The frame text: ca. 55 X 38 mm.
19th century binding. Marble paper pasted down in the front and back covers, with a parchment leaf ? at the spine, bearing Hebrew letters. On the front binding a paper stub with ink inscription: "Nro. 2" and in pencil: "Rabbi Joseph Ezobi
The frame and the illustrated initial word panel on fol. 1v were executed by the same artist after the text was written. The colours used are green, yellow, pink, blue and red tonalities and painted gold, while the text frame is in gold leaf. Part of the paint is flaked.
The pen decoration in red and blue of the Seder Hatanim was probably done by the scribe himself.
- I. One full page with an illustrated initial word panel: (fol. 1v)
- Pen-decoration: of floral motifs, above the title of Seder Hatanim (fol. 11v) in red, green and brown ink and for “La-menazeah” (fol. 14) in simple brown ink; simpler pen decoration within the text of Seder Hatanim delineating the title (fol. 11v) and some verses in red wavy lines (fols. 11v, 13v, 14, 15, 16).
The present manuscript includes the poem Ke’arat ha-Kesef and the Seder Hatanim according to the Italian rite.
Ke’arat ha-Kesef (“The Silver Platter”), is an educational, ethical and religious poem written in the thirteenth century by the poet Jehoseph ben Hanan ben Nathan ha-Ezobi, who originated from the region of Orange in Provence, from a city whose Hebrew name in the Middle Ages was Ezob (see: Forcano, M., Safata d’argent, p. 68). The name of the poem refers to the silver platter offered by each tribe to the Tabernacle during the wandering of the Children of Israel in the desert (Num. 7:13 ff.), whose weight was “130 shekels”. Although the strophes of the poem were originally 131, Ezobi declares that he wrote only 130 (see the second dedication on fol. 11). However, in our manuscript only 129 strophes were copied, one missing on fol. 6, and one on fol. 9 (see: “Ke’arat”, in Nifla’im, in Hebrew, 1912, p. 7b rows 7-8; and p. 8a, row 26). The poem is preceded by a rhymed dedication by the Ezobi to his son (fol. 1), and followed by another poem, "נפש קנה מוסר", which glorifies the “Silver Platter” (fol. 10). Only six verses "out of ten" of this poem are copied [as a note copied by the scribe states on fol. 9v; cfr. also Oxford, Bodl. Lib., Can. Or. 29 (Neobauer No. 1980/6), fol. 139v; for full version of this poem, which is composed of forty verses, see: “Ke’arat”, in Nifla’im, in Hebrew, 1912, p. 8b]. At the end of this additional poem is the poet’s summation and a statement that “it was composed inPerpignan by the sage Rabbi Jehoseph ha-Ezobi” for his beloved son on the occasion of his wedding (see in our manuscript on fols. 10-10v). Following are ten more verses dedicated to his son and to the value of this precious present (fols. 10v-11).
Ke’arat ha-Kesef was well-known during the Middle Ages mainly in Spain and Italy. In the “Microfilm Reproductions Institute” at the Jewish National and University Library, more than 60 miscellaneous manuscripts from the 14th-16th centuries include the poem. The first printed edition of Ke’arat ha-Kesef was published inConstantinople in 1523. The poem was translated into Latin, first by the German Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin, in 1512-14, and later, in 1561, by the French Jean Mercier (see J. C. Wolf’s edition in: Bibliotheca Hebraea IV, 1733, 1140-67).
The second part of the present manuscript, originally left blank, consists of the blessings for the marriage ceremony (Seder Hatanim) according to the Italian rite, which includes piyyutim and Psalms typical of Italy since the late 14th century (see: Venice Siddur of Italian rite, 1627 and Ferrara Siddur of Italian rite, 1693).
