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Spanish biblical hebrew manuscripts (Second Part)

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A great number of valuables Biblical Hebrew manuscripts are conserved in Spanish libraries. They are of various content and some of them are specially significant for many reasons, one of them having been used in the editing of such important Polyglote Bibles like the Complutensian or the Antwerp Bible. A new catalogue describing the Hebrew collections in the different libraries in Madrid has been published. An overview of El Escorial and Complutensian University Libraries was given in Hebrew Studies 2004. Now, the others main libraries collections of manuscripts in Madrid is given, analyzing the most significant manuscripts.

I have already mentioned, on previous occasions, the need to bring together, in a single catalogue, the collection of Hebrew documents to be found in the libraries of Madrid. In a previous article published in 20041 I presented the collections housed in the libraries of El Escorial, the Complutensian University of Madrid and the Royal Palace. On this occasion, I will bring together those manuscripts kept in the National Library, the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, the National Historical Archive and the Royal Academy of History. We shall see below, how these collections of Hebrew manuscripts were constituted in the different libraries.


The present National Library of Madrid is the immediate successor to the Royal Library established by Felipe V in 17122 Thanks to the work of certain librarians such as José Rodríguez de Castro or Francisco Pérez Bayer, both renown Hebrew scholars in the XVIII century, and together with donations and confiscations, the collection of manuscripts continued to grow, to the extent that when the name was changed to National Library in the middle of the 19th century, the number of Hebrew manuscripts was quite considerable. I say quite, because in comparison with libraries of the same standing in other countries such as the British Library, the Vatican Library, the Palatina in Parma, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris or indeed, even the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the number in Madrid is somewhat less. Nevertheless, we must take into account the fact that a good number of Hebrew manuscripts ended up in the libraries of El Escorial and the old collection of the Complutensian University due to their link, in the 16th century, with the most important editions of the Bible and to Benito Arias Montano who contributed immensely to the setting up of these collections2. Among the Spanish libraries, the NL holds the third largest volume of Hebrew manuscripts after the El Escorial Library and that of the Abbey of Montserrat.

