Auction 61 - Rare and Important Items

April 24, 2018

Holidays Machzor - High Holy Days, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot and Rosh Chodesh - Elaborate Miniature on a Single Sheet of Parchment Cut Into Circles - Unusual and Unique Hebrew Manuscript - Italy, 15th Century

Opening: $60,000
Sold for: $212,500
Including buyer's premium

Miniature manuscript on parchment - year-round machzor for the High Holy Days, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot and Rosh Chodesh. [Italy, 15th century].
Illuminated Hebrew manuscript - unusual and exceptionally unique - of the Late Middle Ages.
Miniature manuscript, written on both sides of a single sheet of parchment cut into 76 circles, each with a diameter of approximately 3.5-4 cm, attached to one another at their margins. There are seven rows of circles, with eleven circles in each row (one circle is missing), for a total of 151 pages of text (one side of one of the circles is blank). This unique format allows for dynamic use of the manuscript, enabling the reader to fold the various circles into different configurations in order to expose the appropriate prayer segments. Upon completion of the prayers, the entire manuscript can be folded to the diameter of a single circle, and be easily stored and carried.
The manuscript is written in Italian semi-cursive script, within circular frames. The initial words are decorated with miniature leaves and ornamented in vivid blue and red colors. Several of the paragraph indentations are marked in red (tab marks). Headings are framed or underlined with curved lines. Instructions are written or decorated in red. The style of illumination and the shape of the letters match those of other Hebrew manuscripts written in Europe in the late Middle Ages.
Contents of the Manuscript:
The manuscript includes the text of the Amidah prayers for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot according to the Italian rite, as well as "Inyan Rosh Chodesh", which includes Mussaf for Rosh Chodesh, Mussaf for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh and "Hallel for the entire year".
The liturgical poem (piyyut) "Reshut D'Nishmat L'Harav Yoav" appears preceding Mussaf for Rosh Hashanah - a piyyut by R. Yoav ben Yechiel of Rome (Davidson, Thesaurus of Medieval Hebrew Poetry, no. 3291).
The Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur, as well as the prayers for Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, do not contain the first three blessings nor the final three blessings, whose text is standard. The scribe only included the unique middle blessing of each prayer.
Order of Text:
Pages [1-15]: Amidah prayer for Shacharit, Minchah and Arvit of Rosh Hashanah.
Pages [15-22]: "Avinu Malkeinu" prayer.
Pages [23-60]: Mussaf for Rosh Hashanah (complete text, including the Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot blessings). Page [60] contains a concluding colophon: "The Rosh Hashanah prayers are complete, praise G-d", as well as the title: "Seder Yom HaKippurim".
Page [61]: Instructions for the Minchah prayer of Yom Kippur eve, followed by the decorated heading: "Tefillat Tzom Kippur".
Pages [62-82]: Amidah prayer for Yom Kippur.
Page [83]: This page is blank (the text completely faded). It apparently included the final line of the "Elokai Netzor" prayer of the Yom Kippur Amidah, as well as the title for Mussaf of Yom Kippur.
Pages [84-97]: Mussaf for Yom Kippur (the three final blessings were not copied, and the reader is referred to the previous Amidah).
Pages [98-103]: Neilah prayer.
Page [104] concluding colophon: "The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers are complete, praise G-d, Amen Selah".
Page [105] opening title: "Tefillah of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot".
Pages [106-110]: Amidah prayer for Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.
Pages [111-132]: Mussaf for Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot (separate paragraphs for each holiday; the texts for the eight days of Sukkot are titled: "Mussafin shel Chag"). Page [132] contains a concluding colophon: "The prayers for Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot are complete, praise G-d, Amen".
Pages [133-137]: Mussaf for Rosh Chodesh with the title: "Inyan Rosh Chodesh".
Pages [137-142]: Mussaf for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh titled: "Mussaf for Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh".
Pages [143-152]: "Hallel for the entire year". A page is missing between pages [146] and [147], with part of the text of Hallel missing.
Only a few Christian and Muslim manuscripts from the 15th century that bear some similarity to this manuscript are known; the best-known of them is the Codex Rotundus, a "book of hours" (Christian devotional) manuscript written and illuminated in Bruges during the 15th century, known as the Rotundus due to its circular shape. None of these manuscripts, however, include the most striking and unique features of the manuscript offered here - namely, its miniature dimensions, it being written on a single sheet of parchment that can be folded to pocket size, and it being written in Hebrew. These three features make this manuscript an extremely rare and exceptionally unique item.
There are only two known items which are similar to this manuscript: In 1984, Sotheby's auctioned a similar manuscript, consisting of 49 circles with a diameter of 6.5 cm, containing the prayers for Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. A similar manuscript is held in the collection of the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles. It consists of 64 circles and contains the Passover Hagaddah.
Enclosed is a metal case (with glass remnants), similar to a pocket-watch case, used to store the manuscript.
[152] pages. Each circle has a diameter of 3.5-4 cm. The entire sheet (unfolded) is 43X27 cm. Condition varies; fair to good. The first circle of the first row is missing (part of the text of Hallel was written on its verso, see above). One circle detached. P. [83] is blank and darkened (its text was apparently worn and completely faded). Stains, tears and damage to text on the outermost circles. Stains from oxidation due to contact with the metal carrying case when folded. The inner circles are in good condition, with slight staining. Corrosion and damage to metal case. Broken and missing glass.