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Obj. ID: 26156
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Vienna Astronomical Epistle, North Africa, 17th-18th century

© Center for Jewish Art, Photographer: Unknown,

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Name/Title
Vienna Astronomical Epistle(ras'alah) based on al-Maqrizi | Unknown
Object Detail
Date
17th-18th century
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Unknown
(Unknown)

Origin
Historical Origin
Unknown
Community type
Unknown |
Congregation
Unknown
Site
Unknown
School/Style
Unknown|
Period
Unknown
Period Detail
Collection
Austria | Vienna | Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (ÖNB)
| Cod.hebr.213 (Schwartz, none)
Documentation / Research project
Unknown
Material/Technique
Paper
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Density
Colors
Construction material
Measurements
Height
Length
Width
Depth
Circumference
Thickness
Diameter
Weight
Axis
Panel Measurements
Iconographical Subject
Unknown |
Condition
Good
Extant
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
Languages of inscription
Unknown
Type of grave
Unknown
0
Ornamentation
Custom
Contents
This astronomical epistle is composed of sections taken from the comprehensive book Mawa'iz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khtitat wa al-'athar, known as al-khtitat, about the planning of Cairo and its monuments by al-Maqrizi (1364 – 1442). It is writhen in Arabic in Hebrew characters (Judeo-Arabic script). The text opens with the Basmalla blessing – "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" (Bism allah al-Rrahman al-Rrahim) written within a decorated panel at the opening page of the Epistle. First section (fols. 3v - 9) relating to the stars and the 12 signs, the relation between the stars and the seasons of the year. Second section (fols. 9v – 12v) relating to the shape of the earth and its geographical areas and measurements of the earth ((מאמר צורת הארץ ומצב האזורים הגאוגראפיים בה. Third section (fol.13-24v) relating to the days and nights according to the four seasons. Includes hourly calculations of the length of the day and the night. The title reads "All about the knowledge of the night and day in their order according to the four seasons" (translation to Hebrew: הכל על ידיעת הלילה והיום בסדר לפי ארבעת העונות) Fourth section (fol. 25-34) relating to the 7 major and 7 minor holidays of the Coptics in Egypt. The title reads "All in the mention of the Christian Coptic holidays in the land of Egypt" (הכל באזכרת חגי הקופטים הנוצריים בארץ מצרים)
Codicology

 

Material

Paper, 36 leaves (text begins on fol. 3v). No fly leaves.

 Measurements

Full page: (202-205) x (132-134)mm

Text space: 145x75mm

 Scribes

Single scribe

 Script

Hebrew and Arabic in Hebrew characters of semi-cursive oriental script in black ink in one text column.

 

Number of lines

Main text written

21 lines in 1 columns

Ruling

Ruling in stylus, 21 horizontal lines (e.g. fols. 1-3, 34-36)

 Pricking

No pricking noticeable except for one hole in the top margin (which does not correspond to any of the rulings), which held the bifolia gatherings of the quires in place probably on board for writing purposes before sewing them together.

 Quires

6 quires of 8 leaves each, except for I2+1 (fol. 3 is a single leaf), II6+1 (fol. 10 is a single leaf) and VI2

Catchwords

Catchwords for the page, written horizontally on the lower left-hand corner below the frame of every verso.

Hebrew numeration

None.

 Blank leaves

Fols. 1-3r (contain later frames with Arabic writing inside) and 34v-36v are blank.

Scribes
Script
Number of Lines
Ruling
Pricking
Quires
Catchwords
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Direction/Location
Façade (main)
Endivances
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year
Denomination
Signature
Colophon
Scribal Notes
Watermark
Hallmark
Group
Group
Group
Group
Group
Trade Mark
Binding

Early 20th century marbled blue-orange-red cardboards with brown leather spine and edges. Closes as an envelope from lower cover to front.  White paste down on lower cover.