It is certain that the collections of the Marqués de Mondéjar, of the Archbishop of Valencia, of Don Antonio Folch de Cardona and that of the Marqués de Uceda which became part of the Royal Library in the 18th century form the original nucleus of what was to become the public library in Spain3.
Between the years 1808 and 1813 there is yet another period during which the collection increases considerably due to the incorporation of many documents from other libraries into the NL, although some were later returned. The same happens during the liberal government with the confiscations which took place under Mendizábal. In 1836, the NL is the chosen destination for the collections of the convents and monasteries which were closed in Madrid and Toledo, these were made up an indiscriminate number of documents including a large number of manuscripts. However, some important collections of manuscripts did not find their way into the NL but ended up in the Royal Academy of History, as was the case with the Salazar y Castro collection.
The first inventories hardly made mention of the Hebrew manuscripts and it is, therefore, difficult to have an idea of their number. Almost the only guide is their origin, considering the collection it previously belonged to and the dates when each group was incorporated. Some manuscripts in the NL itself give us an indication of how these lots came to be part of the collection, as we shall see later.
The most recent acquisition of a Hebrew manuscript by the NL is the signature Res. 267 (85)3, which was bought from Dr. Stockhammer , of Switzerland on 26th March 19794. It is a scroll of Esther, of nearly 4 metres and made up of five sewn pieces with a total of fifteen columns of text. It is written on parchment in a very careful square script, in which every column, bar one, begins with the word melek written in large letters together with floral decorations in several colours. The scroll is kept in a silver cylinder heavily embossed with liturgical and floral motifs. It is held by a silver handle clasped to the parchment and is unrolled with the aid of a winding device. It was dated between the XIX and XX centuries, but we are inclined to place it further back to the XVIII or XIX.
The character of the manuscripts in the NL is varied. As for the themes, the greater number corresponds to biblical manuscripts. But there are also other themes: biblical commentaries, grammar, philosophical treatises, Talmud, medicine, sciences or liturgy and several miscellaneous. One thing the manuscripts do show is the lack of a focussed acquisitions policy on the part of the library. The lack of continuity is evident at every step and, as we shall see, results from indiscriminate accumulations. There are groups of manuscripts, each one from an earlier collection and another group of separate manuscripts whose origin is unknown.
To date, there have been several compilations of the Hebrew codices in the NL, but the majority only give a partial view or just list a few of them. Firstly, there are the earliest which concern the collections of the Cathedral of Toledo, from where a number of the manuscripts come; there are also some annotations in the 19th century works of Neubauer5 and Derenbourg6. Neubauer refers to a dictionary by David Qimhi, his commentary and that of Rashi on different biblical books and the Arab translation of the Pentateuch by Sa‛adya Gaón. In his work on Arab manuscripts, Derenbourg includes two which are, in reality, Hebrew. This first is the 8260. It appears in this article under the signature Gg 106, but, for diverse reasons, is not included in our catalogue7. The second manuscript which is described is the 9290 (105) which appears in Derenbourg’s work as Gg 109. One of them is the Baal ha-Lashon by Yosef Zarca and we can see from the colophon that the copy was finished in Mantua on the 13 of Elul 1491 and that the manuscript was written for Samuel de Pesquera.
As for other older printed sources, the compendium work of Bartolomé José Gallardo8 of 1868 refers to Hebrew manuscripts. Four of the manuscripts described, numbers 5468 (67), 5474 (113), 7542 (88) and 4188 (103) are at present in the NL. The last two are the work of Alfonso de Zamora: the first shows a bilingual text in Latin and Hebrew of the Targum Jonathan of the biblical books of Joshua, Judges, Kings (the four books) and Ruth, dated, according to the double colophon in Hebrew and Spanish, in 1533 and destined for Dn. Antonio Ramírez de Haro. The second comes from the the Monastery of San Martín and is a Sefer Miklol by David Qimhi and a list of grammatical terms in Latin and Spanish. It is dated 1523 in Alcalá de Henares and, according to its colophon, is written for Father Juan de Azcona. The 5474 is a miscellany of various compositions of scientific nature whose provenance and copyist are unknown. The 5468 is a later manuscript from the 18th century and contains a Hebrew Pentateuch with a Latin transcription. It belonged to Olav Gerhard Tychsen of Bützow and was sent to Pérez Bayer in 1787 and it was through him that it became part of the NL collection. The notation on the manuscript states:
“... Illustrissimo et doctissimo D. Francisco Perezio Bayer, Regiae Bibliothecae Bibliothecario primario, Archidiacono Valentino rel. Codicem hunc grati animi testificandi caussa d. d. d. d. Olaus Gerhardus Tyschen natione Cimber SER. Ducs. Regn. Megapolitano a consiliis Aulae, Orientalis litteraturae in Academia Fridericiana, quae Butzonii idibus Novembris A.O.R. MDCCLXXXVII”.
It is set out in two columns: the right side reproduces the Hebrew and the left the Spanish translation of the text of the Bible of Ferrara up to Genesis 45,6 while the rest of the column is blank. Gaspar Remiro attributes the transcription of the Hebrew text to the previous owner, Olav Gerhard Tychsen who was born in Tondern in 1734 and died in Rostock in 1815. He was a well-known orientalist, an expert in paleography and numismatics; as a Lutheran, he studied in Jena and Halle, in the latter with Siegmund J. Baumgarten who managed to turn him into a skilful amanuensis. In 1759 he worked in the Institutum Judaicum founded by Callenberg. The following year he started to teach oriental languages in the University of Bützow. Through his work on numismatics, he is in contact with the Jesuit Francisco Pérez Bayer to whom, while he was librarian in the NL, he offers the manuscript 5468. He is the author of numerous works on Hebrew, Arabic and other oriental languages.
The first to give more detailed notes or descriptions concerning the collection of the Hebrew manuscripts in the NL are M. Gaspar Remiro who publishes various articles in the Boletín de la Real Academia Española (1918-1923)9, although he omits to mention several of the manuscripts in the library; and, J.M. Millás Vallicrosa and F. Cantera Burgos, both through articles published in the journal Sefarad10. The most comprehensive catalogue, as far as the number of listed documents is concerned, is that of C. Del Valle Rodríguez, although it contains many errors in the description of the manuscripts11. In 1990, the Fundación Ramón Areces publishes the Catálogo de Códices Bíblicos de la Catedral de Toledo, by Klaus Reinhardt and Ramón Gonzálvez12, in which they describe, in an Addenda, the Hebrew biblical manuscripts which were originally in the Cathedral of Toledo and which had later been passed to the NL; unfortunately, they repeat several of the errors present in the catalogue published by C. del Valle. A more accurate and comprehensive list, rather than a catalogue since it does not give descriptions of the manuscripts, is that of N. Allony and E.F. Kupfer published in 196413.
Most of the Hebrew codices come from ecclesiastical institutions, in particular from the Cathedral of Toledo and the Monastery of San Martín. The collections from the Cathedral of Toledo were handed over to the NL in 1869 and were those which were brought to Toledo by Cardinal Francisco Javier Zelada. He was born in Rome in 1717 and was a great promoter and patron of the arts in Italy, he possessed a large but select library and a museum of antiquities; for a time he was even the librarian of the Vatican Library. His work in favour of the extinction of the Society of Jesus earned him his cardinal’s position; he was also in charge of some colleges which belonged to the order. Before his death in 1801, he sent all his Hebrew manuscripts to the Cathedral of Toledo in 1798 in order to avoid that they fall into the hands of the French who, at the time, occupied the pontifical states. The task was entrusted to Cardinal Lorenzana who, from 1772, was also archbishop of Toledo and later Cardinal and who had struck up a friendship with Zelada during his stay in Rome and with whom he shared an interest in bibliography.
Before the incorporation of the Zelada collection, there was already a Hebrew manuscript in the Chapter library of the Cathedral of Toledo. The first signs of this appear in an index kept in the NL14 (manuscript 13830), entitled Index Librorum Bibliothecae Santae Ecclesiae Toledanae. Scriptus Anno Domini Milessimo Quingentessimo Nonagessimo Primo, in other words, it dates from 1591. There are three folios in the original foliation with the number LXXVI. In the second of them, (number 84 in the modern foliation) there is mention of a Hebrew Bible with the following text:
“Libri Hebrei ms. Bibliorum Hebraeorum pars continens Petatheucum, et ectionis prophetarum, et Psalmi qui legebantur in sabbathis et festis totuus anni, et Cantica, Ecclesistes, Threni, Ester, et Ruth, ms. In membranis mediocri forma”.
This is followed with the note in the margin: 2-6. This coincides with the text, in its Spanish translation in the inside of the front page of the ms. 5469 (72) in the NL, which reads:

