This glossary is provided solely to assist with the understanding of some terms used elsewhere on the website and should not be considered as an authoritative or exhaustive guide. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the entries below, Facsimile Editions Limited cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. Nonetheless, it would be appreciated if you would contact us with any amendments that would appear to be required.



An acrostic (from the late Greek akróstichon, from ákros, “extreme”, and stíchos, “verse”) is a poem or other writing in an alphabetic script, in which the first letter, syllable or word of each verse, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out another message. A form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aide memory retrieval.


A thermoplastic and transparent plastic, acrylic is also known by the trade names Lucite, Perspex, Plazcryl, Plexiglas, Acrylite, Acrylplast and Altuglas and is sometimes called acrylic glass. The material was developed in 1928 and is often used as an alternative to glass as it is lighter and does not shatter.

Ad Personam

Copies numbered with Roman numerals or prefixed ‘AP’ are in every respect identical to the other conventionally-numbered copies in the edition. Ad Personam copies are used by Facsimile Editions for presentation purposes.


The middle of three pieces of matza on the seder plate at Passover. As a kind of game, early in the seder the afikomen is hidden by a child. After the meal, the afikomen is returned to the celebrant (in exchange for some gift) who cannot continue the service without it.


Literally “story-telling”, i.e. historical and moralising anecdotes and elaboration of the biblical narrative, partly included alongside legal and administrative matter in the Talmud, but mainly assembled in collections known as Midrash.

(see also Haggadah)


“[Prayer recited] standing”, the central element in every statutory service, consisting of a series of blessings.


(a) The attribution to God of human qualities and behaviour.
(b) In art history, the depiction of animals as evincing human traits.

(see also Zoomorphic)


Epigrammatic or otherwise memorable sayings.


Aragon was a Frankish feudal county before becoming a self-proclaimed kingdom, which was united with the kingdom of Pamplona (later Navarre) in 925. The kingdom of Pamplona included the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza, and the duchy of Castilla. After King Sancho’s death, the kingdom was divided between his sons. Ramiro I was initially named king of Aragon; later, after his brother Gonzalo’s death, also of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. The new kingdom grew quickly, and incorporated Navarre. This kingdom conquered the city of Saragossa in 1118. Split from the kingdom of Navarre, the kingdom of Aragon was re-established in 1035 and lasted until 1707.

Aragon was also the name of the crown, because of the dynastic union of a Count of Barcelona (Ramon Berenguer IV) and a Queen of Aragon (Petronila of Aragon). This Crown was effectively disbanded after the dynastic union with Castile. The Kings of Aragon ruled territories that consisted of not only the present administrative region of Aragon but also Catalonia, and later the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Sicily, Naples and Sardinia. The real centre of this kingdom was Barcelona, since it had a seaport and was near the geographical centre of the Crown of Aragon, while Valencia was the most important seaport for trade until approximately the 18th century.


Aramaic is a Semitic language with a 3,000-year history. It has been the language of administration of empires and the language of divine worship. It is the original language of sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud. Aramaic is still spoken today as a first language by a few isolated communities in Syria.

The earliest Aramaic alphabet was based on the Phoenician script. The ancient Israelites and other peoples of Canaan adopted this alphabet for writing their own languages (better known today as the Hebrew alphabet) and it is the writing system used in Biblical Aramaic and other Jewish writing in Aramaic.

‘Babylonian’ Aramaic is the later post-Achaemenid dialect found in the Targum Onqelos and Targum Jonathan, the ‘official’ targumim. The original, Hasmonaean targumim had reached Babylon from Palestine sometime in the second or third centuries CE. They were then reworked according to the contemporary dialect of Babylon to create the language of the standard targumim. This combination formed the basis of Babylonian Jewish literature for centuries to follow.


Designs arranged in the form of arches.


Apart from Noah’s ark, in the Bible ‘ark’ refers to the portable container of the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. It is now the term for the cupboard containing the scrolls (Genesis-Deuteronomy) that dominates the architecture of the synagogue.


