CJA Home Page
Historic Synagogues of Europe

Home page | Approach | Synagogue search | Map | Suggest a new building | Acknowledgments | Links | Contacts

Object Alone
Munich Meshal ha-Kadmoni
Object Detail

Building Date
Before 1458

Synagogue active dates

Reconstruction Dates

Architect/ Maker

Unknown |



Construction Material

Summary and Remarks

Our manuscript is a miscellany of treatises which includes at its beginning the book Meshal ha-Kadmoni by Isaac ibn Sahula, composed inSpainin 1281. It was copied with five other treatises, philosophical, medical and polemical, by two main scribes, Scribe A-Abraham, and Scribe C-Jacob, with Scribe B writing least, for an unknown intellectual patron. 

Meshal ha-Kadmoni is the only illustrated part of the manuscript, except for Sefer ha-Nizzahon (Book of the Triumph) which has some decorated space fillers and catchwords by Jacob, Scribe C.

Our manuscript has one of five early illustrated copies of ibn Sahula’s Meshal ha-Kadmoni, if not the earliest. They were all produced during the second half of the fifteenth century, two in south Germany in the 1450s: our manuscript (Munich Cod.heb. 107; Gronemann 2006, I:8-9; 60-66) and one in Oxford ('Oxf.1'; Bodl. Lib. MS Opp. 154), dated 1450 (fol. 59v), probably fromUlm (Gronemann 2006, I:8; 52-60). Three other copies were produced in northItaly between 1470 and 1491: one housed inOxford ('Oxf.2'; Bodl. Lib.MSCan. 59; Gronemann 2006, I:9; 67-71); another inMilan ('Milano'; Ambrosian Library, MS X 112 Sup.), dated 1483 and localised inBrescia (fol. 80; Gronemann 2006, I:10; 71-74); and the fifth manuscript is the Rothschild Miscellany in Jerusalem ('Rothschild'; IM MS 180/51), produced in the Veneto after 1470 (Gronemann 2006, I:9-10; 78-109). There are also two incunabula (1491, 1497/8) and many printed editions (Gronemann 2006, I:7).

The five manuscripts are not identical. The text of each story is divided into several episodes which follow similar basic patterns with some variations. The depictions largely follow a uniform iconography and composition and are mostly at the end of the episodes, dictated by the caption or the respective text, but each copy is rendered in a completely different style. Gronemann shows (2006, I:32, 50-51) that the text and titles for the illustrations appearing in the north Italian group of Meshal ha-Kadmoni (Oxf.2, Milano and Rothschild) are based either on our manuscript or, more probably, on a similar copy which transferred this genre from Germany to Italy, since our manuscript apparently never left Germany (see History). For more about the text see Loewe (2004:cxi-cxix).    

It is hard to tell whether Ibn Sahula’s original copy included illustrations since no copy has survived from his days or later fromSpain, although in some places in the text the author refers to the astronomical diagrams (fols. 81v, 83, 85, 87v, 89). In any case, there is no way to reconstruct the hypothetical Spanish copy and therefore Gronemann suggests that the 15th-century Ashkenazi illustrations are a new departure which includes up to 85 illustrations (Gronemann 2006, I:29).

The 84 pen-drawn illustrations of Meshal ha-Kadmoni in our manuscript lack 4 scenes (Gronemann 2006, II:Table 4b, lines 19, 20, 22, 62). The illustrations are placed in the centre of the text space below the captions which describe them. They were executed by one artist in greyish-black ink over plummet underdrawings, except for two (fols.1 and 50) by Scribe A, Abraham, who also corrected some depictions in brown ink (see Decoration Programme) and probably executed some of the underdrawing (e.g. fols. 29v, 43). The illustrations present human and animal imagery in different configurations, compositions and postures (fols. 46v, 47v, 70, 71v, 74), in a yellowish-grey landscape and arranged in open and symmetrical compositions.

The empty spaces breaking the text column into three (fol. 3), or the large spaces left between text, captions and illustrations, suggest that the captions and illustrations were added after the writing was done.

Robert Suckale suggested that our manuscript was produced in Regensburg in the workshop of the Viennese Martinus Opifex who worked for a while in Regensburg (Suckale 1987:109-110); and further suggested that the cursory and minimal rendering of the illustrations pointed to their being just preparatory drawings (Vorzeichnungen) awaiting completion. Both contentions were later refuted by Simona Gronemann (2006, I:61, 143-150).

Gronemann shows that the style of illustrations in our manuscript is very close to a group of manuscripts from southern Germany, perhaps Swabia, especially to two copies produced in Augsburg in the 1440s: Der Edelstein by Ulrich Boner, Augsburg 1447 (Heidelberg Universitätsbibliothek, MS cpg.314) and a Calendar, c.1457, from Augsburg or Regensburg (Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS mgf. 557).