“Este libro tiene el Pentateuco entero y las lecciones de prophetas y Salmos que se leyen en los sabados y fiestas del año y los cinco volumenes pequeños que son cantica ecclesiastes threni Ester y Ruth”.

We can, therefore be sure that we are dealing with the same manuscript. It is an incomplete Bible, probably from the 13th century, written in a very careful square Sephardic letter with parva and magna masoras and is in a very good state of conservation. There is another annotation on the back of the title page:
“Esta brieva ebraica fue de Fernando de Hinar que fue secretario del cabildo desta Santa Ygla. De Toledo y racionera y capellan de los serenissimos reyes de buena memoria que estan sepultados en su capilla en est santa Ygla. Requiescant in pace. Amen”

There is yet another item from 1727: the ms. 13413 in the NL includes the Indice de todos los libros manuscrtos que se guardan en esta bibliotheca de la Sta. Yglesia de Toledo primada de las Hespanas. Año de MDCCXXVII. In which is mentioned under the number 12,

“una Biblia sagrada,...que esta el Pentateucho entero: las lecciones de los profetas y Psalmos, que se leyen los sabados en los synagogas de los judios y el Pentateucho menor, esto de Cantica, Ecclesiastes, Threni, Esther y Ruth: todo lo dicho en Lengua Hebrea escrito con caracteres cuadrados cargados de todos los puntos, o vocales. Y con varios escolios de Rabbinos, en letra rabbinica sin puntos. Pergam. Signatura 2-12 fol”

It also refers to the already mentioned ms.5469 given the coincidence of both the terms of the description and the earlier signature.

There is another reference previous to the incorporation of the Zelada collection in ms 18841 in the NL. This is another index, the Libro en que se asientan los libros que se compraron para la Biblioteca de su Magestad, from 1716 onwards. In fol. 323r there is Biblia Hebrea cum punctis, et glossulis hebraicis. This note appears among a group of books and manuscripts which were brought from Ávila between 1736 and 1737 and refers back to fol. 298v of the same manuscript. Here we find the details of the transactions which took place with the different booksellers and the corresponding accounts. It is dated 17th August 1737. The chief librarian at the time was Blas Antonio de Nasarre. Despite the fact that the greater part of the collection came either from confiscations or donations of complete libraries, he, together with his successor Juan de Santander were the librarians who most increased the purchases for the royal library.
The description of the bible is very scant and it could refer to more than one of the copies which is in the NL. However, if we put aside those which we know for certain come from the Zelada collection or the Monastery of San Martín, we are left with just two bibles with masora to which the term glossulis hebraicis must refer. One of them may have been acquired in 189315 and thus, we can identify it with the present Vit 26-6 (65). It is a complete Bible, the only complete one from the NL collection. It is written in a careful, square Sephardic script, probably of the 14th century, with parva and magna masoras and decorated edgings together with gilt, blue and red zoomorphic figures at the beginning of the sections and especially throughout the Book of Psalms.
Also from the NL, in ms. 19428, fol. VII we can find a Memoria de los Mss. Hebreos, Griegos, Latinos y Castellanos comprados a Dn. Benito Martínez Payoso por precio de 536 R. Y 17 maravedís en 15 de octubre de 1739. The first document it mentions is: Libro hebreo en 4º, escrito en letra Rabínica. Pentatheucus Hebraice in 4º. The content suggests that it could refer to mss. 5456 (76) or 5466 (74). They are the only two whose provenance is unknown and which correspond to the description. If we then consider the size described, we come to the conclusion that it refers to the first, the manuscript signature 5456.
Finally, and following the chronological order, we come to the NL manuscript 13449, which includes the inventory made by Father Lorenzo Frías in 1807. An Augustinian, historian and Prior of the Convent of Toledo from 1791, he dedicated himself to cataloguing the library. On the advice of Cardinal Lorenzana, he was given the charge of indexing the manuscripts of the monastery as well as the organisation of the library of the Cathedral of Toledo. In fol. 359r and 361v of the same manuscript we find the Inventario de lo que se custodia en el cajón primero de la mesa. Here, there are nine Hebrew manuscripts of which four have become part of the NL collection16.
One of these, the Vit. 4-17, is a page of a ketubá, on parchment with square Sephardic letters. It has a decorated border with motifs of greenery and initials in red, blue and green while in the lower part there is the drawing of a lion among floral decorations. The contract is sealed between Mordechai ebreo de Sicilia and Gentiliska de Ciprano in Rome 1669.

