f all medieval Hebrew manuscript Psalters, one of the earliest and most important to survive is the masterpiece Ms. Parm. 1870 (Cod. De Rossi 510), the treasure of the Palatina Library in Parma, Italy. This profusely illuminated book of Psalms was written and decorated in about 1280, probably in Emilia in Northern Italy. Its 452 pages contain the biblical text in a clear, large vocalised Hebrew hand. Each chapter is illuminated and numbered, and many are exquisitely illustrated with musical instruments or with scenes described in the text - extraordinary for a Hebrew manuscript of the period, and proof that it was the work of Jews. Only a wealthy patron could have commissioned so lavish and tasteful a manuscript; and the presence of Ibn Ezra's commentary suggests that he was also well educated. Early copies of Abraham ibn Ezra's great commentary on Psalms are rare, and the one in this manuscript records many wordings not to be found in other versions. The illustrations in this manuscript are particularly valuable for musicologists and art historians of the Middle Ages: depiction's of contemporary musical instruments are extremely rare, and the present volume contains many. This sumptuous manuscript comprises 226 folios (452 pages), 13.5 x 10 cms (5 1/3 x 4 ins) contained in 21 quires. One 8-page quire, added at a later date, contains the ceremonies for engagements, marriages, circumcisions and funerals, as well as for the end of a Sabbath followed by a Festival, times at which Psalms were especially recited. The rich decorations are characterised by the delicate use of harmonious colours; gold is used liberally but with sensitivity, the illuminator carefully balancing the Psalms and commentary with the images in the margin. This manuscript is one of the great treasures of early Hebrew-manuscript illumination.
Historically the Jews of Italy during the thirteenth century faced violent onslaughts on their faith and lives. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 attempted to reduce them to serfdom, and introduced the compulsory wearing of a distinctive badge; while the 'trial' and burning of the Talmud that took place in Paris in 1240 also had repercussions in Italy. By 1278 their position was in general exacerbated by the transfer of the South of Italy to Angevin rulers in 1265 under the direct influence of the Popes. It was there that most Italian Jews lived - some 12,000 - 15,000. Following a blood-libel in Trani, a violent crusade was launched to convert them, and by 1294 perhaps half had succumbed, others being forced to flee or to practice their faith in secret. It was in the late thirteenth century that this exquisite book was commissioned and made.
The Parma Psalter is housed in the Palatina Library in Parma, Italy, which holds close to 1,650 Hebrew manuscripts, is one of the world's greatest collections. Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi, a Christian Hebraist, whose collection is now housed in the Palatina, built up one of the richest libraries of Hebrew manuscripts and printed books ever in private hands. De Rossi compiled and published a catalogue of his library in 1803, but within a few years, in 1816, had sold it to Napoleon's wife, Marie-Louise, Duchess of Parma, for 100,000 francs. It was she who presented it to the Palatina Library where it still is.
The Psalms are loved by Jews more than any other book of the Bible other than the Torah: every ceremony includes at least one of its 150 chapters and many other prayers are virtually mosaics of psalmic verses, reassembled out of familiar phrases. A detailed knowledge of this book could be assumed by traditional Jewish writers, because it has been customary for centuries to recite all 150 psalms cyclically each week: every page of the present manuscript bears a headline indicating on which weekday it is to be read. The popularity of Psalms is easy to explain. It comprises a rich assortment of hymns, laments and didactic poems written in a compact and striking style, at times mysterious and obscure, in which ideas are developed through double or triple arrangements of lines in a manner characteristic of biblical poetry. Its personal and urgent tone made it a natural complement to the Pentateuch. One midrash makes this feeling explicit: 'Moses gave the five books of the Torah to Israel, while David gave them the Psalms, with its five books'. The fivefold subdivision - marked by doxologies at the ends of psalms 41, 72, 89 and 106 - may indeed be related to an ancient but now lapsed practice of reading psalms in conjunction with the weekly readings from the Pentateuch. The 150 psalms probably correspond to the 150 readings into which the Pentateuch was divided and originally read over a three-year cycle, a custom that died out in the Middle Ages.
