Hebrew manuscript highlights - mahzors and mathematical diagrams

As we approach the end of the digitization stage of the project, the Bodleian is finishing up its Hebrew manuscripts, along with a few stragglers from the Greek manuscript and incunable collections. As of writing, we have 558 complete Hebrew manuscripts available online. Most of these are on Digital.Bodleian, where you can search for a particular metadata keyword or browse by shelfmark or origin date. You can also check out the #HebrewMSS and #PolonskyProject tags on Twitter, where we share interesting images as they're digitized. If you don't know where to start, we will be blogging here about particularly interesting aspects of the collection. Today, we're featuring decorated maḥzors and astronomical and mathematical texts.


Decorated maḥzors

These festival prayerbooks are among the most beautiful Hebrew manuscripts held at the Bodleian. We have recently digitized two high-profile early Ashkenazi maḥzors, both produced in Germany in the second half of the 13th century: the Laud Maḥzor (MS. Laud Or. 321) and the Michael Maḥzor (MSS. Michael 617 and 627). Both are written in square Ashkenazi scripts on parchment, elaborately laid out and colourfully decorated.

The Michael Maḥzor features decorative pen flourishing as well as full-colour decorations:


MS. Michael 617 fol. 4v
MS. Michael 617, fol. 4v

MS. Michael 617 fol. 99r
MS. Michael 617, fol. 99r

MS. Michael 627 fol. 1v
MS. Michael 627, fol. 1v


Many of the Laud Maḥzor's decorations involve animal characters, some of whom are enacting scenes from the Bible, such as the binding of Isaac on fol. 184r.


MS. Laud Or. 321, fol. 33v
MS. Laud Or. 321, fol. 33v

MS. Laud Or. 321, fol. 91v
MS. Laud Or. 321, fol. 91v

MS. Laud Or. 321 fol. 97r
MS. Laud Or. 321 fol. 97r

MS. Laud Or. 321 fol. 184r
MS. Laud Or. 321 fol. 184r (the binding of Isaac)


Astronomical and mathematical texts

The Bodleian's Huntington and Oppenheim collections, much of which are being digitized for the project, contain a number of astronomical, astrological and mathematical texts. Those who don't read Hebrew may find the diagrams interesting: both the illustrative diagrams included in the text and the diagrams drawn on the flyleaves, presumably by later readers. A few examples:


MS. Huntington 224, a miscellany of astronomical and astrological works from 1652

MS. Huntington 561, a 14th-century edition of Euclid's Elements in Hebrew

MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 68, a commentary on a Hebrew translation of Ptolemy, produced in 1717

MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 157, a 15th-century Ner Yiśraʼel with added astronomical tables

MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 160, a collection of astronomical and astrological treatises spanning the 14th-17th centuries

MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 160, fol. 10r
MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 160, fol. 10r

MS. Huntington 224 fol. 102v
MS. Huntington 224, fol. 102v

MS. Huntington 561 fol. 212r
MS. Huntington 561, fol. 212r

MS. Huntington 561 1r
MS. Huntington 561, fol. 1r

MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 68 fol. 24r
MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 68, fol. 24r