Under Reconstruction!
Object Alone

Obj. ID: 21859
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Munich SeMaK, Belgium, 1337

© BSB, Photographer: Unknown,

Summary and Remarks

The manuscript Sefer Mitzvot Katan (Small Book of Precepts) was copied by the scribe Abraham, most probably for himself, as can be gathered from his words: "I shall be blessed to fulfill them" (fol. 141), meaning  he intended to use the book. Sefer Mitzvot Katan, also called Amudei Golah (Pillars of the Diaspora), was composed in c. 1277 by Rabbi Isaac ben Rabbi Joseph of Corbeil. The SeMaK is a compendium of contemporary halakhah interspersed with ethical homilies, parables and legends (Ta-Shma 2007:43). It is divided into seven "pillars" corresponding to the seven days of the week. In his enumeration of the precepts and their details Isaac was guided by the SeMaG (Great Book of Precepts) composed by Rabbi Moses of Coucy, but he omitted the extensive halakhic discussion in that work.

In the course of time many annotations were added. Most popular were those of Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil (MaHaRaF, d. c.1295), which were sometimes merged with the original text, as is the case in our manuscript. Perez was a student of Isaac of Corbeil, and his glosses on SeMaK were published in all editions of the SeMaK from the first 1510 edition inConstantinopleonward.

The division and order of the chapters of the SeMaK were fixed with the earliest printed edition, whereas in manuscripts they may vary, as well as the number of them (see Sefer Mitzvot Katan). In our manuscript there are 315 chapters with titles listed in the Table of the Contents (fols. 1-3), corresponding to the actual chapters in the text, except for one error: in the Table of Contents the scribe omitted the title of chapter 263 and instead wrote the title of chapter 264. Hence the titles from here on do not correspond until chapter 281, where the scribe corrected it. He also corrected the title numbers in the Table of Contents (278-280).

There are two variants of the divorce contract in our manuscript (fols. 62v-63): one is a formula by the author of SeMaK, Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil, the other by the commentator Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil. Both mention the date of 5097 (1337) and the city ofLouvainon the river Dijle. The only difference between the variants is that in the first the day is Sunday, 23 Sivan, whereas in the second it is Sunday, 20 Sivan. In some manuscripts of SeMaK actual names of people, places and dates are inserted into the divorce contract, but in other cases they are just copied from the exemplar or expressed in neutral terms. In our manuscript the people are nameless, but the place and date seem to indicate the actual place and date of its production.

Other manuscripts of SeMaK were circulating in Louvain in the 14th century, for example that preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Opp. 335, which was written, according to its divorce contract, in Louvain on 16 Sivan 1340. However, it does not resemble our SeMaK in other respects.

The Jewish community ofLouvainin theprovinceofBrabantwas established in the early 13th century, but as early as 1261 it was expelled from there by Duke Henry III. Jews later returned toLouvainand established a small community, and in 1311 had their own Rabbi. Shortly afterwards, the Jews of Brabant were accused of having introduced the Black Death (1348-9) and almost all of them were put to death by the locals and the authorities (Schwarzfuchs, 2007:281). Thus our manuscript was produced in the short period of relatively peaceful existence of the small Jewish community inLouvain,Brabant. 

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Munich SeMaK | Unknown
Object Detail
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Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Period Detail
Germany | Munich | Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB)
| Cod.hebr. 135 (Steinschneider 1985, No. 135)
Documentation / Research project
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Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
SeMaK (Small Book of Precepts) by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil with commentary by Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil, including: Table of Contents (fols. 1-3). SeMaK of 315 precepts (fols. 3a verso - 141).
Material Parchment II + 142 + I leaves. Both sides of the parchment are similarly treated; they are yellowish and matt. Measurements Full page: (269-272) x (202-210) mm. Text space: (187-191) x (143-145) mm. Scribes The text is written by a single scribe, except for fol. 88-88v (a paper leaf inserted at the end of the quire, replacing the original leaf with its text), which is written by two later hands. Script The text is written in square Ashkenazi script in dark brown ink, while the script of the commentary inserted within the text is written in smaller square Ashkenazi script. Fol. 88-88v is written in semi-cursive Ashkenazi script in dark brown ink. Columns The text is mostly written in three columns (width: 38-42 mm), except for the formula for the divorce contract which is written in one and two columns (fols. 62v-63), and the end of the text which is written in one column (fol. 141). Number of lines The text is written in 35 lines per page. Ruling Ruling in plummet, 36 horizontal and 1+2+2+1 vertical lines. The two top and two bottom horizontal lines are ruled across the entire page. On some leaves the margins are also ruled (e.g. fols. 39v and 79). Pricking Pricking in all margins. The pricking is now only noticeable in the inner margins, because the outer, upper and bottom margins were cropped. Quires 13 quires of 12 leaves each, except for I4 (Table of Contents fol. 3a, between fols. 3-4, is unnumbered), IX1+11 (fol. 88, a single paper leaf added to replace the missing original page), XII6. Catchwords Catchwords for quires are written in small square script in the lower left-hand corner. Many of them are cropped. Hebrew numeration None. Blank leaves Fols. 3v, 3a, 141v.
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Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
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Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
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Scribal Notes
The name of the scribe, Abraham, is marked by a diagonal row of v's on fols. 42v, 100, and by a v above each letter of the name on fol. 47v. Fols. 62v-63: Divorce contract (chapter 180): זה טופס הגט מאבי ספר הזה: [...] פלוני בר' פלוני [...] בעשרים ושלושה לחדש סיון שנת חמשת אלפים ותשעים ושבעה לבריאת עולם למנין שאנו מנין בלוביין מתא דיתבא על נהר דילא [...] עד כאן שיטת הגט מאבי הספר הזה מכאן ואילך סדר מרפ"א (מורנו הרב פרץ [בן] אליהו): באחד בשבת בעשרים יום לחדש סיון שנת חמשת אלפים ותשעים ושבעה לבריאת עולם למנין [...] This divorce contract is by the author of this book: […] Ploni bar Ploni (anonymous) […] on Sunday, Sivan 23, 5097 (=1337) […] here in the city of Louvain on the river Dijle […] Ploni bar Ploni (anonymous) […]. Here ends the divorce contract by the author of this book; from here on is the text of MaRaF (Morenu ha-Rav Perez [ben] Elijah): on Sunday, Sivan 20, 5097 (=1337) […]. Fol. 141: The SeMaK ends with an inscription in semi-cursive script written by Abraham stating that the Book of Precepts is completed: סיימתי ספר המצות שבח/ לדר בערבות וביושר זכיתי/ לסיימו כן אזכה לקיימו והינו/ יפרס עלי סוכת שלומו חזק/ ויגן ממרומו עלי ועל זרעי ויהיה בעזרי אלהי I have completed this book of precepts, praise the Lord that I was justly privileged to finish it, so that I shall be blessed to fulfill them (the precepts) … and my God will shield me and my seed from above, and be of help to me.
Trade Mark

