Jerusalem, Israel Museum, MS 180/51

Rothschild Miscellany Facsimile Edition

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One of the most sumptuous Hebrew manuscripts ever made, the Rothschild Miscellany was commissioned by Moses ben Yekuthiel Hakohen in 1479. It was a time when the Jews in Italy came into contact with all sectors of society and many adopted the way of life of the gentile aristocracy, and also a period of unprecedented cultural activity amongst Italian Jewry, producing scholars, artists, poets, and physicians.

Eight Hundred Pages of Sumptuous Decoration

From its inception, the Rothschild Miscellany was planned as a sumptuous work to encompass, in minute detail, almost every custom of religious and secular Jewish life. It consists of more than thirty-seven religious and secular works. Among the religious books are Psalms, Proverbs and Job and a yearly prayer book including the Passover Haggadah. All have textual illustrations for each festival and prayers for special occasions. The secular books include philosophical, moralistic, and scientific treatises.

The text throughout the manuscript is accompanied by marginal notes and commentaries of the sages. This large collection of miscellaneous yet connected texts became the framework for an unprecedented program of illumination. It contains a wealth of material illustrating almost every custom of daily life in a Jewish Renaissance household. Of 948 pages, 816 are decorated in minute detail in vibrant colors, gold, and silver.

The figure drawings and border decorations of the miniatures mirror the rich Italian Renaissance influence and were probably made in a workshop in the Ferrara region. Fanciful landscapes, spatial perspective settings and the precision of human and animal representations echo the style of the best artists who worked for the court of the Este in the third quarter of the fifteenth century. They may have been connected with the workshop of the artists who illuminated the famous Latin Bible of Borso d'Este.

A Mysterious History

The complete history of the Miscellany is somewhat of a mystery. From 1832 to 1855 the manuscript was in the Solomon de Parente collection in Trieste. It was later sold to the Rothschild family in Paris and remained there until it was stolen during the Nazi occupation and reappeared after the war in New York when, in May 1950, the Berlin bookseller Hugo Streisand offered it for $5,000 to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Alexander Marx, the Seminary's librarian, recognized it as stolen from the Rothschilds and returned it to them in London.

James de Rothschild was persuaded by Mordechai Narkiss, director of the Bezalel Museum in Israel, that a manuscript of such importance was a national treasure and therefore belonged in Israel. In 1957, on hearing of Narkiss' illness, James de Rothschild sent it as a gift to Jerusalem.

We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Rothschild Miscellany":

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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#1 The Rothschild Miscellany

London: Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1989

  • Commentary (English) by Fishof, Iris; Simonsohn, Shlomo; Ta-Shema, Israel; Beit-Arié, Malachi; Foot, Mirjam; Mortara-Ottolenghi, Louisella; Elizur, Binjamin; Loewe, Raphael
  • Limited Edition: 550 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Rothschild Miscellany: 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 edition is printed on a new type of 'paper', specially milled in Italy, virtually indistinguishable from the manuscript's vellum. The result is a fine, neutral pH vegetable parchment-like paper with the same natural characteristics of skin. The facsimile is presented in a cloth-bound hinged slipcase edged in morocco together with a similar slipcase for the commentary volume. Every set is accompanied by a certificate bearing the seals and signatures of both The Israel Museum and Facsimile Editions. The commentary volume describes the rich subject matter of the illustrations, the stylistic affinity and differences between the artists and their relation to general Italian illumination of the period, the historical and social background of the manuscript, the codicology, palaeography, religious and liturgical content of the Miscellany, and the binding. The commentary volume is illustrated with full-color plates. It is produced as a separate volume, the same size as the facsimile, and bound in the finest blind-tooled morocco to complement the facsimile. The two volumes are presented in cloth-covered slip-cases, edged in goatskin.


As the original binding of the manuscript no longer exists, Mirjam Foot, formerly Director of Collections and Preservation at The British Library, London, suggested an exquisite Italian binding of the period, worthy of the manuscript, which has been copied in minute detail. The facsimile is bound in fine-grain morocco goatskin, blind-tooled on the front and back covers with morocco head and tail bands. The binding is secured by four silver clasps on morocco thongs; the thongs and clasps being attached to the binding by minute silver nails.

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#2 The Rothschild Haggadah

London: Facsimile Editions Ltd., 2000

  • Commentary (English) by Schonfield, Jeremy; Loewe, Raphael; Fishof, Iris; Falter, Joseph
  • Limited Edition: 550 copies
  • This is a partial facsimile of the original document, Rothschild Miscellany: the facsimile might represent only a part, or doesn't attempt to replicate the format, or doesn't imitate the look-and-feel of the original document.

This facsimile reproduces only a portion (the section containing the Haggadah) of MS 180/51 in the Israel Museum. 

Gold foil leaf has been applied to a raised surface on each page using a special hand process that closely replicates the burnished gold of the original document. Powdered gold was applied to all the illustrations that contain it in the manuscript.

The facsimile is printed on a special paper, milled to exactly reproduce the texture, opacity and thickness of the vellum on which the original manuscript was written.

A translation of the texts of the Haggadah and of the piyyutim has been provided in the commentary volume to the facsimile edition: two of the sequences of piyyutim had never been made available in English before. The commentary also includes an informative introduction to the texts in the manuscript and to the themes of Passover, a summary of the marginal texts on numismatics, weights and measures and Maimonides laws concerning Passover, and a foreword in which is given the background to the acquisition of this manuscript, one of the Israel Museum's greatest treasures.


Fine white vellum.

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