The other three manuscripts consist of three scrolls of Esther, one is the Res 235 without the final blessing, written in a square script with tagin over the prescribed letters17 on leather and approximately 4 metres long. The others are written on parchment with a square script without vocalization, as is the norm for scrolls used in the synagogue.

Among the collection brought by Zelada, there is a group of 7 manuscripts (89 to 96), which are liturgical. These are books of prayer written for the Jews in Rome, except the 5480 which is for the Jews in Germany; the annotations tell us that these were the work of Father Antonius Constantius. The script is semi- cursive, except for the aforementioned 5480 which is in square Ashkenazi script while 5481 and 5482 are in square Sephardic. They are all of a similar size, small, and are bound in a similar way. Except for the first two, the others carry decorative garlands in red, green and blue ink together with gilt.
The second largest lot of manuscripts which came to make up the collection of the NL, is that from the Madrid Monastery of San Martín. The monastery was not especially of relevance for its collection of manuscripts, but, for several reasons, not least of which was the figure of Father Sarmiento, it managed to bring together a number of ancient codices. Pedro José García Balboa, by his real name, was born in Villafranca del Bierzo in 1695. His first studies were with the Jesuits and in 1710 he entered the noviciate of the Benedictine order in Madrid. He studied theology in Salamanca and, once a graduate, remained in Madrid for more than twenty years during which he played an important role in building up the collection of the convent’s library. He also spent some time in Toledo working on the catalogue of the archives of the Cathedral. He died in Madrid in 1772 having left his mark on San Martín. It was he who signed a note dated 4th September 1751 stating that there were 19 manuscripts in the monastery.
There is another manuscript in the NL, the 1916, which includes an Índice y Inventario de todas las escripturas del archivo de esta real casa y parroquia de San Martin de Madrid. Año de 1769. The fol. 297r reproduces the Indize de todos los manuscriptos que se hallan oy 23 de agosto de 1770 en este archivo de San Martin en Madrid en la alazena del medio: se pone su estante y numero en cada tomo. It mentions a total of three shelves and 95 manuscripts and then specifies that on the first shelf, those manuscripts numbered from 1 to 18 are Hebrew. Although one year separates the two notes, it would seem that there was no change in the number of codices, although it is true that there is a difference of one in comparison with the 19 cited by Father Sarmiento. We do not know whether the difference over the years is due to a loss or an error in the first count. The number also tallies with that cited by Gregorio de Andrés18 who also identifies the manuscripts. He states that the documents came into the monastery, at the latest, in 1748, from the collection of the Duque de Medina Sidonia, a person who maintained good relations with the monastery and donated a large number of books and manuscripts.
As with the majority of libraries which were to be found in religious institutions at the time of the seizures of 1836, the collection of San Martín was moved, after periods in other stores, to the Encarnación Monastery where books and other items of value confiscated from the monasteries were kept. From there, they were incorporated into the royal library and finally into the NL. It was no doubt during this process that many of the works disappeared, either lost or stolen. This is probably what happened to the rest of the Hebrew manuscripts since only seven, recognised as coming from this collection, remain in the NL.
Of the seven manuscripts which came from the monastery of San Martín, there is just one Bible (66) which is a Judeo-Arabic version of the Pentateuch translated by Sa’adya Gaón. It is written on parchment and is in a rather poor state of conservation. There are also two manuscripts of grammar: a Sefer Miklol and a Sefer ha-Shorashim, both works of David Qimhi. The first, (103) includes a translation by Alfonso de Zamora written by brother Juan de Azcona and dated in Alcalá de Henares the 5th June 1523. The second (104) is undated but a note written on the reverse side of the first folio states that the manuscript dates from 16th August 1526 in Alcalá de Henares. The writing of this and other notes seems to be that of Alfonso de Zamora which suggests that the codex was his property over some period of time.
Finally, we can also find in this lot from San Martín four bible commentaries. Two are by David Qimhi (94 and 95), both in relation to earlier Prophets. The first is dated 25 of kislev 1348 according to the colophon and is destined for Don Yehuda Said de Haro. It is written in an excellent Sephardic semi-cursive. The other two consist of a commentary by Rashi on the Pentateuch and Hagiographies (89) and an unfinished commentary on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy by Abraham Ibn Ezra (93).


