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One of the oldest Sephardi Torah scrolls A fragment of...

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One of the oldest Sephardi Torah scrolls
A fragment of a Sephardi Torah Scroll containing Gen 28:7-47:3, in Hebrew, manuscript scroll on vellum [probably Spain, perhaps Toledo, late 13th/early 14th century]
One of the oldest known Sephardi Torah scrolls and one of only six known medieval Sephardi scrolls that exhibit markings of unusual letters and unusual tagim.

630 x 3348mm, 6 sheets (Yeriot), of which five sheets of four columns, and one sheet (the current last one) of three columns, 50 lines to the column written in a fine Sephardi Hebrew square script, height of the text: 510mm; bottom margin: 70mm; top margin: 50mm; width between columns: 30mm; the text complete from Genesis 28:7-47:3, not written in the layout of wawei ha‘amudim; i.e., beginning every column with a waw; spaces occasionally left before the last word to justify the left column, occasionally the final letter of the last word on the line is widened; e.g. וינשק—32:1; מחנה—32:3, a large number of unusual letters and tagim (see below) (edges a little frayed, a little scuffed, small section cut from the foot of the final membrane, a few tiny modern repairs, else in excellent condition).

Provenance:
(1) C-14 tests conducted by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and palaeographical analysis date the present scroll to the late 13th or early 14th century, making it one of the oldest known Sephardic scrolls. Only three others are of a comparable date: Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2007, lot 38 (late 12th-early 13th century); Sotheby’s, New York, 19 December 2018, lot 213 (13th century); and Sotheby’s, New York, 24 December 2009, lot 142 (late 13th century). The strict laws that governed the production of Torah scrolls have ensured that few early examples survive, as those with any damage or wear would almost always be placed with great ceremony in a Genizah in the synagogue and left to decay naturally, making the present scroll an exceptional rarity.

(2) Bloomsbury Auctions, 9 December 2015, lot 105.

(3) The Schøyen Collection, MS 5567.

Script:
The scribe marks three tagim on the seven letters שעטנז גץ, as three thin vertical lines. In addition, there is one tag on the letter yod. However, this is in brown ink, differing from the black ink of the letters and the other tagim. Apparently, this mark—added to all cases of yod, is from a second hand. Neither the scribe nor the second hand marks one tag on the letters בדהחק. The scribe also marks unusual letters and unusual tagim—these are based on Sefer Tagei (further details below). He distinguishes the unusual tagim from the usual tagim (the latter marked regularly on the seven letters שעטנז גץ) by writing the unusual tagim in a taller fashion and in a calligraphic style, ending on top with a small black circle. A similar distinction between these two types of tagim is also found in the late 13th-century Sephardi scroll sold at Sotheby’s New York, 24 November 2009, lot 142. In some cases of unusual letters that have appendages on the bottom, a later hand erased these appendages, e.g. Gen 35:8, 19 ותמת (bottom of waw); Gen 35:10 ישראל (bottom of alef).

Text:
The oldest substantial surviving manuscripts of the Old Testament in Hebrew are from the late 9th and 10th centuries. The 10th-century Aleppo Codex is regarded as the yardstick of accuracy, as shown by the studies of Breuer and Penkower. A close comparison of the text in the present scroll with the Aleppo Codex reveals a high degree of accuracy, with only three spelling variants and two omissions that were later corrected. In terms of division of words, ביתאל is unusually written as one word, and not as two words (as in the Aleppo Codex). On this variant, see C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible,1897, pp.200‒202. One manuscript records this recurring difference (ביתאל as one or two words), as an East—West (Babylonia—Erets Israel) difference. However, it is not so recorded in other sources. This variant (ביתאל as one word) is found in several Ashkenazi manuscripts.

Unusual Letters and Unusual Tagim:
None of the early Eastern Masoretic Codices (like the Aleppo Codex, the Leningrad Codex, Sassoon 507, Sassoon 1053, etc.) employ unusual letters and unusual tagim. This system of markings originates in Sefer Tagei from the time of the Geonim. This system of markings can be found in various medieval scrolls (and some codices) from Ashkenaz, Sefarad, and Italy. They are especially prevalent in the Ashkenazi sources. Our Sephardi scroll is one of only six known medieval scrolls that exhibit these markings. The other five are: Sotheby’s, New York, 24 December 2009, lot 142; London, British Library, Harley 7619 (Marg. 1); Sotheby’s, New York, 10 December 2017, lot 168; Christie’s, New York, 10 December 1999, lot 171; Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Parma 3295.

In the same passage of Genesis in Sefer Tagei, there are 189 cases of unusual letters and unusual tagim; the present scroll has 68% of these cases. On the other hand, our scroll adds 42 new cases. Thus, of its own total tagim, 75% agree with Sefer Tagei, and 25% are new. In comparison, the scroll sold at Sotheby’s in 2009 had, in a selection of 6 chapters in Exodus, 60% of the Sefer Tagei cases. Of its own total of 98 cases there, 79% agreed with Sefer Tagei, and 21% were new. For additional medieval Ashkenazi examples (both scrolls and codices), with the details of their closeness to the original cases in Sefer Tagei, and the number of new cases they introduce, see Jordan S. Penkower, 'The Ashkenazi Pentateuch Tradition as Reflected in the Erfurt Hebrew Bible Codices and Torah Scrolls,' Erfurter Schriften zur Jüdischen Geschichte, Band 3: Zu Bild und Text im jüdisch-christlichen Kontext im Mittelalter, 2015, pp.118–141 (esp. p.139).

Christie's is grateful to Prof Jordan S. Penkower for his help in cataloguing this manuscript. For Prof Penkower's complete report, please apply to department.