An ethnic term which in the bible perhaps refers to the Scythians. It was reapplied through its assonance with Scansia, the mediaeval name for the Baltic area (cf. modern Scandinavia), and used by Jews to describe communities in German (later also Slavonic) -speaking lands, and subsequently spread by emigration to America and beyond. Various liturgical rites (e.g. those used in Germany and Poland) are collectively termed Ashkenazi, to distinguish them from the eastern and Mediterranean rites of the Sephardic group.


An instrument, developed by Muslim navigators in the twelfth century that allowed mariners to plot their latitude by determining the altitude of the sun and other celestial bodies. It was used to determine a ship’s position by finding and predicting the position of the stars and the sun through triangulation. With the mariner’s astrolabe, latitude could be determined using the Pole Star or the Sun. It was the main navigational instrument until the invention of the sextant in the 16th century.

Av (Ab)

Av is the eleventh month of the ecclesiastical year and the fifth month of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar. The name is Babylonian in origin and appeared in the Talmud around the 3rd century. A summer month of 30 days, although mentioned as the 5th month, it is not named in the Bible.



Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, for long an autonomous region in Spain. It is located in the comarca of Barcelonès, along the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besós. It is 160km (100 miles) south of the Pyrenees mountain range.


A Babylonian king mentioned in Daniel (e.g. Dan. 5). Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den (chap. 6, 7f.) took place under the Persian king Darius.

Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir

(“The Prince and the Ascetic”), the Hebrew version (made from Arabic) of an Indian folk-tale, which reached Europe through Persian and Greek under the title Barlaam and Josaphat.

Ben Sira (Sirach), Joshua

Early 2nd cent. B.C.E., author of the apocryphal Hebrew book Ecclesiasticus. Rabbinical texts entitled “Alphabets”, composed in the middle ages, were also ascribed to him.


A method of decorating a book cover using heated tools in which impressions are made in the leather. As the name implies, blind-tooling does not entail the use of leaf metal, foil, or any other colouring material.

(see also embossing, metal dies)


Bloodletting (in modern medicine referred to as phlebotomy) was a popular medical practice from antiquity up to the late 19th century, involving the withdrawal of often considerable quantities of blood from a patient in the hopeful belief that this would cure or prevent a great many illnesses and diseases. It is conceivable that historically, in the absence of other treatments for hypertension, bloodletting could sometimes have had a beneficial effect in temporarily reducing blood pressure by a reduction in blood volume.

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library (officially Bodley’s Library) in Oxford, England but known informally to centuries of Oxford scholars as “the Bod”. It opened in 1602 with a collection of 2,000 books assembled by Thomas Bodley (of Merton College) to replace the library that had been donated to the University by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (and brother of Henry V of England), but had been dispersed in the 16th century.

In 1610 Bodley made an agreement with the Stationers’ Company in London to put a copy of every book registered with them in the library. The Bodleian collection grew so fast that the first expansion of the building was required in 1610–1612, and another in 1634–1637. When John Selden died in 1654, he left the Bodleian his large collection of books and manuscripts. In 1911 the Copyright Act continued the Stationers’ agreement by making the Bodleian one of the six (at that time) libraries in the United Kingdom where a copy of each book copyrighted must be deposited.

Two floors of bookstack opened beneath the Radcliffe Camera and Radcliffe Square in 1913, and a large new bookstack and reading room, the New Bodleian building, was built in the 1930s. A tunnel under Broad Street connects the Old and New Bodleian, and contains a pedestrian walkway, a mechanical book conveyor and a pneumatic Lamson tube system for book orders.


A box-binding is literally a binding in the shape of a box. A regular binding has three sides in the form of front & back covers and a spine. A box-binding has six, the other three sides covering the top, bottom, and fore-edges. When closed the binding has the appearance of a box.


The process of rubbing the metal leaf of the illumination with specially-made tools to smooth and polish its surface. Burnishing tools can be made of haematite, psilomelanite, or most commonly, agate. Burnished leaf will ideally reach a shining mirror-finish.



The second Order of Knighthood to receive papal approval was the Order of Calatrava. The papal bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a militia was given by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164.


Calligraphy (from Greek kallos “beauty” + graphẽ “writing”) is the art of beautiful writing. Hebrew manuscripts are written with quills.

If requested at the time of purchase one of our facsimiles, we will be happy to have it beautifully inscribed with your own personal message – whether as a gift or for your own library.