The first academies in Spain came about as the result of both a political and social answer to the demands of an intellectual drive and also as an attempt to follow the cultural model which had thrived in the rest of Europe with the creation of academies in France, Germany, England and Italy. Their initial objectives were to stimulate research and progress, and in the first instance they were the fruit of private initiatives and later the object of royal patronage. As such, their existence is due, to a large degree, to the influence of the Bourbons, starting with Felipe V19.
There had, however, been a precedent in the 16th century with the creation of the Academy of Mathematics which was later incorporated into the Imperial College of the Jesuits.

In fact, the Academy of History had its origins in a private gathering of intellectuals, the erudite and illustrious minds of Madrid, who gave themselves the name of the Universal Academia. Its members would meet, and this from 1735, in the private house of don Julián Hermosilla, until the 14th May 1736 when, with the support of the head librarian of the Royal Library, Blas Antonio Nasarre, the group moved its meetings to the seat of that library.

The RAH received its credentials by royal decree on 18th April 1738, under the direction of Dn. Agustín Montiano y Luyando who was later to be succeeded by the illustrious Conde de Campomanes. From that date it counted with the support of the public authorities.

Together with the research activities of the institution, came the right to read books which were on the prohibited list. From 1746 several licences were given for this activity, verbally at first and later in writing, more privileges were granted at each stage culminating in that of the Inquisitor General on 14th February 178320.

This right, together with the research and other activities carried out by the members, gave rise to the creation of a library which was to grow considerably following the seizure by the state of the possessions of the convents and monasteries in application of the decree of confiscation of 1835. Its collection also grew thanks to the purchase of books both in and outside Spain as well as the incorporation of private libraries21. Since its installation in the Nuevo Rezado palace the reading room is on the ground floor of the library and is, initially, exclusively for the use of the academicians. The first legacy was that of the Conde de San Román and was particularly military in character. However, the two most important collections are those of Salazar y Castro and Muñoz. Also of note are the Gayangos collection (some 300 codices and manuscripts, of which 249 are Arabic) and the Jesuit collection which came from the Jesuit monasteries which were expelled in 1767. Apart from its collection of nearly 400,000 volumes, the library also possesses an important collection of some 100 manuscripts and almost 200 first editions.
A large number of documents were moved to the Real Academia when the Library of Parlament (Biblioteca de Las Cortes) was closed down. This library had benefited from the privilege of being able to select from the collections of the dissolved convents and monasteries in order to increase its own. For this reason, it was, over a long period of time, at loggerheads with the NL, a rivalry which ended with the closure of the Library of Parlament. In an official despatch dated 3 June 1838, Bartolomé José Gallardo informs us that the books in provenence from the Jesuists had been passed over to the Royal Library without an inventory, and that once the Library of Parlament had been re-established, the order was given that they should be returned to that library22.
To return to the Royal Academy of History, most of the Hebrew manuscripts in its possession at the present time come from the aforementioned Jesuit collection which, coming from the Imperial College, had been deposited in the Library of Parlament. All the data suggests that the documents from the Jesuits, together with the Salazar collection, were transferred to the Academy; among these were some of the Hebrew manuscripts.
In the Academy, there are at present, fourteen Hebrew manuscripts of varied content, the number could increase to fifteen since the number 11 consists of two works. The most interesting manuscripts are nº 2, nº 5 and nº 8 . Nº 2 reproduces a Sefer ha-Iqqarim by Josef Albo, written part on paper part on parchment, and which is in a poor state of conservation with a section both at the beginning and the end missing. The binding, in leather, is also with one of the covers missing. The nº 5 is a Pentateuch and also has the beginning missing together with Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations part of Ecclesiastes and two Psalms. The binding is pasteboard and the inscription PENTATEUC. CUM HAPHTAR appears on the spine. Finally, nº 8 is a fragment of a leather scroll which reproduces the text of Leviticus 14, 10-44. The letters are square and decorated with tagín23.