Abraham ibn Ezra, born in 1089 in Tudela, Spain, was a master of several branches of medieval learning - mathematics, astronomy, grammar and philosophy, as well as the exposition of biblical texts. He combined far-reaching rationalism with a firm belief in astrology in a way that may seem surprising to a modern mind, yet was not unusual at that time. He was poor for much of his life and travelled widely, but was able to face ill-fortune with equanimity and even humour. His opponents were not spared his savage wit, which was rich, even for a Spanish Jewish poet. All this must be seen against a background of genuine religious humility, which emerges in his finest works of poetry and prose. Abraham ibn Ezra left a large body of writings - he is said to have written no fewer than 108 different books, not all of which have survived or been published. His highly influential thought and literary creativity did much to spread the science and spirituality of Spanish Jewry far beyond the regions in which it originated. Aged seventy-five and feeling his death approaching, he punned on a scriptural verse: 'And Abraham was seventy five years old when he departed from the "anger of God"'. The Bible actually states, in Genesis 12:4, that he left the city of 'Haran', but Ibn Ezra could not resist jesting on its similarity to haron, 'anger' or 'fury'. Throughout history, Abraham Ibn Ezra has been respected as one of Judaism's greatest sages.
Abraham ibn Ezra married, according to legend, the daughter of another great poet, Judah Halevi, and had five sons. Only one of them, Isaac, is believed to have survived an epidemic that killed his entire family, yet Isaac seems later to have deserted Judaism for Islam, and Abraham ibn Ezra, then in his fifties, did penance by becoming a wandering scholar. His journeying took him to Rome, Lucca, Pisa, Mantua, Béziers, Narbonne, Bordeaux, Angers, Rouen and London, as well as Spain and North Africa. The rabbis of Jewish communities he visited in France in 1147 described how he 'opened their eyes' with his wisdom. His commentary on the book of Psalms displays some of the qualities they so admired: his fine feeling for complex language, his independent intellect and deep insight into human nature. De Rossi believed this manuscript was completed in Rhodes in August-September 1156, but this is in fact the date on which Ibn Ezra completed his commentary on Psalms of which this is a copy. As to the location, it seems that Ibn Ezra wrote his commentary in Rouen in Northern France. Since this was called in Latin 'Rodamagum', which Hebrew scribes shortened to 'Rodez', it was easy for a misunderstanding to arise. The attribution of the book of Psalms to King David - who conquered Jerusalem for his people - is based not only on his reputation as a 'sweet singer of Israel' (2 Sam. 23:1), but on the recognition that no fewer than 73 include his name. The fact that others bear different attributions has been accounted for in different ways. Ibn Ezra handles the question of authorship with characteristic balance and intelligence. The commentaries of Ibn Ezra enjoyed great popularity from the start, and are still admired, especially by advanced students, not only for their encyclopaedic character and terse and enigmatic style, but for their critical, thought-provoking spirit as well as their wit. Numerous supercommentaries were written on his glosses, making his work a vital link in the long chain of Jewish Bible commentary.
Scholarship has always been an important aspect of the work undertaken by Facsimile Editions: great care is taken to commission leading scholars to examine each manuscript, some of which have never been scrutinised before. Each companion volume is exquisitely printed and bound to match the facsimile. That of the Parma Psalter contains substantial extracts from Ibn Ezra's commentary, some of which have never before been translated. Emmanuel Silver, formerly of the British Library, has spent many years examining this important text of Ibn Ezra's and comments at length on the passages he translates. Malachi Beit-Arié, Emeritus Director of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, investigates the codicology of the manuscript and Thérèse Metzger discusses the iconography. The volume, edited by Jeremy Schonfield, contains information that has never previously been available. It provides non-specialists too with a unique introduction to the world of medieval Jewish thought and art.