A canon is a member of the Christian clergy responsible for administering a cathedral or collegiate church. It is also now used as a largely honorary title in many dioceses given to senior parish priests and is usually awarded as recognition of long and dedicated service to the diocese. These priests are entitled to call themselves Canon and still have a role in the administration of the cathedral.


Books which are considered part of the Bible are referred to as ‘canonical’ in Hebrew or Greek as distinct from other similar ancient writings styled ‘apocryphcal’, e.g. Ecclesiasticus Most ancient Hebrew-speaking Jews and all modern Jews accept only the 24 books in the Hebrew Bible. Although numbered and arranged differently, these are equivalent to the 39 books of the Old Testament used by most Protestants.


Musical notation inserted in the Hebrew Bible to indicate the chanting units and sequences. These notes also indicate sentence breaks and clause division.

(see also vocalization)

Carpet Page

A decorative illuminated page in which there is only an elaborate all-over design and no text; so called because of a resemblance to highly-decorative Eastern carpets.


Crown of Castile, the historical Kingdom formed in 1230 from the union of the Kingdom of Castile and Kingdom of León.


The territory that is now Catalonia was colonized by Ancient Greeks and Carthaginians. Like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, it participated in the pre-Roman Iberian culture and was part of the Roman Empire, followed by Visigothic rule. In the eighth century it was part of Moorish (Muslim-ruled) al-Andalus (i.e. [previously land of] the Vandals), but the northern part of it was conquered within a century by the expanding Carolingian Empire, and the name (= Andalusia) became restricted to southern Spain.

Specifically Catalan culture begins in the Middle Ages under the rule of the Counts of Barcelona. As part of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia became a great maritime power, expanding by trade and conquest into Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and even Sardinia, Sicily and as far as Greece.

It is argued that the name dates from the union of the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV with Princess Petronila, daughter of Ramiro II, King of Aragon. The wedding agreement was made in 1137, but because she was only two years old, the marriage was postponed. It was finally celebrated in 1151, and Ramon Berenguer became prince consort.


The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by King George V. The Order includes five classes in civil and military divisions; in decreasing order of seniority, these are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).


As one manifestation of the Counter-Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition worked actively to impede the diffusion of heretical ideas in Spain by producing “Indexes” of prohibited books. Such lists of prohibited books were common in Europe a decade before the Inquisition published its first. The first Index published in Spain in 1551 was, in reality, a reprinting of the Index published by the University of Louvain in 1550, with an appendix dedicated to Spanish texts. Subsequent Indexes were published in 1559, 1583, 1612, 1632, and 1640. The Indexes included an enormous number of books of all types, though special attention was dedicated to religious works, and, particularly, vernacular translations of the Bible. Many Hebrew manuscripts and some early prints bear the signature of a censor (frequently a Jewish convert to Christianity) affirming that they contain nothing objectionable.


In the Hebrew language, the word chai means “living”, being the singular of the word for “life”, chayyim. There have been various mystical numerological speculations about the fact that according to the system of gematria, the numerical value of the letters of chai add up to 18. For this reason, 18 is seen as a lucky number by many Jews.


The study of the externalities of a manuscript (or printed book), for example the number of leaves (folded to make 4 writing surfaces) in each quire, watermarks of paper, ink, method of pricking, ruling, stitching etc. Such information can provide clues as to the origin of the manuscript.

(see also palaeography)


An inscription added to the end of a manuscript which may include the names of the scribe, the artist, the patron and the place and date of its completion.

Colour Separation

The process of separating an image (usually by laser scanning) into its constituent colours of CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow and black (which is sometimes referred to as ‘key’). These four ‘separated’ colours are recombined at the printing stage and produce the optical illusion of a full colour image with thousands of colours. Try using a magnifying glass over a colour print (not a photograph) to see the coloured ‘dots’ which vary in size but form a regular pattern. For example, a full red would be made from large magenta dots while pink would be represented by dots of the same red colour but maybe only half the size. The human brain mixes the red dots with the surrounding white space to produce the illusion of pink.