José Lázaro Galdiano (1862-1947)24 is known, above all, for his work at the head of España Moderna, the journal he edited for 26 years, until 1914, and for his activity as an art collector. Less known is his facet as a bibliophile and the possessor of a splendid library. This library was left to the Spanish state on his death and is today part of the museum which bears his name. Later, in 1948, the Fundación Lazaro Galdiano was created and has now the task of looking after this rich collection.
The collection holds a good number of manuscripts, some of great value, which appear in an extensive catalogue25. Nevertheless, although the introduction refers to the one and only Hebrew manuscript in the collection, this is not included in the catalogue. It does, however , appear in the inventory (92) under the number 15646.
The collection had been made up, not only of books acquired by Lázaro, many in the United States, but also of works incorporated after his death from Paris and the National Library, works that had been part of the collection before the Spanish Civil War. The manuscripts of the collection have been shown in many exhibitions and appear in their respective catalogues26.
The Hebrew manuscript which is of interest to us here, was described in minute detail by Professor Cantera27. We are not exactly sure when it became part of the collection. But, given the different relations Lázaro maintained with institutions and bibliophiles and the fact, affirmed by Cantera, that the manuscript had been seen by Pérez Bayer in the Colombina Library in Seville, we can assume it came from this city28. In fact, the other part of the manuscript which corresponds to the biblical commentary of the Pentateuch, is currently held in that library. The first part, which concerns us here, reproduces part of the biblical commentary starting from the book of Deuteronomy by R. Salomón Serfati (Rashi). In his Viaje a Andalucía , after describing a Hebrew bible which was offered to the Santa Iglesia de Sevilla by Alfonso X el Sabio, Pérez Bayer refers to it as a codex which contains the Bible, well cared for and with a particularly beautiful square script. He also mentions the colophon written in the form of a drawing29. The second part of the colophon appears as two columns and not two circles as Pérez Bayer describes it; it is in square Hebrew script and also indicates that it was the property of the archdeacon of Jerez. At the bottom of the folio there is an annotation of three lines which are hardly visible, but which shows the date 14 July 1480; Cantera reads this as identifying the archdeacon as Don Juan de Góngora. The first part of the colophon is in a decorative cursive Hebrew script.
The manuscript is in a careful semi-cursive Italian script. Of particular interest, are the Sephardic illuminations in Mudejar style; they form illuminated vignettes with geometrical patterns and floral designs in red, green, blue, mauve, ochre and grey as well as gilt. For reasons which escape us, this section of the codex was bound separately from the rest of the manuscript which remains in Seville. It is probable that it was Lázaro himself who did the binding, given his reputation for the careful conservation of his documents and the splendid condition of his library.


It is, to date, the largest and most comprehensive archive in Spain. Created through royal decree in 1866, it answered the need to bring together all the documentation stored by the administration of the State and spread over all the ministries and official buildings. If we add to this all the collections of the confiscations which had not ended up in the RAH or the NL, the need for such a storage place is obvious.

In its beginnings, it was housed in premises ceded by the RAH and its first director was Tomás Muñoz y Romero who drew up the first indexes of the collections30. In 1896 the Archive was moved to the premises of the NL where the documents could be processed in a more convenient way. Little by little it inherited more and more documents opening its doors to the Archivo Histórico de Toledo and the Real Consejo de Órdenes Militares, a collection from the Comendadoras de Madrid and others from the Universidad Central de Alcalá de Henares. Over time, having taken on the collections which were until then in other state archives, it later incorporated those documents of the Ministries of Grace and Justice, Finance, Navy and that of the State. The NL also hands over documents of a monastic nature. In April 1908 it counted with 153,238 documents, 17,459 books and 82,374 files.

From 1930 and up to the 1950s, the in-coming documents were very disorganised and came from diverse sources. Among them, was the so-called recuperation collection made up of documents which had come to light after the Spanish Civil War.
Up until now, not all the biblical manuscripts in the NHA have been catalogued. There is mention of only one Hebrew manuscript but with no indication as to which it is or what it contains; there is also a photograph in an archive guide32. It is a scroll of Esther which is described in this catalogue for the first time: it comes from one of the recuperation collections of the civil war and appears on the inventory as codex 1423B (86); it is written on parchment in Sephardic square script and is dated between the 14th and 15th centuries. It does not include the final blessing.
The rest of the biblical fragments, those which correspond to the file nr. 1487 B of the inventory (68, 69, 77, 79, 100 and 101), are numbered in this file. However, we have been able to group them in a different way, in the way they appeared when we realized that some of them were part of the same manuscript. They are all fragments whose provenance is the bindings of the trials of the inquisition in Cuenca.
There are, in total, 16 parchment fragments with a biblical content, assembled in five groups of biblical books. The first, comprising three strips of which the first and the second correspond to the same folio, was described in detail by Pérez Castro in 197033. The other four groups correspond to the texts of Psalms, Job, Genesis, Deuteronomy and Exodus. All are written on parchment and dated between the 14th and 15th centuries; on that which corresponds to Psalms there is a note to the effect that it is the folder which held the trial against Constanza Fernández. They all belong to the inquisition file 1930 which contained the trials of the inquisition of Sigüenza. Pérez Castro states categorically that these papers first went to the archive in Cuenca and later to the NHA. However, the guide to the NHA34 states that the files numbered 1578 to 4388 were incorporated into the archive in 1914 from that of Simancas. Although the file 1930 could be included in this group, both affirmations could be correct; the Hebrew manuscripts were frequently excluded from the regular counts which means that the provenance could quite easily have been the archive of Cuenca.
The rest of the fragments correspond to texts from the Mishneh Torah of Maimónides and are identified and described in this catalogue for the first time.

