Pre-Expulsion Sephardi Torah Scroll – Scribed According to a Unique Tradition with Extensive Crownlet Decorations and Many Unusual Letters

Opening: $50,000
Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000
Sold for: $75,000
Including buyer's premium
Torah scroll in early Sephardic script, scribed according to a unique tradition of extensive crownlet decorations and unusual letters, including rare appearances of such letters. [Ca. mid-15th century].
This Torah scroll, which dates from the period preceding the Spanish expulsion, preserves a unique tradition of unusual letters. The present scroll comprises many hundreds such letters. Likewise, it contains many letters with special crownlet decorations (apart from the usual crownlets appearing in every Torah scroll). Altogether, the present scroll contains over 1800 unique appearances of unusual letters and extensive crownlet decorations.
Pre-expulsion Sephardi Torah scrolls are very rare; only a few such scrolls are extant today. The present scroll was examined by experts and compared to similar Torah scrolls known today. See enclosed expert opinion (from the scholar Efraim Binyamin Caspi), in which he lists the uniqueness and significance of the present Torah scroll, and the traditions appearing uniquely in this scroll, which are not known from other sources.
Most of the early Sephardi Torah scrolls do not have unusual letters and extensive crownlet decorations (see below). A very similar scroll, from the 15th century, was sold in Christie's New York (December 1999, item 171); and later sold again through Sotheby's New York (December 2017, item 168).
There are parallels between the present Torah scroll and R. Menachem HaMeiri's Tikkun Sofrim list in his book Kiryat Sefer, as well as parallels to extensive crownlet decorations and unusual letters in Shirat HaYam in the work Melechet HaSofer by R. Moshe Zabarra, a Spanish exile. Nevertheless, there are unique appearances in the present Torah scroll which are not found in any other source known today.
This scroll was written according to the tradition and custom of early scribes, as detailed in the early book Sefer Tagi. The Rambam quotes this tradition in Hilchot Sefer Torah (chapter 7, law 8): "…and one should be particular with enlarged and reduced letters, letters with an overdot and unusual letters, such as the winding Pe and crooked letters, as transmitted from one scribe to another. And one should be particular about the crownlet decorations and their number, some letters have one crownlet and some have seven…". This style of writing gradually disappeared over the course of the generations, due to lack of uniformity between the different versions of the Masorah, and relying on the responsum of the Rambam who stated that a Torah scroll is not disqualified if lacking the extensive crownlet decoration and unusual letters. In recent times, Torah scrolls are no longer scribed with extensive crownlet decoration and unusual letters. In the above-mentioned responsum, the Rambam stated that all Torah scrolls in Spain and North Africa include the crownlet decorations – indicating that these traditions were still preserved in his times. Nevertheless, this phenomenon is very rare in early Spanish scrolls known today.
Torah scroll on brown gevil, processed and coated. Comprises 71 membranes (all membranes original, apart from one which was replaced a short time later, presumably in the 16th century; writing tradition accurately copied from original membrane). Height of membranes: approx. 67 cm. Overall good condition. Stains. Creases. Tears, holes and defects (repairs in several places).
Enclosed: detailed report from Efraim Binyamin Caspi about the uniqueness and significance of the present Torah scroll.
The scroll underwent Carbon-14 testing at the Weizmann Institute, and the results confirm the dating of the scroll to the second half of the 15th century (test results appended to expert report).
Illustrated Manuscripts, Manuscripts on Parchment
Illustrated Manuscripts, Manuscripts on Parchment