 

Decoration Program
  1. Decorated initial-words pen work panel (fol. 3v) at the opening the first text page of the manuscript. The panel inscribed with the Basmalla written in dark green Hebrew characters emulating the Arabic script, framed by spared-ground acanthus scroll on green ground. The panel is surmounted by a foliate ansae shaped as an interlaced rounded gable.
  2. Rubricated initial-words to the opening of sections. Red dots at the end of sentences.
  3. Two green fillets framing each page of the text.

 

Summary and Remarks

The Arabic Vienna Astronomical Epistle is composed of sections taken from the comprehensive book Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khtitat wa al-'athar, known as al-khtitat, about the planning of Cairo and its monuments written by the well-known Egyptian historian Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad al-Maqrizi (born and died in Cairo 1364–1442), more commonly known as al-Maqrizi or Makrizi.

The Arabic text of the Vienna Epistle is written in Hebrew Oriental semi-cursive characters (Judeo-Arabic script). The manuscript was copied on paper in the 17th-18th century by a single scribe. The manuscript is simply decorated with a panel of the Basmalla framed by a spared-ground acanthus scroll on green ground. The Basmalla formula appears at the opening of written text, holy or secular, in particular in the Holy Quran, in each of the114 chapters (suras).  

Above our Basmalla panel is a foliate ansae shaped as an interlaced rounded gable. This type of decoration, which originated in the Roman tabula-ansae (i.e. the square panel with triangular "ear" on one or both sides framing dedication inscriptions, see Herzfeld, islamichen Epigraphik), is known from many Muslim manuscripts, and again mostly from the Qur'ans as a marginal foliate palmette-ansae decorating the sura headings, or as the palemtte-ansae attached to the outer side of decorated full-page panels placed in pairs of two facing frontispieces and finispieces in the Qur'an. In some cases the palmette-ansae also surmounts the panel as, for example, in the Qur'an copied in Maghribi script in 1729-1730 inMorocco for a prince of the family of the Sharifi Sultans (Cairo, National Library, 25). In the two facing carpet-pages (fols. 261v-262) of this magnificent Qur'an the central panel is decorated above on each side by a shaped ansea of interlaced motifs similar to the gabled-ansea decorating the panel in our manuscript. Despite the fact that our manuscript is a more simple design and is executed only in green pen-work, the similarity in the design of the decoration between the two manuscripts is clear.

Another undecorated Arabic manuscript Hebrew characters housed in the Vienna collection is Cod. Hebr. 212, which is written in a similar script to our Vienna Astronomical Epistle although further research needs to determine if these were indeed copied by the same scribe. Both manuscripts were described in Steinschneider's Catalogue numbers 54 and 55.

 

Suggested Reconsdivuction
History/Provenance
On the inner side of the front cover is an inscription in pencil in English: "Astronomy 7" and an inscription in pen: "A … work about Astronomy (the rest was erased by a pen line through the words). Another inscription near it: "An astronomical work in Arabic Hebrew characters". Fol. 1: An old signature in pencil: 7, 9. Fol. 1: titles of the work in Arabic According to Mϋller, the manuscript was bought on 24.2.1872 from Hirsch Leipshitz for 7 Florins.
Main Surveys & Excavations
Bibliography
Herzfeld, islamichen Epigraphik Herzfeld, "Die Tabula Ansata in der islamichen Epigraphik und Ornamentik", Der Islam 6 (1915), pp. 189-199. M. Lings, Y. H. Safadi, The Qur'an: A British Library Exhibition, 1976, plate VIII, page 40. F. Mϋller, Die hebräischen Handschriften der k.k. Hofbibliothek, (Addendum to the printed Catalogue of Krafft and Goldenthal), fol. 43v M. Steinschneider, Catalogue
Short Name
Full Name
Volume
Page
Type
Documenter
Karl-Georg Pfändtner Aliza Cohen-Mushlin | 2003-2004
Author of description
Estherlee Kanon Yaffa Levy | August, 2005 2009
Architectural Drawings
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Computer Reconstruction
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Section Head
Michal Sternthal | 2009
Language Editor
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Donor
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Negative/Photo. No.