Yellowish cardboard binding (280 x211 mm), probably of the 15th century. Stuck on the front cover is a mutilated vestige of dark brown leather, blind-tooled with a double frame of fillets and a central rectangle decorated with small semi-circular motifs. Modern grey linen spine with six single cords.

Watermarks of flyleaves: Unintelligible.

Decoration Program
  1. Full page decoration: fol. 3a verso is decorated with dragons, hunting and battle scenes, and decorative panels for the initial words opening the SeMaK.
  2. Marginal decorations: fol. 134v is decorated in the lower and outer margins with a rampant lion, a deer and a Star of David.
  3.  Many initial words opening various chapters are written in alternating brown and red letters.

       The numbers of the chapters and some other words within the text are written in red.

Suggested Reconsdivuction
• The text is accompanied by marginal annotations, corrections and additions written by later Ashkenazi hands, and some quotations on the relevant subjects, for example a quotation from Sefer Hasidim (fol. 136v). Owners' inscriptions: • On the recto of the first flyleaf there is an inscription in square Ashkenazi script in brown ink, probably by one of the owners:.עמודי גולה והוא סמ"ק להר"י מקורביל Amudei Golah (Pillars of the Diaspora) which is SeMaK of R. Itzhak of Corbeil. • In the upper left-hand margin of fol. 1, by a 19th-century Ashkenazi hand: לה' הארץ ומלואה (תהלים כד,א) הלאלעזר סגל הורוויץ . The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1), Eleazar Segal Horovitz. Another later inscription on the right is partly illegible: יוסף קח(?) אלפיך, Yosef Kah(?) alphekha(?). • On fol. 141v there is an inscription deliberately covered by ink, probably by a later owner. Inscriptions of librarians and researchers: • A separate letter dated Nov. 1860 is located between the leaves of the manuscript. It was written by a librarian of the BSB concerning the acquisition of this manuscript from S. Rosenthal. In the catalogue of the library from 1856-1971 (Neuerwerbungen der Handschriften-abteilung, 1856-1971 (Cbm Cat. 99q.1, p. 17)) it is mentioned that Cod.hebr. 135 was exchanged by the antiquarian S. Rosenthal for other books in December 1860. The same librarian who wrote the catalogue inscribed the manuscript on the verso of the second front flyleaf: "Isaac ben Joseph von Corbeille […] ('Amudei golah') S.XIV. (1337)", and "Cod. hebr. 135" in the upper right corner. Exlibris and stamps: • In the upper margin of fol. 4 there is a circular stamp with an eagle or swan in the centre surrounded by an inscription: PRIVIL(egio):SAC(rae):CES(areae):BEC(?):MAVCICO(?) This stamp can be related to the privileges given to individuals, a right that the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire enjoyed. These privileges protected the printers, copper engravers, map makers and publishers for a time, and were also considered a recommendation for potential customers. It is unclear why such a stamp was put on the Hebrew manuscript. • On the recto of the first flyleaf and on fol. 141v there is an oval stamp of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek from the 19th century: BIBLIOTHECA/ REGIA/ MONACENSIS. Old signatures: None.
Main Surveys & Excavations
Codex Maimuni, facsimile 1984 Codex Maimuni, the Illuminated pages of Kaufmann Mishne Torah (facsimile co-edition Corvina/Helikon/Strassburger), Hungary 1984. Porter 2003 P. Porter, Courtly Love in Medieval Manuscripts, London 2003. Schwarzfuchs 2007 S. Schwarzfuchs, R. Banitt, Gottschalk, W. Bok, D. Dratwa and Y. Meroz, "Belgium", Encyclopedia Judaica (2nd ed.), 3, USA 2007:280-287. Sed-Rajna 1994 G. Sed-Rajna, Les Manuscrits Hébreux Enluminés des Bibliothèques de France, Louvain-Paris 1994. Sefer Mitzvot Katan Isaac of Corbeil, Sefer Mitzvot Katan, Jerusalem 2005. Steinschneider 1895 M. Steinschneider, Die Hebräischen Handschriften der K. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in München. Munich 1895. Ta-Shma 2007 I. M. Ta-Shma, "Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil", Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.), 10, USA 2007:43.
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Restored: January 1922.
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin; Ilona Steimann | 2008; 2009
Author of description
Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin; Ilona Steimann; Yaffa Levy | 2009, 2014; 2008; 2014
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Michal Sternthal; Project Head: Prof. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin | 07-2016; 2008-2015
Language Editor
Christine Evans | 2014
Supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation |
Negative/Photo. No.