The text of the manuscript, Moreh nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed) is a philosophical work by Maimonides (ca. 1135-1204). Shortly after its completion in the 1190’s it was translated from its original Arabic into Hebrew by Samuel ibn Tibbon and in this translation, it usually appears in different manuscripts, as well as in our manuscript.
The first scribe of our manuscript states in the colophon at the end of the text of Moreh nevukhim that he, Moses son of Abraham, finished the copying in 1491. He also mentions that he worked on it during 29(!) years, until his old days because of the bad things that he passed through.
Many initial words of Moreh nevukhim are enclosed within decorative panels executed in pen work. The second part of the manuscript, after the colophon, is Glossary by Samuel Ibn Tibbon to Moreh Nevukhim copied by another hand in less calligraphic script, but similar to the script of the main scribe, without any decoration.
Although the manuscript was copied in Ashkenazi semi-cursive script, its codicological features point to the North Italian origin (see Hebrew Palaeographical Project, J 32). As well, the pen works decoration, its motifs and style points to Northern Italy. Such panels appear in other Hebrew manuscripts from that region in the second half of the 15th century, as for example in Ferrarese manuscript produced in 1465 (London, Brit. Lib., Harley 5686).
Parchment, I + 135 leaves
Full page: (229-235) x (185-190) mm
Text space: (155) x (130-132) mm
The text is written by two scribes in similar scripts:
Fols. 1-127v – by Moshe ben Abraham
Fols. 128-135 – by Scribe B
written in Ashkenazi semi-cursive script and Ashkenazi square script for initial words in brown (Moshe) and grayish (Scribe B) ink.
NNumber of columns
The text is written in two columns except for fol. 68 (one column: end of the second part), fol. 69v (three columns) Fol. 127v (one column: end of Moreh Nevukhim and colophon).
Number of lines
: Moreh Nevukhim
26-35 lines per page
: Glossary to Moreh Nevukhim
32-44 lines per page
Fols. 1-103: Ruling by plummet for the margins and by ink for the lines for every page. There are 26-35 horizontal lines and 1+1 vertical lines. After fol. 103 the ruling is not clear: the scribe used stylus also for lines which can be seen on the hair side, but not on every leaf. For margins the stylus and plummet were used, sometimes one on the other, almost on every page. From fol. 120 just the frame is ruled by plummet (see Hebrew Palaeographical Project, J 32).
The pricking is located on the upper, lower, inner and outer margins (fols. 104-119). Double-pricks mark the longer lines which are the first and the last one. Sometimes the pricking is done for the frame only (e.g. fols. 24-31; see Hebrew Palaeographical Project, J 32).
18 quires of 8 leaves each except for I8-1 (The first folio with the text is missing); XVI8-1 (fol. 123 is single leaf, no text is missing); XVII6-1 (fol. 129 is single leaf, no text is missing); XVIII2).
Mostly the hair side faces the hair side, but not always (e.g. fols. 40-47). Hair side of the parchment is easily distinguishable from flash side.
The horizontal catchwords are written in the lower left hand corner on the final verso of each quire, till fol. 111v. Usually, they are enclosed within decorative frames.
Late 18th century half-leather binding. Wave-like backing with gold lettering and a signature plate made of paper with the inscription in brown ink: Maimoni / of / philosopher.
The decoration was made in one stage by the scribe:
- Decorative penwork panels for initial words (in red and brown ink, filled with large foliate motifs, in two of them human heads and a dog are incorporated) (e.g. fols. 21, 26v, 29, 55, 55v).
- Catchwords surmounted by a gable-like decoration (e.g. fol. 55v).
- Pointing hand (fol. 35v).