London, British Library, MS Or. 12983

Perek Shirah Facsimile Edition

Our price

More Buying Choices

Request Info

The Perek Shirah, or "Chapter of Praise," is a compilation of eighty-four verses concerning the natural elements, plants, and creatures of Creation as described in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). The verses are framed by a midrash, or commentary, that teaches that the natural world is a source of philosophy and ethics. The text is presented in Hebrew with a Yiddish translation. The manuscript, created in the 1740s by Aaron Wolf Herlingen, working in Vienna or Bratislava, is embellished with five miniatures.

Each explicated verse, many drawn from the Psalms, is "spoken" by a different aspect of the world. The verses of the opening song emanate from voices such as those of the heavens, celestial bodies, clouds, lightning, bodies of water, fish, and a sea monster. Plants, birds, and animals speak the verses of the subsequent songs.

Miniatures of God's Creation

The paintings gather the various natural elements, plants, and creatures mentioned in the text into five delicately painted landscapes with thin black painted frames. The first miniature depicts the heavens, celestial bodies, the Garden of Eden, seas, and fields, as well as the humble frog (fol. 1r). Other miniatures introduce the subsequent sections of the text: the Song of Vegetation (fol. 4v), the Song of the Trees (fol. 5v), the Song of the Birds (fol. 8v), and the Song of the Animals (fol. 12v).

Surprise Appearances

The opening miniature, ostensibly devoted to the celestial bodies and Paradise, includes three frogs, many fish, and a delightful sea monster. The miniature for the Song of the Trees depicts a confrontation between a snake and a cat, two creatures among the song's speakers. The identifiable creatures in the Song of the Animals painting include a lion, a bear, and a dog—the last with a bright red collar.

A Modern Manuscript in a Long Tradition

The tradition of writing on parchment with a quill pen continued in the Jewish tradition after printed books became widely available in Europe. Handwritten scrolls of the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—continued and continue to be made by expert scribes. The British Library's Perek Shirah is the product of an eighteenth-century revival in the production of manuscript codices of Jewish texts written by scribes trained in the Torah tradition.

Hebrew Text with Yiddish Translation

The Hebrew text of the Perek Shirah and its Yiddish translation are written in Hebrew Square Script. The manuscript was written and illuminated by Aaron Wolf ben Zeev (Schreiber) Herlingen, a native of Jevíčko (Moravia, modern Czech Republic) who was employed at the Hapsburg imperial library in Vienna.

Gold-Tooled Binging

The manuscript was purchased by the British Museum at a Christie's sale in 1965 and became a part of the collection of the British Library upon its foundation in 1973. Its binding, which has lost much of its color, is of gold-tooled, red-dyed parchment over pasteboard.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Perek Shirah": Perek Shirah facsimile edition, published by Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1996

Request Info / Price
Manuscript book description compiled by Amy R. Miller.
Please Read
International social justice movements and the debates that ensued prompted us to start considering the contents of our website from a critical point of view. This has led us to acknowledge that most of the texts in our database are Western-centered. We have asked the authors of our content to be aware of the underlying racial and cultural bias in many scholarly sources, and to try to keep in mind multiple points of view while describing the manuscripts. We also recognize that this is yet a small, first step towards fighting inequality.

If you notice any trace of racist or unjust narratives in our communications, please help us be part of the change by letting us know.

Perek Shirah

London: Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1996

  • Commentary (English) by Beit-Arié, Malachi; Schonfield, Jeremy; Schrijver, Emile
  • Limited Edition: 550 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Perek Shirah: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

The facsimile is printed on a specially-milled paper in up to seven colors, bound in aged vellum, and tooled as the original. The commentary volume, printed on Fabriano Ingres, contains a short introduction explaining the origins of the Perek Shirah text, a translation of the text, and a description of the manuscript. The facsimile and commentary volume are housed in a hand-marbled slipcase.

Our Price

More Buying Choices

Request Info