Together withMunich, these two manuscripts share a seemingly cursory style, shaky lines and scanty thin wash colouring. The figures are voluminous and animated and some of them display extreme gestures. They have large hands and the facial features are minimally rendered with high forehead, closed eyes drawn as two inverted loops, the nose a vertical line with a short horizontal one, and the lips marked by two slightly undulating lines, the upper longer than the lower (Gronemann 2006, I:144 and  comparisons II:figs. 34-48). The style suggestsAugsburgas a possible place of production for the illuminations of our manuscript around 1450 but before 1458, when the owner recorded the birth of his firstborn son (fol. 204v; see History). However, since Jews were expelled fromAugsburgin the year 1438, the manuscript could have been produced before that, or if later, then nearby, perhaps inRegensburg(Gronemann 2006, I:243).


Suggested Reconsdivuction

Marginal annotations for the Book of the Triumph by a later hand (e.g. fols. 108, 148). Fol. 175v, a still later hand added in the upper margin: The reason for not speaking to Christians on the Ten Days of Repentance is based on the verse "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time" (Amos 5:13). It is written above a consoling text that the Lord "will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel" (Amos 9:14): נ"ל שעת'(ה) בעי"ת (=נבאר להלן שעתה בעשרת ימי תשובה) אין לדבר עם הנוצרים ואם מבקשי'(ם) תשובה למה אנו נמנעים לדבר עמם יאמר להן תשובה מזה הפסוק בעמוס "לכן המשכיל בעת ההיא ידום כי עת רעה היא" (עמוס ה יג), ואני הדיוט השבתי זה למשומד אחד לפני הרבה מלומדים והודו לי אב"י (אחינו בני ישראל). Fol. 113: In the outer and lower margins are corrections by a later hand to a Latin verse from St. Luke, transliterated into Hebrew characters with many errors by Scribe C, Jacob: "The Latin has mistakes due to the scribe's errors, thus: Pater Abraham Miserere mei …" (Lk. 16:24-25): הלטין טעות הוא/ משו'(ם) טעות סופר/ וכך הוא/ פַטֵר אברהם מִיזְרֵרֵי/ מֵעִי עֵט מִיטֵי לַזְרום/ אִינטִינגווַט/ אין אֵקְשְטְרֵימום דִיְגטִי/ זואִי אִין אַקְווַם/ אוט רֵיפֿרִייֵרִיט לִינְגְווַאם מֵיעַם קְוִויאָה קְרוצְיוֹר אִיקְפֲֿלִמַא אֵיט דִיקְצִיט אברהם וִילִי רֵיקורְדַרֵי קְוִויאָ/ ... רֵיצִיפִישְטֵי בוֹנַא אין ויטַא טואַה אֵיט לזרוש זִימִילְטַר מַלַא נונְק אִאוּטֵם אִיק קוֹנְסְלַטור טוּ/ וֵראֺקרוצְיאַרוש. Fol. 204v: Birth and death inscriptions from the years 1458-1461 by the owner (son of R. Jacob bar Meir), in semi-cursive Ashkenazi script in brown and greyish ink: Anshel my firstborn son was born on Thursday evening, 12th Shevat 5218 (February 5th 1458): בני בכורי אנשל שי(חיה) נולד ליל ה' יב' שבט ופרטו אשירה לה' כי גאה גאה רי"ח לפ"ק. My daughter Reichlin was born on Thursday evening, 28th Sivan 5219 (June 29th 1459) and died on the 22nd of Kislev 5220 (November 27th 1459): בתי רייכליין שת(חיה) נולדה כח' סיון ליל ה' רי"ט לפ"ק ופטירת כב' כסליו ר"ך לפ"ק. My daughter Gottlein was born on Thursday evening, the New Moon of Kislev 5221 (November 23rd 1460): בתי גוטליין שת(חיה) נולדה ליל ה' ר"ח כסליו רכ"א לפ"ק. The death of my father, R. Jacob bar Meir, on Monday evening, 5th Tishrei 5222 (September 18th 1461): פטירת אב' ער' (אבי, עטרת ראשי) ז"ל הר"ר יעקב בר' מאיר ז"ל ה' תשרי ליל ב' שנת רכ"ב לפ"ק תנצב"ה. Signatures of witnesses at the bottom of the page. Inscriptions of librarians and researchers: • Front pastedown, on the exlibris in plummet: contents of the manuscript in German. manuscript in German Exlibris and stamps: Front pastedown: an exlibris of the Bavarian Court and State Library (229 x 156 mm.) with the arms of Elector Maximilian I from 1630 (Dressler 1972: B3ab), stuck over his earlier exlibris of 1618 (175x135 mm.), before he became Elector in 1623 (Dressler 1972: A3a-f). On fols. 1, 203v, 204 a 19th-century oval stamp of the BSB: BIBLIOTHECA/ REGIA/ MONACENSIS. Signatures: Front cover, lower edge and fol. 1, lower edge, in black ink: 3.63 (Duke's library, Prommer's signature). Sticker on spine and front flyleaf, in plummet: 97. Front and back pastedowns, in plummet; stickers on spine and back pastedown: Cod. hebr. 107 (current signature). The manuscript was probably owned by Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (Striedl 1952:218) and was purchased in 1558 together with his entire collection by Duke Albrecht V for his Court Library. The Hebraist Widmanstetter's interest in the texts of this manuscript, especially the Book of the Triumph, is obvious, because of its polemical character and arguments against Christianity. Indeed, another Hebraist, Sebastian Münster (1488-1552), also owned a copy of this text, which he made from Johannes Reuchlin's copy (Burnett 2000:176).

