Auction 92 Part 2 Rare and Important Manuscripts and Items of the Gross Family Collection

Illuminated Parchment Medical Diploma – Accorded to a Jewish Physician from the University of Padua – Italy, 1687 – Rare and Unique Document from the 17th Century

Opening: $15,000
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for: $68,750
Including buyer's premium

Illuminated manuscript on parchment – medical diploma (Doctoratus Privilegium) accorded to the physician Moshe son of Gershon Tilche (Moyses Tilche, later rabbi in Livorno) from the University of Padua on May 22, 1687. Latin.
Elaborate diploma, designed by Johannes Aloysius Foppa. Ink, paint and gold on parchment; gilt-tooled leather binding; wax seal.
Rare, unique document. One of a small number of surviving diplomas from the University of Padua, and one of the very few extant diplomas granted to a Jewish physician (see more about the uniqueness of Jewish diplomas below).
The diploma opens with a portrait of the graduate, R. Moshe son of Gershon Tilche. Underneath the portrait is an illustration depicting the graduation ceremony – a putto holding an open book and wearing a gold ring; with two putti beside him, one placing a hat on his head and another presenting him with a laurel (this illustration is considered one of the only documentations of the university graduation ceremony). The text on the next page opens with an oath for the Jewish graduate (see below). Both pages are enclosed in colorful borders of fruit, flowers and peacocks, with two small portraits in gold medallions – Aristotle and Hippocrates. The following three pages, with the continuation of the text, are framed in narrower borders of green and gold foliate patterns. The final page bears no text, and is framed with a colored floral border. Three of the borders (first two pages and final page) incorporate small illustrations of insects: a ladybird, fly and spider.
The diploma is bound in an elegant contemporary gilt-tooled leather binding. Attached to the spine with a ribbon is a heraldic wax seal featuring the Lion of St. Mark (emblem of Venice and of the Venetian republic; Padua was under the rule of the Venetian republic in 1405-1797), housed in a leather case.

Diplomas of Jewish Physicians in Padua
The University of Padua (Nobilissima Patavina Academia) was the first university in Italy to accept Jewish students. Contrary to other institutions throughout Italy, the university was not under papal control, and it therefore allowed non-Catholic students to study and qualify for academic degrees. Alumni of the university include prominent physicians and personalities, such as R. Yosef Shlomo Delmedigo (Yashar), R. Yitzchak Lampronti (author of Pachad Yitzchak), William Harvey (English Anglican physician who discovered the circulation of the blood), and others.
The university graduates received splendid diplomas, written and decorated by an artist chosen by the university (this diploma is signed by the artist Johannes Aloysius Foppa, who produced diplomas for the university throughout the 17th century).
Several delicate changes were made to text and illustrations of the diplomas of Jewish graduates, to make them suitable to their religion and faith. The present diploma contains several alterations: in the text of the oath at the beginning of the diploma, "In Christi Nomine Amen" ("in the name of Christ, Amen") is replaced with "In Dei Aeterni Nomine" (in the name of the eternal G-d, Amen); the portraits in the medallions were switched from Christian icons to the portraits of Aristotle and Hippocrates; the year is referred to as "currente anno" (the current year) rather than "anno a Christi Nativitate", "anno Domini", and the like; the place was changed from "in Episcopali Palatio" ("in the Episcopal Palace") to "in loco solito examine" ("in the usual place of examination"). The wax seal accompanying the diploma – coat of arms of the Venetian republic – may have also been chosen specifically for non-Catholic students (other extant diplomas bear the seal of the Bishop of Padua).

R. Moshe son of Gershon Tilche (Mose' Tilque / Moise di Pellegrino Tilche; d. ca. 1720) served as rabbi in Livorno. He was the chief physician of the Gemilut Chasadim society, and a member of the Vaad Issur VeHeter of the Livorno community. His signature appears on a responsum by the rabbis of Livorno printed in Shemesh Tzedakah by R. Shimshon Morpurgo. For more information, see:
• Abdelkader Modena and Edgardo Morpurgo, Medici e chirurghi ebrei dottorati e licenziati nell'Università di Padova dal 1617 al 1816 (list of Jewish physicians who were licensed by the Padua University in 1617-1816. Bologna: Forni, 1967), p. 46.
• Asher Salah, La République des Lettres (Leiden: Brill, 2007), p. 630.
• Renzo Toaff, La nazione ebrea a Livorno e a Pisa (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 1990), pp. 357-358.
The diploma mentions the names of two witnesses, Isac Vita Cantareno (R. Yitzchak Chaim Cantarini) and Samuele Pace.

R. Yitzchak Chaim Cantarini (1644-1723) was a physician and rabbi in Padua. He completed his medical studies in the Padua University in 1664, and was rabbinically ordained in 1669. He was the teacher of R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) in grammar and poetry. He authored several works, including Pachad Yitzchak (Amsterdam, 1685), in which he recounts in detail the miracle which occurred to the Padua community during the Austro-Turkish war, in memory of which Purim di Buda was instated.

[4] leaves. 24 cm. Good condition. Stains. Leaves partially detached from binding. Binding somewhat worn, with abrasions to edges and spine. Wax seal damaged. Leather covering of wax seal case detached, with open tears to edges; new lid.

• Edward Reichman, Confessions of a would-be forger. In: Ma'ase Tuviya, Jerusalem: Muriel & Philip Berman Medical Library, 2021, pp. 79-127.
• Bruno Kisch, Cervo Conigliano: A Jewish Graduate of Padua in 1743. In: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, year IV, issue IV, 1949, pp. 450-459.
• Edward Reichman, A 17th-Century "Jewish" Medical Diploma (on the website of the periodical Tradition, A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought).
• Natalia Berger and Daniela Di Castro, Italia Ebraica. Oltre duemilla anni di incontro tra la cultura italiana e l’ebraismo, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, 2007-2008. See exhibition catalog, p. 68, item 55.
• Jews, Medicine and the University of Padua, the Jewish Museum of Padua, 2022.
The diploma is digitized on the NLI website.

Provenance: The Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv, IT.012.006.

Broadsides, Jewish Ceremonial Art, Parchment Manuscripts