(see also register)


Converso, Spanish and Portuguese for “a convert”, from the Latin conversus (“converted, turned around”) and its feminine form conversa. The term referred to Jews or Muslims, or their descendants, who had converted, generally unwillingly, to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal, particularly during the 1300s and 1400s.

Jewish conversos were often suspected of preserving their ancestral rites and were persecuted by the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.


If a manuscript is photographed when in its binding, inward curvature at the spine produces a distorted image. When disbound and flat no distortion is present.



In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations (in Latin: disputationes, singular: disputatio) offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish “truths” in theology and in other sciences. Fixed rules governed the process: they demanded dependence on traditional written authorities and the thorough understanding of each argument on each side. Ecclesiastical authorities occasionally compelled Jews to participate in staged debates with Christian (sometimes ex-Jewish) theologians with the object of exposing the supersession of Judaism by its daughter-religion.


Literally, a coin issued by a duchy. A name used for gold coins of varying values issued in various European countries. The name may originate from the inscription on the Venetian zecchino d’oro first struck in 1284.


Ektachrome Film

Kodak Ektachrome film is a medium-speed colour-transparency film featuring very fine grain and high sharpness and thus perfectly suited for the reproduction of the fine details found in mediaeval manuscripts.


The process of imparting a raised or depressed design in paper or leather.

(see also blind-tooling, metal dies)


The House of Este was an Italian noble family, from the Welf (or Guelf) branch of which numerous German princely lines descended (including the English house of Windsor). It is best known for its rule over the Italian city of Ferrara, where its cultural activities contributed significantly to the renaissance.


The approach to the study of any given social group through investigation of their routine, habits, institutions, food and dress.


The Alhambra Decree was issued in 1492 by the Catholic monarchs of Spain (Isabella of Castile married to Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469), following the final triumph over the Moors after the fall of Granada. The decree ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Spain and its territories and possessions by July 31, 1492. It is as a result of this expulsion that the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) dispersed throughout the Maghreb (Morocco etc.) and south-eastern Europe, intermingling in many places with the Mizrachi (Oriental Jews) communities.



A copy that is identical in all respects to the original. From the Latin fac simile “make similar”. The fax machine (or to use its proper name, the facsimile machine), is so-called because it reproduces an exact image, at the receiving end, of the document submitted by the sender. Many years ago, when facsimiles were not well-known, but fax machines were, people often asked us how we could possibly make such wonderful reproductions of parchment, colour and gold, using a fax machine! And what’s more, because the early fax machines used thermal paper that faded after a few years, some were even concerned that our facsimiles would not last… Needless to say, we use only the finest papers and materials (and we do not print with fax machines!)


Ferrara is in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and is the capital city of the province of Ferrara. It is situated 50 km northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po river, located 5 km north. The town has broad streets and numerous palaces dating from the 14th century, when it hosted the court of the house of Este.


The fineness of a precious metal refers to the ratio of the primary metal to any additives or impurities. Most precious metal is used in the form of an alloy. Other metals are added to increase hardness, to make the metal more practical for use in items such as coins and jewellery, or to decrease the cost of the product. For example, copper is added to the precious metal silver to make a more durable alloy.

A traditional measure for the fineness of silver in Britain is the mass of the amount of silver in 12 troy ounces of the resulting alloy. The troy system of mass dates back to before the time of William the Conqueror, the name coming from the city of Troyes in France. One troy ounce is approximately 31 grams and one pennyweight is approximately 1.55 grams. Sterling silver has a fineness of 11 troy ounces, 2 pennyweights, or about 92.5% silver, hence 925 as a silver mark.

Foetal Vellum

Vellum made from the skin of an unborn animal.

Folio / Bifolio

Whereas books are usually paginated (pages 1, 2, 3, 4 etc), manuscripts are foliated. A folio (a single leaf of a book) has two sides, recto and verso. So, manuscript folio 8 recto refers to the first side of the 8th leaf. The back of the leaf is folio 8 verso. Folios 8 recto and 8 verso of a foliated document would correspond to pages 15 and 16 of a paginated document as each ‘leaf’ has two ‘pages’, one on each side of the leaf.

