Auction 83 - Part I - Rare and Important Items

Taj Torah – Scribed by Rabbi Benayah HaSofer, the Renowned Scribe of Sanaa – Yemen, 15th Century

Opening: $30,000
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000
Sold for: $37,500
Including buyer's premium
Manuscript, Taj Torah (Keter Torah – Five Books of the Torah), with vocalization and cantillation marks, Masorah Gedolah and Masorah Ketanah, and with Machberet HaTijan, scribed by R. Benayah son of Saadiah son of Zechariah the scribe. [Yemen, 15th century].
Ink on paper, exceptionally neat large Yemenite square script (Stam script), with vocalization and cantillation marks. Two columns per page.
Masorah Ketanah appears on the sides of each column, while Masorah Gedolah is inscribed at the top and foot of the pages, in small script. The Song of the Sea and Song of Haazinu are formatted just like in the Torah scroll (brickwork pattern, 2-column format). On the pages of the songs, the Masorah Gedolah was inscribed in a micrographic lattice pattern. This form of ornamentation is characteristic of manuscripts scribed by Benayah HaSofer and his family.
Machberet HaTijan (principles of pronunciation and vocalization) at the beginning of the volume (incomplete).
The manuscript was attributed by Dr. Edna Engel of the Hebrew Paleography Project to R. Benayah son of Saadiah son of Zechariah – "the most renowned scribe in Yemen" (Encyclopedia LeChachmei Teiman, I, p. 42), head of the famous family of scribes active in Sanaa, Yemen. He is known to have signed in colophons of other books he scribed: "The weak scribe… smallest of scribes… Benayah son of Saadiah son of Zechariah son of Benayah son of Oded, known as Ben Merjaz" (see: M. Beit-Arie, Asufat Ketavim Ivriim MiYemei HaBenayim, I, Oriental and Yemenite Scripts, Jerusalem 1988, plate 140). The famous traveler Yaakov Sapir, who visited Yemen in the 19th century, reports in his book Even Sapir: "…I did not find many early manuscript Bibles as I expected, since their last exiles and tribulations did not leave many surviving exemplars; the oldest ones are some five hundred years old. The most accurate ones were produced by Benayah, the expert and punctilious scribe, and unbelievably, he is said to have scribed four hundred books in his lifetime… (Even Sapir, Lyck, 1866, leaf 102). R. Yaakov Sapir also mentions Miriam the scribe, daughter of R. Benayah, who also worked as a copyist: "He also had a daughter who was an expert scribe, and I was shown a manuscript Chumash concluding with the inscription: 'Do not condemn me for any errors that you may find, as I am a nursing woman, Miriam daughter of Benayah the scribe' – and it is accurate, with neat, beautiful script" (Even Sapir, ibid.).
R. Benayah himself scribed books ca. 1450-1483, and he passed away ca. 1484, as evident from a colophon written by his son the scribe R. Yosef son of Benayah, were R. Benayah is mentioned as deceased (Ktav Yad Yerushalayim, Benayahu Collection, quoted by: M. Rigler, Benayah HaSofer VeTze'etza'av – Mishpachat Sofrim MiTeiman, Pe'amim 64, 1995, p. 63).
The Encyclopedia LeChachmei Teiman described R. Benayah son of Saadiah as "the most renowned scribe in Yemen… his fame is due to the dozens of manuscripts copied by him, his sons and grandsons… according to a different opinion he served as head of the Sanaa Beit Din… the vast majority of books he copied were books of the Bible with Masorah and Machberet HaTijan… his copyings are regarded as most accurate, and he is considered the greatest authority in the field of Biblical Masorah. The question of whether the Masorah in his books belonged to the Tiberian school aroused a great polemic between the scholars… according to tradition, he and his family copied hundreds of manuscripts, of which several dozen are extant… (Gavra, Encyclopedia LeChachmei Teiman, I, pp. 42-43). See there a partial list of extant manuscripts he produced.
The Hebrew Paleography Project lists close to 40 manuscripts produced by the family of Benayah HaSofer, found today in various libraries and collections (M. Rigler, Benayah HaSofer VeTze'etza'av – Mishpachat Sofrim MiTeiman, ibid., p. 54).
The present manuscript is not complete, and is lacking at least three leaves: Machbaret HaTijan is presumably lacking the first leaf and final leaf, while the Torah part of the manuscript is almost complete and is only lacking one leaf at the beginning. The manuscript opens in the middle of the first chapter of the Book of Bereshit, and concludes at the end of VeZot HaBerachah (final leaf torn and lacking lower half, with loss of final verses of VeZot haBerachah). The text of the Masorah is damaged and lacking on most leaves.
[20] leaves; [193] leaves. Approx. 25 cm. Fair-poor condition. Stains. Extensive wear and worming. Open tears to all leaves, with significant damage to marginal text. Loss to text in center of leaves in some places. Entire book restored with paper. Glosses in later, unskilled hand. New binding.
Incunabula and Early Manuscripts – 14th and 15th Centuries