Ibn Ezra's seminal commentary on Psalms has never been translated in its entirety, so the present study will enable scholars and lay readers alike to appreciate its sophistication. Emmanuel Silver provides a scholarly survey of Ibn Ezra's life and works, including translations of some of the more important Psalm commentaries. Most of the facts of Ibn Ezra's life are so shrouded in mystery that he has become the subject of numerous legends, some of them the purest works of fantasy. Emmanuel Silver clears the ground by outlining some of the salient facts, including the evidence for his death in London, and relating Ibn Ezra's ideas to the schools of thought of his time. Aspects of his complex personality emerge through scattered remarks in his works, and particularly in his poetry, some of which has a distinctive ring of courageous detachment. The companion volume not only outlines the place of Psalms and of Ibn Ezra's highly original contribution to its understanding in Jewish life, but describes the world from which this particular manuscript came.
Printed on blue Ingres paper like many luxury volumes from the fifteenth century onwards and bound in brown calfskin, gold stamped on the spine.
This facsimile is the fruit of many years of effort and research by Michael and Linda Falter, who have established their reputation for being able to replicate exactly the vellum, delicate colours and burnished gold of medieval manuscripts, and for creating some of the finest manuscript reproductions in the world. Each copy is as close a reproduction of the original as can be achieved. The Falters insisted that this facsimile, as with all their others, should not only look but feel like the original, so they had a special paper milled. The manuscript was photographed, after which colour separations were made using the latest digital technology. These were minutely corrected by an expert hand retoucher before the first of many sets of proofs was prepared. Each proof was checked against the original manuscript in detail, adding colours and correcting where necessary to ensure complete colour fidelity. The publishers personally supervise the printing, hand binding and gilding. Once each book is completed, it is numbered by the Falters before being packed, together with the leather-bound companion volume, in a hand-marbled slipcase. A joy to hold, this facsimile will serve as a constant reminder of the rich legacy of medieval Jewish scholarship and artistic patronage.
Size 452 pages, 13.5 x 10 cm (5_" x 4").
Several years of research have culminated in the production of a paper that exactly simulates the opacity, texture and thickness of the vellum on which this manuscript was written. It was made in the small Alpine paper mill that was responsible for the papers used in the facsimiles of the Kennicott Bible, Rothschild Miscellany, Barcelona Haggadah, Biblia de Alba and Me'ah Berachot, which have been widely acclaimed as the closest likenesses to vellum ever achieved. The uncoated neutral pH paper used here has been developed exclusively for this facsimile.
The manuscript was painstakingly disbound and each bi-folio leaf carefully 'relaxed' by a conservator, so that it would lie flat for the photographer.
The colour separators combined laser-scanning equipment with precise hand work in making the colour separations necessary for the first proofs. These were then compared with the original manuscript in Parma by the separator, the publisher and the printer, and corrections made. Up to four proofs were prepared for each page to ensure that an exact likeness was achieved.
The facsimile was printed by offset lithography in up to ten colours. The printed page was cut to exactly the same size as the original. Every sheet was printed under the close and critical supervision of the publishers, who stay in Italy for the duration of the printing.
The burnished gold in this manuscript is still in extraordinarily fine condition although it is almost 700 years old; it was reproduced by building up the surface below the gold prior to applying the metal foil individually to each page.
Each page was cut to the exact size and shape of the original. It was aged and the edges gilt with 23 carat gold.
The facsimile is bound in the finest vellum with its spine in havana sheepskin, weathered and aged by hand. The facsimile has a gold-stamped morocco label bearing its shelf mark, aged so that it looks exactly like the manuscript. The original quire formation of the manuscript has been scrupulously observed. The companion volume is fully bound in dark brown calfskin with its title stamped in gold on the spine.
Each facsimile can be dedicated to a person or institution by our calligrapher. If the facsimile is intended as a gift to an institution or to a private individual, our calligrapher can inscribe a beautiful illuminated gift certificate with an appropriate inscription.
Strictly limited to 500 numbered and 50 Ad Personam copies numbered 1 - 500 and I - L. Each volume is discreetly numbered by hand inside the binding and is accompanied by a numbered certificate carrying the Curator's signature and the seal of the Palatina Library in Parma. The printing plates have been destroyed, to protect the significant investment value of each facsimile.
The facsimile and
companion volume are boxed in an elegant