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Time, Location
11 Jun 2024
UK, London
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[ translate ]

One of the oldest Sephardi Torah scrolls
A fragment of a Sephardi Torah Scroll containing Gen 28:7-47:3, in Hebrew, manuscript scroll on vellum [probably Spain, perhaps Toledo, late 13th/early 14th century]
One of the oldest known Sephardi Torah scrolls and one of only six known medieval Sephardi scrolls that exhibit markings of unusual letters and unusual tagim.

630 x 3348mm, 6 sheets (Yeriot), of which five sheets of four columns, and one sheet (the current last one) of three columns, 50 lines to the column written in a fine Sephardi Hebrew square script, height of the text: 510mm; bottom margin: 70mm; top margin: 50mm; width between columns: 30mm; the text complete from Genesis 28:7-47:3, not written in the layout of wawei ha‘amudim; i.e., beginning every column with a waw; spaces occasionally left before the last word to justify the left column, occasionally the final letter of the last word on the line is widened; e.g. וינשק—32:1; מחנה—32:3, a large number of unusual letters and tagim (see below) (edges a little frayed, a little scuffed, small section cut from the foot of the final membrane, a few tiny modern repairs, else in excellent condition).

Provenance:
(1) C-14 tests conducted by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and palaeographical analysis date the present scroll to the late 13th or early 14th century, making it one of the oldest known Sephardic scrolls. Only three others are of a comparable date: Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2007, lot 38 (late 12th-early 13th century); Sotheby’s, New York, 19 December 2018, lot 213 (13th century); and Sotheby’s, New York, 24 December 2009, lot 142 (late 13th century). The strict laws that governed the production of Torah scrolls have ensured that few early examples survive, as those with any damage or wear would almost always be placed with great ceremony in a Genizah in the synagogue and left to decay naturally, making the present scroll an exceptional rarity.

(2) Bloomsbury Auctions, 9 December 2015, lot 105.

(3) The Schøyen Collection, MS 5567.

Script:
The scribe marks three tagim on the seven letters שעטנז גץ, as three thin vertical lines. In addition, there is one tag on the letter yod. However, this is in brown ink, differing from the black ink of the letters and the other tagim. Apparently, this mark—added to all cases of yod, is from a second hand. Neither the scribe nor the second hand marks one tag on the letters בדהחק. The scribe also marks unusual letters and unusual tagim—these are based on Sefer Tagei (further details below). He distinguishes the unusual tagim from the usual tagim (the latter marked regularly on the seven letters שעטנז גץ) by writing the unusual tagim in a taller fashion and in a calligraphic style, ending on top with a small black circle. A similar distinction between these two types of tagim is also found in the late 13th-century Sephardi scroll sold at Sotheby’s New York, 24 November 2009, lot 142. In some cases of unusual letters that have appendages on the bottom, a later hand erased these appendages, e.g. Gen 35:8, 19 ותמת (bottom of waw); Gen 35:10 ישראל (bottom of alef).

Text:
The oldest substantial surviving manuscripts of the Old Testament in Hebrew are from the late 9th and 10th centuries. The 10th-century Aleppo Codex is regarded as the yardstick of accuracy, as shown by the studies of Breuer and Penkower. A close comparison of the text in the present scroll with the Aleppo Codex reveals a high degree of accuracy, with only three spelling variants and two omissions that were later corrected. In terms of division of words, ביתאל is unusually written as one word, and not as two words (as in the Aleppo Codex). On this variant, see C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible,1897, pp.200‒202. One manuscript records this recurring difference (ביתאל as one or two words), as an East—West (Babylonia—Erets Israel) difference. However, it is not so recorded in other sources. This variant (ביתאל as one word) is found in several Ashkenazi manuscripts.

Unusual Letters and Unusual Tagim:
None of the early Eastern Masoretic Codices (like the Aleppo Codex, the Leningrad Codex, Sassoon 507, Sassoon 1053, etc.) employ unusual letters and unusual tagim. This system of markings originates in Sefer Tagei from the time of the Geonim. This system of markings can be found in various medieval scrolls (and some codices) from Ashkenaz, Sefarad, and Italy. They are especially prevalent in the Ashkenazi sources. Our Sephardi scroll is one of only six known medieval scrolls that exhibit these markings. The other five are: Sotheby’s, New York, 24 December 2009, lot 142; London, British Library, Harley 7619 (Marg. 1); Sotheby’s, New York, 10 December 2017, lot 168; Christie’s, New York, 10 December 1999, lot 171; Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Parma 3295.

In the same passage of Genesis in Sefer Tagei, there are 189 cases of unusual letters and unusual tagim; the present scroll has 68% of these cases. On the other hand, our scroll adds 42 new cases. Thus, of its own total tagim, 75% agree with Sefer Tagei, and 25% are new. In comparison, the scroll sold at Sotheby’s in 2009 had, in a selection of 6 chapters in Exodus, 60% of the Sefer Tagei cases. Of its own total of 98 cases there, 79% agreed with Sefer Tagei, and 21% were new. For additional medieval Ashkenazi examples (both scrolls and codices), with the details of their closeness to the original cases in Sefer Tagei, and the number of new cases they introduce, see Jordan S. Penkower, 'The Ashkenazi Pentateuch Tradition as Reflected in the Erfurt Hebrew Bible Codices and Torah Scrolls,' Erfurter Schriften zur Jüdischen Geschichte, Band 3: Zu Bild und Text im jüdisch-christlichen Kontext im Mittelalter, 2015, pp.118–141 (esp. p.139).

Christie's is grateful to Prof Jordan S. Penkower for his help in cataloguing this manuscript. For Prof Penkower's complete report, please apply to department.

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Time, Location
11 Jun 2024
UK, London
Auction House
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