Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Kennicott 1

Kennicott Bible Facsimile Edition

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8,561

approx US$ 9,625


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The famous Kennicott Bible is one of the most sumptuous medieval Spanish manuscripts in existence. Written and illuminated in the last quarter of the 15th century, the codex is named after Benjamin Kennicott, the English Hebraist (1718-1783) who continued the English tradition of studying the Hebrew bible, spending his life comparing textual variants of hundreds of Hebrew manuscripts worldwide.

In the course of his work Kennicott acquired this manuscript which in addition to its traditional masoretic text features an elaborate and imaginative decoration that still survives today.

Commissioner of the Kennicott Masterpiece

The origin of the Kennicott Bible has been identified in north-western Spain where the work was commissioned for Isaac, son of Don Solomon de Braga, to one Moses Ibn Zabara, who copied the Tenach (Old Testament) together with Rabbi David Kimchi’s (RaDaK) grammatical treatise Sefer Mikhlol.

The scribe provides, in a lengthy colophon, finished the work in the town of La Coruña, on Wednesday, the third day of the month of Av in the year 5236 from the creation corresponding to the 24th July 1476.

The Importance of the Jewish Heritage

The manuscript, executed at a time when Jews – targeted by the Spanish Inquisition – were constantly harassed until their final expulsion in 1492, shows the significance of perpetuating the Jewish heritage with the creation of lavishly made manuscripts.

Lively colors, burnished gold, and silver leaf illuminate more than 200 pages of the Bible, and they are the work of the Jewish artist Joseph Ibn Hayyim.

The Unique Style and Creativity of the Kennicott Bible

The iconography of the manuscript features highly stylized figures showcasing a richness of colors It is worth noticing the zoomorphic and anthropomorphic letters in the artist’s colophon which are an indication of his unique creativity.

Among the many illustrations depicted in the Bible we find King David on his throne, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, or Balaam as an astrologer consulting an astrolabe, all representing the individual style of the artist.

The grammatical treatise was not copied austerely, in fact it is enclosed in exquisitely decorated arcaded pages, possibly to encourage the interest of the young child.

This completely vocalised Bible is hand-written in a clear Sephardi script of the Middle Ages.

Binding description

Fortunately, the binding has survived the centuries and it is as lavish as the manuscript itself for it is a morocco goatskin box binding, blind-tooled on all six sides and embellished with cut-out endpapers echoing the intricate motifs of the carpet pages dividing the Bible into its 3 main sections.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Kennicott Bible": The Kennicott Bible facsimile edition, published by Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1985

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The Kennicott Bible

London: Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1985

  • Commentary (English) by Narkiss, B.; Cohen-Mushlin, A.
  • Limited Edition: 550 copies
  • This facsimile is complete (full-size color reproduction of the whole original document).

Before reproduction could commence, the manuscript had to be photographed, an especially difficult task considering that disbinding of the manuscript was not permitted and the sides of the box binding prevented easy access of the large-format camera.

The Bodleian Library’s photographic department nonetheless overcame these seemingly insuperable problems and produced a fine set of photographs (on specially matched film) of the manuscript within its box-binding. In order to reveal up to 24 different colours applied by the artist in a single square inch of design, computer-controlled laser scanners were used to produce the first colour separations.

As many as four sets of proofs were made and compared against the original in Oxford in order to achieve perfect colour fidelity before printing. Not satisfied merely to reproduce the appearance of parchment, the original folios were studied and measured for their thickness, weight and opacity.

One of the oldest Italian paper mills was commissioned to produce a paper with the unique transparency, presence and feel of parchment which took more than a year to develop. Reproducing the extensive gold and silver metal leaf of the original was a major challenge which was eventually completed by seven craftsmen working continuously for four months applying leaf by hand to each illumination.

Binding

Embossed in minute detail on all six surfaces, its style is extremely rare - only six box-bindings are known to exist - but it is this binding that has preserved the manuscript for more than half a millennium. In order to create the handmade brass dies used to emboss the soft morocco, Master binders painstakingly traced the box’s detailed design in a time-consuming and costly process carried out in the Milanese atelier of the renowned Angelo Recalcati.

No effort was spared in reproducing the cut-out paste-downs which decorate the inside front and back covers, both of which are painted beneath intricate cut-out interlacing bands. Once bound, the edges of each leaf were gilt with 23 carat gold.

Used and new from

€ 8,561

approx US$ 9,625


Our Price

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