger rather than his wife;

f. 40r-v: the texts of documents authorizing the acceptance of a get on behalf of the wife by proxy;

ff. 41r-44v: instructions for the halitsah ceremony in Hebrew and Portuguese;

f. 45r-v: the text of a get halitsah attesting that the halitsah was performed properly; ff. 46r-47r: blank;

f. 47v: the E-l male rahamim prayer in a different hand.


American Jewish Historical Society (Waltham, MA), Ms. P 11


Moses Gaster, History of the Ancient Synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the Cathedral Synagogue of the Jews of England, Situate in Bevis Marks (London: n.p., 1901), 130-132.

Albert M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England: A History of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community[,] 1492-1951 (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1951), 165, 167-168.

Alex Kerner, Lost in Translation, Found in Transliteration: Books, Censorship, and the Evolution of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation of London as a Linguistic Community, 1663-1810 (Leiden: Brill, 2018).