Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 9

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Mahzor
Date: c. 1300-1500
Found in: Parsons, Robert. Elizabethae reginae Angliae edictum promulgatum Londini 29. Novemb. anni M.D. XCI. [Rome?: s.n.], 1593.

Alongside the many pieces of the Christian liturgy preserved in the Law Library’s bindings, we find a reminder that medieval Europe was home to many vibrant Jewish communities as well. Michael Rand, of the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, has identified the fragment seen here is a folio from a mahzor, a Jewish service book used on the high holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and the pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). According to Rand, the folio features a liturgical poem (piyyut) of a type called yotzer. This yotzer was used to celebrate Shavuot (which falls seven weeks after Passover and corresponds to the Christian feast of Pentecost). It is titled “Ayelet Ahevim Matnat Sinai” and deals with the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. The yotzer bears the name “Shim’on” in the acrostic, which has led some scholars to speculate that it was composed by the 10th-century poet Shim’on bar Yitshaq of Mainz. Rand points out that this particular poem was employed in the Ashkenazic, Roman (i.e. Italian), and Romaniote (i.e., Byzantine) prayer rites, and the formal script found here (called “square script”) appears to be Italian.

This fragment has been added to the online catalog of Hebrew manuscripts maintained by the Department of Manuscripts, National Library of Israel; the record (in Hebrew) can be viewed here. Thanks to Dr. Ezra Chwat of the National Library of Israel for cataloging the fragment and providing additional information about it.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .[at]>

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Published In: