Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, R III 3
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Dr. Justine Isserles, chercheure associée, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-Saprat (Paris), 2020.

Handschriftentitel: Sefer Avqat Rokhel attributed to Makhir ben Isaac of Toledo (c.14th. c)
Entstehungsort: Ashkenaz
Entstehungszeit: 16th century
Beschreibstoff: Watermarked paper (not in Briquet): e.g. ff. 5, 12, 14, 18, 20: crowned eagle; e.g. ff. 13, 21, 23: Shield with the initials H I H, standing for the bookbinder Hans Hippocras, who was active in Bern in the 1540s and 1550s. (see Ad. Fluri, “Der Buchführer Hans Hyppocras”, Neuen Berner Taschenbuch (1896), vol. 2, pp. 203-253- esp. pp. 204; 250-253).‎
Umfang: II + 28 + I
Format: 195-197 x 144-145 mm‎
Seitennummerierung: Modern foliotation in Arabic numerals in grey pencil from 1 to 28, going from right to left and located in the top left-hand corner of each folio. ‎
  • Quires: 4 quires composed of 3 quaternions and 1 bifolio.‎ I-III quaternion (1r-24v); IV bifolio (25r-26v).‎
  • Catchwords: situated in the left corner of the bottom margins of all verso pages.‎
Zustand: Very well preserved manuscript, aside from a few minor stains.‎
Seiteneinrichtung: Hardpoint ruling only for the lateral, top and bottom margins.‎ 1 + 1 columns of text. 28 written lines.‎ Full page layout with inner and outer indentations.‎
Schrift und Hände: Cursive 16th century Ashkenazi script. Cursive for the main text and gothic square for the initial words of larger module. One scribe copied this manuscript.
Einband: Modern yellow cardboard binding (220 x 150 mm), dated 1941 by the bookbinder Albert Bauer (see typewritten paper sticker on the pastedown at the end of the volume). A paper sticker on the outer obard at the back of the volume contains the shelfmark Mscr. R III 3. Two flyleaves at the end of the volume, numbered folios 27-28, come from a previous binding but are not part of the original paper manuscript. The back of folio 28v contains backwards Latin script, a tiny fragment of which is still present in the left lateral margin, last remnant of the previous 16th century binding. The script must have come off of the original Latin manuscript fragment, used as a pastedown at the back of the volume. Therefore, this present volume, whose previous binding was probably the original one, was entirely written on watermarked paper with the emblem of the crowned eagle and the initials HIH attest to the binding of this manuscript in Bern during the mid-16th century. See also another manuscript housed in the Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, MS AN IX 4, with the same eagle emblem and HIH initials in the watermarked paper of its flyleaves.
The Avqat Rokhel is a selection of eschatological writings arranged in three ‘books’ with several sections each, attributed to Makhir ben Isaac Sar Hasid of Toledo (14th c.), a student of Judah ben Asher (1270-1349), son of Asher ben Yehiel (Rosh, c.1250-1327). Only its title is identical with a later work on responsa by Joseph Caro (1488-1575) (Ed. Princ. Salonica, 1791). The title of the work is taken from a verse of the Songs of Songs 3: 6 [Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant/ perfumer (‎אבקת רוכל‎) ?] and can be translated as The perfumer’s powders.‎
The first part addresses the struggle against one’s evil urge prior to redemption and the wars of the Messiah and the Antichrist, named the wars of Gog and Magog, as well as advent of the Messiah, accompanied by an explanation of the pertinent midrashim; the second part discusses the rewards and punishments of the soul after the resurrection, the nature of the world to come according to Judaism, in contrast to the views of non-Jews, and their resurrection; and the third part pertains to the laws stated by the sages of the Talmud as given by Moses relative to the formation of man and the number of 248 limbs in a person, the statement of our sages concerning three partners in that process (God, man, and woman), accompanied by gematriot (Dunkelgrün, pp. 248-249; Heller, 2004, p. 249). There are more than 25 editions of the Avqat Rokhel, to cite a few: Constantinople 1516 (Heller, 2011, p. 1311 ; Dunkelgrün, p. 249, n. 119)‎; Rimini: G. Soncino, 1526 (Heller, 2004, p. 177)‎; Augsburg: Hayyim b. David Shahor, 1540 (Heller, 2004, p. 249)‎; Venice: Girogio di Cavalli, 1566 (Heller, 2004, p. 569).
‎ The work was translated into Yiddish by Naftali Pappenheim in Amsterdam by Kosman Gompert in 1647 (Heller, 2011, pp. 1310-1311) (Anmerkung: on p. 41 of his catalogue, Prijs (2018) mentions the work of M. Steinschneider (Die Hebraeischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher. Ein Beitrag zur Literaturgeschichte des Mittelalters, Meist nach Handschriftlichen Quellen, Berlin: 1893), p. 850, note 33 but after verification the reference is incorrect).‎
This work is followed by a treatise on the laws of Eiruv, which pertain to carrying on the sabbath and Jewish feast days between the public and private domains.‎‎‎
  • ff. 1r-8v Book I
    • (ff. 1r-4v) : Section 1: title of work ‎אבקת רוכל‎‎
    • (ff. 5r-8v) : Section 2
  • ff. 8v-24r Book II
  • ff. 24r-26r Book III
  • f. 26v Summary of laws on Eruv: ‎סימני ערוב‎.‎
Provenienz der Handschrift:
  • Owners notes in the manuscript: ‎f. 2r: correction in the margin in black ink.
  • Although there are no owner’s notes or later additions by Christian Hebraists in this manuscript, it may have belonged to Johann Buxtorf I (1564-1629), since his Bibliotheca Rabbinica (1613) (p.271), mentions a copy of the Sefer Avqat Rokhel. The Bibliotheca Rabbinica is a bibliography of Hebrew books, serving as a catalogue, which was then enlarged by his son, Johan Buxtorf II (1599-1664), who published a revised edition in 1640 (Burnett, pp. 148-149, 158, n. 114; 159).‎
Manuscript catalogues:
  • J. Prijs, Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel. Die hebraïschen Handschriften. Katalog auf Grund der Beschreibungen von Joseph Prijs redigiert von Bernhard und David Prijs mit einem Anhang von Stephen G. Burnett und einem Beitrag von Thomas Willi (Basel: 1994), p. 53 (Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, Shelfmark SLS Ba 422) [Manuscript catalogue, vol. 2, Nr. 30, pp. 107-108
Printed catalogues and secondary literature:
  • C. M. Briquet, Les filigranes. Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu’en 1600. A Facsimile of the 1907 Edition with Supplementary Material Contributed by a Number of Scholars, Allan Stevenson (ed.) (Amsterdam: The Paper Publications Society, 1968), 4 vol.‎
  • S. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (1500-1660): Authors, Books and the Transmission of Jewish Learning. (Leiden: Brill, 2012).
  • Th. Dunkelgrün, “The Hebrew Library of a Renaissance Humanist Andreas Masius and the Bibliography to his Iosuae Imperatoris Historia (1574), with a Latin Edition and an Annotated English Translation”, Studia Rosenthaliana 42-43 (2010-2011), pp. 197-252.
  • Ad. Fluri, “Der Buchführer Hans Hyppocras”, Neuen Berner Taschenbuch (1896), vol. 2, pp. 203-253- esp. pp. 204; 250-253.‎
  • M. J. Heller, The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2004), 2 vols.‎
  • M. J. Heller, The Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2011), 2 vols.‎
  • J. Prijs, Die hebräischen Handschriften in der Schweiz: Katalog der hebräischen Handschriften in den Schweizer öffentlichen Bibliotheken … redigiert auf Grund der Beschreibungen von Joseph Prijs (Basel, Benei Beraq: Sefer Verlag, 2018), p. 41 (Nr. 41).