Obj. ID: 19117
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Volterra Annual Wall Calendar, Reggio Emilia, 1536-1537
The wall calendar for the year 1536-1537 was written by the scribe Meshulam of Volterra son of Isaac of Reggio (משולם בן יצחק מארייו). It was produced inItalyand possibly meant to be hung in a synagogue. The calendar includes the relevant calendrical information for the Jewish observance and the correlative dates in the Christian calendar. The moon and a star on the right of the calendar and the sun with a face on the left and their inscriptions symbolise the solar and lunar cycles which are prominent in the Jewish calendar, since the months are lunar and the year is solar.
The necessity for both Hebrew and Christian calendars mirrors the close contact of the Jewish community with its surrounding culture and meets the immediate economic needs in matters of commerce and trade.
Calendrical material was usually included in prayer books such as mahzorim (prayer books for festivals), and sifrei minhagim (Books of Customs) and other compendia. In the early modern period this information was concentrated separately in Sifrei Evronot (Books of Intercalations); this text continued to be cultivated in manuscript while simultaneously emerging in print (Straus 2006, Introduction; Carlebach 2011:49).
In contrast to a relatively large number of print and manuscript versions of Evronot books, single-year calendars were fewer and printed mainly to be hung on synagogues' walls or posted in public spaces (Carlebach 2011:32).
Carlebach, however, points out that while printed calendars promoted uniformity in forms and texts, many errors plagued the texts during the printed process. Consequently, paying for a scribal copy may have been better alternative long into the age when print versions had become available (Ibid.:51-54, 59). In the case of our scribe Meshulam of Volterra, although it is hard to know the reason for copying by hand, the basic structure of his calendar follows certain conventions in form and material that have been formulated for printed wall calendars throughout the early modern period in Europe (Carlebach 2011:66-67, and
cf. figs. 1 and 2). However, whereas relatively many printed Hebrew calendars have survived (see Ibid.), manuscript calendars are rarely found. Our calendar survived only because it was kept within a book (Cod.hebr. 425; see History).
The calendar is folded in 40 and kept within a sheet of folded blue paper (235 x185 mm).
The scribal decoration at the top of the calendar consists of blessings and biblical quotations in dark brown built-up letters within red and blue frames. The initials and Christian months are marked in blue and red.
- Two text illustrations.
- Decorated initial word (שנת, The Year).
- Decorated frames.