Some leaves are missing (see Quires above) and some are torn (e.g. fol. 57). There are scribbles on the text (fol. 11v). The paper was damaged by ink (fol. 176).

Present Usage

Present Usage Details

Historical significance: Event/Period

Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore

Historical significance: Person

Architectural Significance: Style

Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration

Urban significance

Significance Rating

Condition of Building Fabric

Burnett 2000 S. Burnett, "A Dialogue of the Deaf: Hebrew Pedagogy and Anti-Jewish Polemic" in Sebastian Münster, "Messiahs of the Christians and the Jews (1529/39)", Classics and Religious Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln 2000:168-190. Dover Pub. New York Sebastian Brant, The Ship of Fools 1494, Dover Pub. New York 1962. Dressler 1972 F. Dressler, Die Exlibris der Bayerischen Hof- und Staatsbibliothek, 17. bis 20. Jahrhundert, Wiesbaden 1972. Goldschmidt 1974 A. Goldschmidt, An Early manuscript of the Fables of Avianus, Princeton 1974. Gronemann 2006 S. Gronemann, The Extant 15th Century Ashkenazi Illuminated Manuscripts of “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” by Isaac ibn Sahula, Ph.D Thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2006 (Hebrew). Haberman 1953 A. M. Haberman, “Shira Ivrit Beyemei Habeinaim”, Qiryat Sefer, 29 (1953), pp. 199-203 (Hebrew). Hansen 1985 W. Hansen, Kalenderminiaturen des Stundenbuecher, Mittelarters Leben in Jahrestlauf, Munich 1985. IJA 1982 Jerusalem, The Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art: Rothschild Index Cards IJA 1982. Loewe 2004 R. Loewe (ed. and trans.), “Meshal haqadmoni”, Fables from the Distant Past, Oxford 2004. Rothschild Miscellany (facsimile). Rosenthal 1913 E. Rosenthal, "Zu den Anfängen der Holzschnittillustration in Ulm" in: Monatshften für Kunstwissenschaft, VI ( 1913), pp. 197-198. Schirmann 1997 J. Schirmann, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France, Jerusalem, 1997:345, 347- 364, 366, 533 (Hebrew). Scholem 1929-30 G. Scholem, "Prakim Metoldot Safrut Hakabala, Qiryat Sefer, (1929-1930), pp. 118-119 (Hebrew). Schunke 1958/60 I. Schunke, "Zur Frage der Münchener Hofbuchbinder", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 2 (1958-1960), pp. 719-728. Spurr 2001 J. Spurr, "A Profane History of Early Modern Oaths", Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, vol. 11, (2001) pp. 37-63. Steinschneider 1893 M. Steinschneider, Die Hebräischen Übersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher, Berlin 1893. Steinschneider1895 M. Steinschneider, Die Hebräischen Handschriften der K. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in München, Munich 1895. Striedl 1952 H. Striedl, "Die Bücherei des Orientalisten Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter," Serta Monacensia. Franz Babinger zum 15. Januar 1951 als Festgruss dargebracht, eds. H. J. Kissling, A. Schmaus, Leiden 1952:200-244. Suckale 1987 R. Suckale, "Die Regensburger Buchmalerei von 1350-1450", Regensburger Buchmalerei, Munich, 1987, pp. 109-110. Talmage 1984 ר’ יום טוב ליפמן מילהויזן, ספר הנצחון. צילום מהדורת הקשפן, אלטדורף-נירנברג 1644, מבוא ע"י אפרים תלמג', ירושלים 1984 (R. Yom Tov Lipmann Muelhausen, The Book of Triumph. Photograph of הקשפן Edition, Altdorf-Nuremberg 1644, Introduction by Ephraim Talmage, Jerusalem 1984).

Short Name
Full Name

Photograph Date


0 Coordinates: 0.000000, 0.000000