A bifolio is four pages – imagine a 4-page pamphlet. Pages 1 and 2 would be folio 1 (recto and verso) and pages 3 and 4 would be folio 2 (recto and verso). It gets a bit more complicated as the number of pages in a quire increase (see Quire). For example, in a quire of 16 pages, pages 1 and 2, and 15 and 16 would form bifolio 1-8 (folios 1 and 8).


Four Questions

Four questions form the basis of the Passover Seder. At the beginning of the Seder the youngest child asks the Four Questions (Mah nishtanah). The rest of the evening is spent answering them and relating the story of the Exodus from Egypt.



The Hebrew letters are used also as numerical symbols (aleph = 1, yod = 10, etc). Gematria transmutes the letters of one (or more) words into their total numerical value, and thereby sets up equivalences or echoes of other significant terms. To illustrate using English and Roman numerals, the English word civic could be equated with 100 (C) + 4 (IV) + 1 (I) + 100 (C) = 205. Part of Jewish mysticism involves finding hidden meanings in the numerical value of words.


A method of decorating a book using heated tools to impress gold or silver metal leaf into the cover or spine.

(see also blind-tooling, embossing, metal dies)

GSM (grams per square metre)

A measurement of the weight of paper. The weight of metric paper is given in grams per square metre. By definition, one square metre is one A0-size sheet or 16 A4-size sheets. The weight of United States letter-size paper is given in pounds per ream (500 sheets) of uncut C-size paper. For letter-size paper, a C-size sheet is cut into 4 so that a cut ream of letter-size paper weighs 5 pounds (1 pound is approximately 454 grams) if the paper is nominally 20-pound paper. Note that each type of paper has a different ‘base size’, so 200gsm of one paper will give a different pounds/ream equivalent for a different paper. For instance: 20 pounds of ‘Bond’ is almost the same as 28lbs of ‘Cover’. Very confusing!


Guadalajara is a province of central Spain, in the northern part of Castile-La Mancha. It is bordered by the provinces of Cuenca, Madrid, Segovia, Soria, Zaragoza, and Teruel. The city of Guadalajara included a Jewish community from at least the Arabic period. The (Arabic) name means “stream of rocks.”


A guinea was an English monetary term for £1-1s-0d (one pound, one shilling and no pennies). It was considered a more gentlemanly amount than £1. Tradesmen, such as carpenters, were paid in pounds but gentlemen, such as booksellers and publishers, were paid in guineas. The term, which dropped out of use after the second world war, originated from the assumption that any sovereign coin minted from the higher standard of gold from Guinea must be worth 21 rather than 20 shillings.


Haggadah (pl. Haggadot)

‘Account’ (cf. Aggadah). In the narrower sense, the Passover Haggadah means the ‘libretto’ for the ceremonial meal, accompanied by readings and prayers, for the night of Passover.

(see also Aggadah)

Halachah (adj. halachic)

The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) includes, alongside the Ten Commandments, the basic statement of biblical law. Parallel to legendary embellishment (see Aggadah), halachah (‘method’) elaborates and where necessary delimits the application of the law, defining what is enjoined, permitted, or prohibited. Authority to give halachic rulings was, in post-biblical times, vested in duly accredited rabbis. For an example, see this letter from the London Beth Din authorising the destruction of the printing plates.


A brief history of hallmarking

Hallmarking may have begun as long ago as the sixth century AD. Byzantine silver from this time has a system of five marks which have not yet been completely explained. Hallmarking is Europe’s earliest form of consumer protection and probably started in France, the standard for silver being established in 1260. The first town mark was established in 1275.

In 1300, King Edward I of England enacted a statute ordering that all silver articles must meet the Sterling silver standard (92.5% pure silver, see Fineness), and should be assayed by ‘guardians of the craft’, who would then mark the item with a leopard’s head. In 1327, King Edward III of England granted a charter to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (more commonly known as the Goldsmiths’ Company), marking the beginning of the Company’s formal existence.

In 1355, individual maker marks were introduced in France, an innovation which was mirrored in England in 1363, adding accountability to the two systems. In 1427, the date letter system was established in France, allowing the accurate dating of any hallmarked piece. In 1478, the Assay Office was established in Goldsmiths’ Hall. At the same time the date letter system was introduced in England.

