Hebrew Bible

Hebrew Bible Facsimile Edition

Spain and Flanders (Belgium) — 16th century

A magnificent masterpiece of the Hebrew calligraphic tradition: the 24 books of the Jewish canon in an ornate and richly decorated luxury manuscript

  1. The 24 books of the Jewish canon embellished with marvelous floral and geometric ornamentation

  2. Originally owned by Spanish Rabbi Alfonso de Zamora (1474–1544), a Catholic convert and leading Hebraist of his time

  3. The text, which deviates from the norm, and the marginal notations make it a very interesting object of study

Hebrew Bible

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Hebrew Bible

The famous Hebrew Bible from the collection of the El Escorial is a significant manuscript for the history of biblical editions. The precious bible contains the 24 books of the Jewish canon and is embellished with marvelous floral and geometric ornamentation. It served the Spanish Rabbi Alfonso de Zamora, inter alia, as a resources during his collaboration on the Compultensian Polyglot Bible, considered to be the first printed multilingual Bible. The manuscript was presumably used later by Benedictus Aria Montanus while he was directing the production of an edition of a polyglot bible in Antwerp at the behest Philip II. El Escorial’s Hebrew Bible is an extremely interesting object of historical study and a testimonial to the origins of 16th century Spanish polyglot bibles!

Hebrew Bible

The famous Hebrew Bible from the collection of the El Escorial is a significant manuscript for the history of biblical editions. The precious bible contains the 24 books of the Jewish canon and is embellished with marvelous floral and geometric ornamentation. It served the Spanish Rabbi Alfonso de Zamora, inter alia, as a resources during his collaboration on the Compultensian Polyglot Bible, considered to be the first printed multilingual Bible. The manuscript was presumably used later by Benedictus Aria Montanus while he was directing the production of an edition of a polyglot bible in Antwerp at the behest Philip II. El Escorial’s Hebrew Bible is an extremely interesting object of historical study and a testimonial to the origins of 16th century Spanish polyglot bibles!

The Great Hebraist

Afonso de Zamora (ca. 1477–1544) was a Spanish Rabbi who converted to Catholicism in 1506. He is considered to be the most important Hebraist of his time. As such, he participated in the creation of the Compultensian Polyglot Bible. This was the first printed polyglot bible in the world and was made at the behest of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, Archbishop of Toledo, Queen Isabella of Castile’s confessor, and founder of the famous Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in the year 1500. The Polyglot appeared in six volumes from 1514 to 1517. Alfonso de Zamora devised the sixth volume, a dictionary for Hebrew, Chaldean, and Latin, which was essential for biblical study.

The Hebrew Bible of El Escorial

While working on this edition, Alfonso de Zamora depended upon one manuscript above all else: the famous Hebrew Bible, shelf mark G-II–8 from the El Escorial library. This 15th century bible encompasses 772 pages measuring 28.8 x 22.3 cm. It contains, as already betrayed by the title, the text of the Hebrew Bible. In accordance with the Talmud, this text is written on calfskin vellum in two columns in marvelous Spanish square script. Rich embellishments with ornaments in red, blue, and gold in the form of geometric and floral motives are found both in the biblical text as well as in the Masora magna. The manuscript contains the 24 books of the Jewish canon as well as the Masora parva and magna (“small and large Masora”) of the Pentateuch. A noble brown leather binding with bronze fittings and gorgeous embossing in the Mudéjar style rounds out the work of art.

Cornerstone of the Polyglot Bible

Seven specimens of the Bible were consulted for the formulation of the Polyglot Bible. The Hebrew Bible from the El Escorial is one of the most important among them. The manuscript was probably used once again for preparation of an edition of the Bible. The Spanish theologian Benedictus Arias Montanus took the Hebrew Bible with him to Flanders as he worked on the commission of King Philip II for the publication of a multi-lingual bible in Antwerp. Shelf mark G-II–8 is the only complete Jewish Bible at El Escorial. With the interesting irregularities in the text, which deviates from the norm, and the comments and marginal notations by Alfonso de Zamora, the manuscript is a very interesting object of study and a significant testimonial to the origins of the greatest biblical editions of the 16th century!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Biblia Hebrea
Hebrew Bible
Size / Format
772 pages / 27.5 × 20.0 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
16th century
Style
Previous Owners
Alfonso de Zamora (1474–1544)

Available facsimile editions:
Hebrew Bible – G.II.8 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1997
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Hebrew Bible

Incipit: Book of Genesis

Written in thick, shimmering gold, the word בְּרֵאשִׁית for “In the beginning” introduces the text of the Book of Genesis, which is written in two neatly ordered columns and surrounded by the same continuous gold and red frame that surrounds the incipit. The space around the golden letters is filled by a swirling tendril pattern executed in red and green ink. Fine examples of micrography, Jewish calligrams consisting of Hebrew texts arranged to create an image, can be seen in the upper margin in the form of various star shapes with golden dots outlined in red.

Biblia Hebrea
Single Page

Hebrew Bible

Carpet Page

This magnificent carpet page is evidence of the way various cultures influenced one another’s art during the Middle Ages. Western carpet pages have their origins in Islamic art, which prohibited the depiction of human figures. As a result, Muslim artists focused on creating elaborate geometric and floral patterns, the kind that were often found on elaborate prayer rugs and which fill the borders of this carpet page.

The fleur-de-lys also features prominently on the page and although it is not an expressly Christian symbol, it is certainly not Jewish and has political, dynastic, and religious symbolism strongly associated with France and the ancient Frankish Kingdom from which it evolved. While some of the fleurs-de-lys are either solid silver or gold, most are a mix of the two and are presented in a field of interlocking gold and silver rings with a red and green background.

Biblia Hebrea
Facsimile Editions

#1 Biblia Hebrea

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1997
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Mudejar Style. Hand sewn and bound in brown goatskin stamped with silver. Faithful reproduction of bronze fittings. Gilded page edges.
Commentary: 1 volume (128 pages) by Emilia Fermández Tejero, María Josefa de Azcárraga, and María Teresa Ortega Monasterio.
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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