The two texts of Ke’arat ha-Kesef and Seder Hatanim are written in two different scripts and inks, each by a different hand. The scribe of the poem was probably Shmuel, as his name is emphasized on fol. 2v. The Seder Hatanim, which is copied in semi-cursive Italian script, could be a later addition to the manuscript. The codicological features of the entire manuscript, such as quires of five leaves, the ruling of horizontal lines by ink with no trace of pricking, the clear distinction between the flesh and hair sides of the parchment (Beit-Arié, Hebrew Codicology, 1981, pp. 26, 78), as well as the script and the style of the decoration, clearly indicate an Italian origin, around the middle of the 15th century.
The ViennaKe’arat ha-Kesef was originally part of a larger manuscript, which was divided into three volumes. The other two volumes are today in the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma (mss. 3500 and 3501; see: Richler, Nos. 1375 and 1288) and contain works by Jedaiah ben Abraham Bedersi Ha-Penini (Provence, c. 1270-1340): the lyrical and ethical work Behinat Olam ("The Examination of the World"), the piyyut Bakashat ha-Memim, every word of which begins with the letter mem (מ') (both in Parm. 3500); and his “letter of Apology”, an attack on the anti-rationalists in the Maimonideans controversy, in Parm. 3501. The original whole manuscript was in the collection of Salomon Gottlieb Stern of Rohoncz (Hungary), and possibly divided by him, before 1846, the year in which the Parma Library purchased the main part of Stern’s collection, including the two Parma volumes as independent manuscripts (see: Richler, p. XXIII). On 14 February 1849, the Vienna manuscript and four other Hebrew manuscripts were purchased from the same collection by the Hofbibliothek of Vienna. The two Parma volumes have the same measurements, layout of the text, and were copied by the same scribe of the Ke’arat ha-Kesef in the Vienna manucript (Shmuel ?). Their style of decoration is the same as in the Vienna manuscript, even though they are decorated with initial word panels and marginal ornamentations on almost each page. The evidence that Parma 3501 ends with the catchword Ke'arat (קערת), fitting the beginning of our manuscript, strengthens the fact that they were originally part of the same manuscript. On the last flyleaf of the same volume (fol.96, a flyleaf), are two sales inscriptions dated "2 November 5391[=1630]" one of which is signed by "Giuseppe Ottolenghii".
The three volumes are missing a colophon, however, in the Vienna manuscript the initial letter shin of the name Shmuel is emphasized within the text on fol. 2v, possibly indicating the name of the scribe.
The miniature on fol. 1v of the ViennaKe’arat ha-Kesef is identical in style to the two full-page panels on fols. 37v-38 of Parm. 3500 (fig. #) decorating the end of the piyyut Behinat Olam and the beginning of the poem Bakashat ha-Memim. The three frames are decorated with fleshy curly leafs, gold beads, and golden frames for the text. They should be compared to the decoration of the Bodleian Double Tur (Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Can. Or. 79), dated 1438 and attributed to a Venice workshop (see: B. Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Isles. Italian Manuscripts, unpublished volume, no. 18), perhaps under the influence of the Laguna miniaturist Cristoforo Cortese (U. Bauer-Eberhardt, “Miniature Italiane in codici ebraici” in Il codice miniato – Rapporti tra il codice, testo e figurazione, Firenze, 1992, p. 432). See for example the miniature on fol. 133 of the Bodleian manuscript, depicting a teacher seated on a low bench, offering a book to a young pupil, standing in front of him, illustrating the Hoshen Mishpat Tur (opening with “explanation of difficult words”). The similar composition of the panel, including the framed initial word on a blue ground, as well as the colours, the use of gold leaf and the fleshy curly leaves indicate to the similarities of the style. Another comparison should be made with the second stage of the First Daniel Siddur, (B.L. Add. 26968; Narkiss, ibid., no. 8; U. Bauer-Eberhardt, ibid.), executed in the late 1430s, and also attributed to Cortese's workshop or school (see for example the panel illustration of Raban Gamliel teaching his pupils, at the bottom of fol.118, in the Haggadah). This stylistic comparison contributes in locating and dating our manuscript to theVeneto region between the end of the 1430s and beginning of the 1440s.