In 1697, a higher standard of silver, known as the Britannia standard (95.8% silver) was made compulsory in England to protect the new coinage which was being melted down by silversmiths for the silver. The Sterling standard was restored in 1720. In 1975, the 1973 Hallmarking Act was enacted, introducing Platinum marking. All four remaining assay offices finally adopted the same date letter sequences. The latest changes in 1999 were made to the UK hallmarking system to bring the system closer into line with the European Union (EU).

International hallmarking has been plagued by difficulties, because even amongst countries which implement hallmarking, standards and enforcement varies considerably, making it difficult for one country to accept another’s hallmarking as equivalent to its own.

Hametz / Chametz

The Hebrew term for “leavened” (bread or other baked foodstuff). The word is used generally in regards to the Jewish holiday of Passover. Jewish law prohibits one from owning, eating or benefiting from any chametz during Passover.


The eight-day festival of lights beginning on 25th Kislev (November – December) which commemorates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple in 165 BCE after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek ruler of Syria.


The revivalist movement founded by Israel Baal Shemtov in 18th century Podolia (south-eastern Poland), later extending to the whole of eastern Europe and beyond. The Hebrew for Hasidism, hasidut, denotes piety or saintliness; it’s use as the name of a movement implies an extraordinary devotion to the spiritual aspects of Jewish life expected of its adherents.


The Maccabaean family which led the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes (see Hanukah) are referred to in Hebrew sources as Hasmoneans, i.e. descendants of Hashmonai.


Havdalah literally means ‘separation’. A special ceremony called Havdalah is performed at the outgoing of Sabbath. The ceremony requires a candle, a cup of wine, and fragrant spices. The ritual is acommpanied by a prayer declaring the separation “between the holy and the mundane (or common), between light and darkness, between Israel and the [other] nations, between the seventh day [of Sabbath rest] and the six days of work.”

Head and Tail Bands

Ornamental bands at the head and tail of a book, sewn between the book block and the spine covering. The bands are usually made of leather or coloured silk.

Hibbut ha-Kever

Literally “thrashing in the grave” it is a cabbalistic text on means of punishment inflicted by angels in order to exempt the deceased from further purgatory.


Prayers recited in connection with the ceremonial parading of lulavim (palm-branches) on the festival of Sukkoth (Tabernacles). So called from the prominence therein of the words hosha na, “O pray save [us]”


Ibn Sahula, Isaac

Spanish Jewish author of the Meshal ha-Kadmoni, animal fables with scientific digressions and including much contemporary satire. He probably died sometime after 1282.


An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration or illustration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniatures. In the strictest definition of the term, an illuminated manuscript refers only to those that are decorated with gold or silver. However, in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term is now used to refer to any decorated manuscript.

Isaac de Corbeil

Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil (13th century) was a French rabbi and Tosafist (i.e. Talmud-commentator) who flourished in the second half of the thirteenth century. Isaac’s conspicuous piety drew towards him many disciples, the best known of whom were Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil, Baruch Hayyim ben Menahem of Niort, and his fellow citizen Joseph ben Abraham. He was induced by his pupils to publish in 1277 an abridgment of Moses ben Jacob of Coucy’s Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, under the title Ammudey ha-Golah or Sefer Mitzvot Katan. This work was most favourably received by the communities of France and Germany, and has often been edited and annotated.


Ka`arat kesef

Literally meaning “silver dish” (see Numbers 7, 49 etc), title of an ethical poem by Joseph Ha-ezobi (Provence, 13th century)


Kabbalah (‘tradition’) is the mystical theosophical system developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as represented by the Zohar, and later reinterpreted and recast by Isaac Luria (the Ari), in sixteenth century Safed.

The term Kabbalah was used in the earlier Jewish sources for the Jewish post-biblical tradition as a whole but was appropriated by the Kabbalists to denote their own doctrine, believed to be preserved by the initiates as the true, inner meaning of the mystical, reaching back to Moses and even, in some versions, to Adam.

Kalila and Dimna

The names of two jackals around which a series of Indian fables were assembled. The stories, which parallel in some respects the Aesop cycle, became known in Europe through Persian, Greek, and Arabic versions and thence influenced Hebrew fable compositions.

