Elaborate Manuscript – Etz Chaim by Rabbi Chaim Vital – Eastern Europe, 18th Century – Numerous Impressive Illustrations

Opening: $130,000
Estimate: $150,000 - $180,000
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Manuscript of the book Etz Chaim, teachings of the Arizal recorded by R. Chaim Vital. [Eastern Europe, 18th century].
Exceptionally beautiful, elaborate manuscript, richly decorated with impressive illustrations and initial panels. Neat semi-cursive Ashkenazic script (Rashi script), with emphasized words and headings in square script.
The manuscript opens with forewords by R. Chaim Vital and kabbalistic principles by the Arizal and R. Chaim Vital. This is followed by Shaar Derushei HaIgulim VehaYosher, with the heading "Shaar HaRishon" (Part I). In fact, this is the second part of Etz Chaim (the scribe omitted the first part, Shaar HaKlalim; the remaining parts are numbered correctly).
The scribe integrated into the main text the glosses of R. Yaakov Tzemach, R. Moshe Zacuto and others (written in a smaller script, in "windows" within the text; a few of the glosses appear in the margins). He also added in the margins several textual variations from other sources.
Dozens of pages, at the beginning of most of the parts ("She'arim"), feature impressive illustrations framing the text, including: an Ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail); two crowned lions rampant; a stork and serpent entwined; a double-headed eagle; two stags rampant; crowned faces (at the beginning of the tenth part – Shaar HaMelachim), and more.
Various decorative elements at the end of each part, inspired by Rococo and contemporary style: flowers, branches, seashells; a lion and a stag in a thicket. Shaar Arich Anpin concludes with an image of a serpent biting its own tail, framing a number of faces. Shaar HaAkudim ends with two illustrations: a detailed illustration of Akedat Yitzchak and an illustration showing Yaakov Avinu, the rods that he peeled and three sheep – ringed, speckled and striped.
Ornate initials; some of the initial panels display various animals.
A similarly illustrated manuscript – most probably by the same scribe – is kept in the Ets Haim Library collection in Amsterdam. It is dated 1780 and features the name of the scribe: "Dov Ber son of R. Chaim, Podhajce [Galicia-Poland]". See: Treasures from the Library Ets Haim / Livraria Montezinos, exhibition catalog, published by the JNUL, Jerusalem 1980, item 182.
Owners' stamps: "Shlomo... son of R. Nissan". Several later glosses, including a note at the end of Part XLIV: "Lacking an entire leaf of Chapter 1, see printed editions" (referring to the scribe's omission of an entire section at the end of Chapter 1 of Part XLIV).
2-14; 1-227, 227-307 leaves (lacking title page at beginning of volume). 24 cm. Good condition. Stains. Most leaves complete. Tears from ink erosion to several leaves. Tears repaired with paper in a few places. Gilt engraved edges. Leather, gilt-decorated binding. Minor defects to binding. Placed in a card and leather case.
Category
Manuscripts – Kabbalah, Halachah and Aggadah