manuscript lab


Reconstruction of the history of a manuscript:
chronology and “Händescheidung”


Case Study: Erfurt Bible


The Erfurt Hebrew Giant Bible (State Library in Berlin, MSS xxx) contains the whole Hebrew Bible and the Aramaic translations that follow the Hebrew original, verse by verse. The text is accompanied by the grammatical and lexical notes known as the Masora Magna, written on the upper and the lower margins, and the Masora Parva, written in a minute script between and beside the three columns of the biblical text. Material analysis revealed a variety of different inks, which allows us to reconstruct the complex history of the production of the Erfurt Bible. As an example, in the opening page of the duplicate quire, which was left unused, the primary text, vocalization, both Masoras, and micrography were carried out with a single ink. This fact can be taken as a confirmation of the paleographic hypothesis that the abandoned quire served as a sample before the Bible was commissioned. Moreover, the finding that the same ink was used for the primary text in the 2nd quire renders further support for the palaeographic reconstruction of the events: after the commission was given, the scribe went on copying from the second quire. Other results suggest that a change in the scribes might have taken place within the genesis of the manuscript. The successive similarity of the inks used for the primary text, vocalization with Masora Parva and Masora Magna, beginning exactly where the ink of the primary text changed, may indicate that the masorete alone completed the commission. At the end of the manuscript, the masorete uses the ink of the Masora Magna for the corresponding colophon, which fact serves as evidence that he signed the manuscript immediately after completing the last stage of work (Hahn et al. 2008).

Results of the ink analyses, Erfurt Hebrew Bible volume I

Quire

Folio

Description

Ink type

Sample quire

Folio 1 verso

Primary text

A

Masora Magna

A

Micrography

A

Border

A

Drawings

A

Actual first quire

Folio 3 verso

Primary text

D

Vocalisation

D

Masora Parva

D

Masora Magna

D

Micrography

D

Initial word

D

Drawings

D

Folio 4 verso

Primary text

D

Masora Magna

D

Folio 10 verso

Primary text

D

Masora Magna

D

Drawings

D

Second quire

Folio 11 verso

Primary text

A

Vocalisation

D

Masora Parva

D

Masora Magna

D

29th quire

Folio 222 verso

Primary text

A

Vocalisation

A

Masora Magna

A

Micrography

A

Initial word

A

76th quire

Folio 583 recto

Primary text

D

Vocalisation

C2

Masora Parva

C2

Masora Magna

C2