1 M. T. Ortega Monasterio, “Spanish Biblical Hebrew Manuscripts”, Hebrew Studies 45 (2004):163-174.


2 For more information on the setting up of the library of El Escorial, see M. T. Ortega Monasterio, “Las Bibliotecas y sus Manuscritos Hebreos”, in F. J. del Barco del Barco, Catálogo de Manuscritos Hebreos de la Comunidad de Madrid. Vol. 1, CSIC, Madrid 2003, pp. 17ss; ; Idem, “Spanish Biblical Hebrew Manuscripts”, Hebrew Studies, 2004, pp. 163-174.

3 In relation to the setting up of the library, see M. Sánchez Mariana, “La formación del fondo bibliográfico de la Royal Library pública” in El libro antiguo español, III El Libro en Palacio y otros estudios bibliográficos, Patrimonio Nacional 1996, pp. 265-277.

3 Hencefort the number between brackets refers to the manuscripts number in our catalogue. See F. J. del Barco del Barco, Catálogo de Manuscritos Hebreos de la Comunidad de Madrid. Vol. 2, CSIC, Madrid 2004.

4 See, M. Sánchez Mariana, “Manuscritos ingresados en la Biblioteca Nacional durante los años 1978 y 1979”, RABM LXXXII (1979) 4: 839-854.

5 A. Neubauer, “Rapport sur les manuscrits hébreux existant dans quelques bibliothèques de l’Espagne et du Portugal”, Archives des Missions Scientifiques et Littéraires ,2 série 5 (1868) : 423-435.

6 H. Derenbourg, Notes critiques sur les manuscrits arabes de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Madrid, 1904, pp. 50-51.

7 See Mª Josefa de Azcárraga Servert, “Otros manuscritos”, in F. J. del Barco del Barco, Catálogo de Manuscritos Hebreos de la Comunidad de Madrid. Vol. 2, CSIC, Madrid 2004, pp. 63-83.

8 B. José Gallardo, Ensayo de una Biblioteca Española de libros raros y curiosos, Madrid 1868. Facsimile edition, Madrid 1968, Vol II, pp.124 and 177.

9 M. Gaspar Remiro, “Los manuscritos rabínicos de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid”, Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 5 (1918): 601-617; 6 (1919): 43-53; 221-234; 354-371;552-567; 7 (1929): 343-355; 472-481; 8 (1921): 40-57; 337-348; 9 (1922): 345-358; 10 (1923): 266-274.

10 J. M. Millás Vallicrosa, “Nuevas aportaciones para el estudio de los manuscritos hebraícos de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid”, Sefarad 3 (1943): 289-327 and F. Cantera Burgos, “Nueva serie de manuscritos hebreos de Madrid”, Sefarad 18 (1958): 219-240.

11 C. del Valle Rodríguez, Catálogo descriptivo de los manuscritos hebreos de la Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid 1986.

12 K. Reinhardt - R. Gonzálvez, Catálogo de Códices Bíblicos de la Catedral de Toledo, Madrid 1990.

13 N. Allony - E. Kupfer, List of Photocopies in the Institute. Part II: Hebrew Manuscripts in the Libraries of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, Jerusalem 1964.

14 Former signatures: Box 41 Nº 45; 21-24;Uu 22.

15 Thus affirms C. Del Valle Rodríguez, Catálogo..., p. 74, but we have no further information to corroborate the fact. Nevertheless, in his article “Los manuscritos hebreos de la Biblioteca Nacional”, RABM LXXIX (1976) 3, 629 he includes it among those coming from the Cathedral of Toledo. It would appear that it does not belong to this group since there is no reference to the Zelada collection nor to the early signatures of Toledo, as is the case with all the others coming from this source.

