In the very name of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a distinction between printed books and those written by hand, or manuscripts. Columbia’s printed books are housed separately from the manuscript codices, and they’re generally considered to be separate kinds of materials. In the early modern library, however, print and manuscript books sat side by side with one another – and sometimes were even bound together. A post back in early 2020 discussed the phenomenon of printed material combined with manuscript works. Most of the examples there showed manuscripts that used some sort of printed material as part of the binding or a title page. In this post I’ll discuss complete (or near-complete) texts that were bound together as a sort of mini-collection in one volume.
The first book is a manuscript with a Portuguese “compendium” of various items, including a treatise on astronomical and geographical data and a mathematical formula written by Abraham ibn Ezra. The manuscript is fairly substantial, containing 76 leaves. Following this text in the same volume is a printed pamphlet of only 12 leaves from 1670 giving the cycles of the moon and astronomical tables called Mikra’e Kodesh, written by Selomoh de Oliveyra. The juxtaposition here is clear – the owner of the book was interested in materials dealing with time and the lunar cycle, which is critical to the Jewish calendar.
A 1739 copy of Tikun Shovevim, printed in Venice, contains penitential prayers in 50 pages. Bound with it is a short collection (10 leaves) of prayers for a very specific day of penitence and fasting, when on December 27, 1760, silver items and a Torah scroll were stolen from a synagogue in Corfu.
Sefer Mikhlol Yofi, a commentary on the Bible written by Shelomon ibn Melekh, was printed in Constantinople in 1549. The copy in the RBML was missing the last 7 leaves, so the owner filled in the leaves in his own hand, copying the style of the original typography. Can you identify which is handwritten and which one is printed?
A copy of a popular book on Jewish ritual slaughter, Jacob Weil’s Shehitot u-vedikot (Amsterdam, 1768), includes six manuscript leaves at the beginning of the book, ten at the end, and another five added in where pages of the printed text was missing. The manuscript leaves consist of notes on the laws of ritual slaughter in Judeo-German, two Hebrew poems upon the donation of a Torah scroll to the synagogue, and much more!
A volume of David Abudarham’s commentary on the Jewish prayers, printed in Lisbon in 1489, also includes what is commonly known as “Tashlum Abudarham,” or “the completion of Abudarham,” which is a commentary on liturgical poems for Yom Kippur. As with the Mikhlol Yofi, note how carefully the scribe wrote to match the printed text (which itself was based on a standard Sephardic semi-cursive hand like this one!). The end of this particular volume includes two sentences in Judeo-Spanish.
Books of prayer, which were used (and thus worn down) often, are a common example of books completed in manuscript. Thus a book of prayers with instructions and commentary in Italian was missing its first few leaves, and its owners copied the text exactly from an existing copy, including the decorated first word, as shown on the left. The image on the right shows the two pages of manuscript and print next to one another, and once again, the written hand looks very similar to the printed font.
A final example is something of a mini-library of books that all connect to the same event. This volume contains four separate essays, produced in both print and manuscript, relating to the 1713 controversy around Nehemiah Hiya Hayon, a follower of the heretical Sabbatean movement that arose following the false Messiah, Shabbetai Tsevi, in the 17th century.
Even after Shabbetai’s death in 1676, his name lived on for countless of followers, known as Sabbateans, who appeared throughout the 18th century and onward.
The third book in this volume is Joseph Ergas’s Tokhahat Megullah ve-ha-tsad nahash (London, 1715), and the the fourth is Shever Posh’im (Amsterdam [London?], 1719 [1714?]), and focuses on various individuals from the Amsterdam community who were involved in the case against Hayon.
It is clear that whoever owned this volume, which contained so many works dealing with this case, was avowedly anti-Sabbanean, and clearly was very interested in the complicated discussions involved in the Nehemiya Hiya Hayon affair.
As has been shown in the many examples described here, manuscripts did indeed persist long after the rise of print in Europe. In fact, they often appeared in tandem with – or as a replacement for – the printed text.