16 The numbers and their corresponding present references in the NL are as follows: nº 4 = Vit. 4-17 (102); nº 6 = Res 237 bis (84), nº 7 = Vit. 4-15 (82) and nº 8 = Res 235 bis (83). All appear with their corresponding descriptions with sufficient detail to facilitate their identification. The two Vit. 4-15 and 4-17 do not figure as having come from the Zelada collection as do the others. However, they do come from the Cathedral of Toledo. As their signatures indicate, these four documents are of special importance and as such are considered as reserved manuscripts.

17 The tagin are decorative crowns which are written over the higher left extremity of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet when the scrolls are for use in the synagogue. See the Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol 15 columns. 700-701.

18 Gregorio de Andrés, “Una valiosa colección de códices del convento benedictino de S. Martín de Madrid”, Anales del Instituto de Estudios Madrileños XXX (1991): 251-261.

19 According to Sempere y Guarinos: (in translation), “No sooner had Felipe V ascended to the throne, than his Majesty’s patronage was sought for the founding of various Academies and literary associations. The King, who prided himself on his interest for literature, and who had indeed proved that on many occasions, was always well disposed to give whatever favour he could to the promotion of the Sciences and the Arts”. Juan Sempere y Guarinos, Ensayo de una biblioteca española de los mejores escritores del reynado de Carlos II . Madrid 1785-1789, vol I, pp. 53-54.

20 Actas de la RAH, Vol. VII (21 February)

21 For further information on the creation and setting up of the RAH, see A. Rumeu de Armas, La Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid 2001 and Eva Velasco Moreno, La Real Academia de la Historia en el siglo XVIII, Madrid 2000.

22 Vicente Salavert, La Biblioteca del Congreso de los Diputados. Notas para su historia (1811-1936), Madrid 1983, pp. 205-6. With relation to the Colegio de San Isidro, see. José Simón Díaz, Historia del Colegio Imperial de Madrid, Instituto de Estudios Madrileños, Madrid 1992.

23 See note 17.

24 About the person Lázaro Galdiano, the following works may be consulted: C. Blanco Soler. “Vida y peripecias de Don José Lázaro Galdiano”, Mundo Hispánico 39 (1951): 19-26; F.J. Sánchez Cantón, “Don José Lázaro y su legado a España”, Arbor 26 (1948): 215-231; J. A. Yeves, José Lázaro Galdiano, bibliófilo: viernes, 24 de septiembre de 1933, XVIII Congreso Internacional de Bibliofília, Madrid 1993; Idem, Cánovas y Lázaro. Dos bibliófilos de fin de siglo, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid 1998; Idem, “José Lázaro Galdiano, bibliófilo y editor y Goya”, Goya, Revista de Arte, 25 (1996): 331-340.

25 Juan Antonio Yeves, Manuscritos españoles de la biblioteca Lázaro Galdiano, 2 vols, Ed. Ollero & Ramos and Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid 1998.

26 Gvulim - Fronteras. Aspectos de la vida cotidiana judía en la Edad Media Hispana. Catálago de la exposición, Ayuntamiento de Murcia, 2003, pp. 21-22.

27 F. Cantera Burgos, “Nueva serie de manuscritos hebreos en Madrid”, Sefarad XIX (1959): 35-42.

28 Indeed, Lázaro maintained a close relationship and correspondence with Adolfo de Castro y Rossi who was born in Cádiz in 1823 and worked for several years in the Colombina Library in Seville. It would seem that here he had access to manuscripts which were practically unknown and also to rare books. He also published a Historia de los Judíos in 1847, before that of Amador de los Ríos. The correspondence between the two is discussed in M. Ravina Martín, Castro y Lázaro, Erudición y polémica en la España Moderna (1889-1898), ed. Fundación Lázaro Galdiano - Ollero y Ramos, Madrid 2001.

29 Viaje a Andalucía, RAH, mss. C 77, fols. 188 and ss. Pérez Bayer also states having seen a Biblia Regia and various original notes by Arias Montano in relation to his Hebrew classes.

30 The indexes were published in the Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos. See RABM I (1871): 102-106 and 118-124; I (1897): 170-175; V (1901): 825-826 and VII (1902): 222.

32 Luis Sánchez Belda, Guía del Archivo Histórico Nacional, Dirección General de Archivos y bibliotecas, Madrid 1958, p. 164 and plate VIII.

33 F. Pérez Castro, “Fragmentos de códices del Antiguo Testamento hebreo en el National Historical Archive-I”, Sefarad XXX (1970) 2: 251-288. In this article both the biblical text of the fragment and its masoras parva and magna are edited and a critical framework for the study of the text is set up. It is the fragment which corresponds to Joshua 11, 11-12, 29 and Judges 1, 19-33.

34 Luis Sánchez Belda. Guía del National Historical Archive, Dirección General de Archivos y bibliotecas, Madrid 1958, p. 128.

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