Kennicott, Benjamin

An English Christian Hebraist; born at Totnes, England on April 4, 1718 and died at Oxford on August 18, 1783. He was, at first, master of the “Blue Coat,” or charity, school at Totnes. His poems attracted the attention of the local gentry who sent him to Wadham College, Oxford, where he became interested in Hebrew through the lectures of Professor Hunt. He became Hody (Hebrew) Exhibitioner (1745-47) and gained the degree of B.A. in 1747. He took holy orders, and ultimately became canon of Christ Church, Oxford (1770), and vicar of Mynhenyote, Cornwall (in the same year). Soon after he had taken his degree, Dr. Lowth suggested (1751) to him that he should do for the Old Testament what Mills had done for the New, and collect the “variæ lectiones” of the text. He set to work, and in 1753 published a pamphlet on “The Study of the Hebrew Printed Text of the Old Testament,” which attracted attention, and caused a number of persons to agree to supply him with funds for the collection and collation of Hebrew manuscripts. He began serious work in this direction in 1758, after nearly £10,000 had been collected from numerous patrons of learning, including the kings of Denmark and Sardinia, and the stadholder (from the Dutch, stadhouder, meaning “representative”, a literal translation of the French lieutenant or the Latin locum tenens) of Holland. In 1760 and 1769 he printed reports for them on “The Collation of the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament,” and in 1776 published at Oxford the first volume of his “Vetus Testamentum”. The publication of the second volume, with a “Dissertatio Generalis” on the text, in 1780, completed the work. The “Dissertatio Generalis” was republished separately by Bruns, at Brunswick, in 1783.


See RaDaK


Laid Paper

Paper with a prominent pattern of ribbed lines in the finished sheet which are particularly visible when the sheet is held up to the light. It is accomplished, in handmade paper, using a screen-like mould of closely set parallel horizontal wires (through which excess water drains off in the papermaking process), crossed at right angles by vertical wires spaced somewhat further apart. The same effect is achieved in machine-made paper with the use of a ‘dandy roll’ positioned at the ‘wet’ end of the paper machine.


Photographic film, view cameras and processes that use film size 4 x 5 inches (10 x 12 cm) or larger are referred to as ‘large-format’. The most common film formats are 4 x 5 inches and 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm). The film used to photograph the Barcelona Haggadah and Rothschild Miscellany was 5 x 7 inches (13 x 18 cm), the Kennicott Bible was 4 x 5 inches and the Alba Bible was 8 x 10 inches.


see hametz

Lost-wax casting

The origins of the lost-wax casting process are shrouded in antiquity, but it has been used for thousands of years to produce objects in metal which could not be produced any other way, due to the complexity of their form. It permits anything that can be modelled in wax to be faithfully reproduced in metal.

An illustrated description of the process can be seen here.


A lulav is a ripe, green, closed frond of the date palm tree. It is one of the Four Species (arba’ah minim) used in the morning prayer services during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The other species are the myrtle, willow, and citron (etrog). The term lulav also refers to the lulav in combination with two of the other species – the myrtle and the willow that are bound together to perform the mitzvah of waving the lulav. These three species are held in one hand while the etrog is held in the other. The user brings his or her hands together and waves the species in all directions to attest to God’s mastery over all of creation. This ritual also symbolically voices a prayer for adequate rainfall over all the earth’s vegetation in the coming year, thus indicating its earliest origins in rain-making rites at the end of the dry season.


Lunel was the home of an important mediaeval Jewish community in Southern France (north-east of Montpellier).



The acronymic tile of Rabbi Meir ben Barukh of Rothenburg, c. 1215-93, a leading Talmudic scholar of his age.


The Latinised name of Moses b. Maimon, 1135-1204, rabbi, philosopher, and physician; author in Hebrew of a systematic arrangement of the corpus of halachah and in Arabic of his own philosophical presentation of Judaism (the Guide for the Perplexed).


Maqueda is a Spanish town located in the province of Toledo. It is 80 kilometers from Madrid, the Spanish capital.


Marbling is the art or process of producing on paper veined or mottled designs that imitate marble. Colours are prepared so that they float on a liquid and form patterns. A sheet of paper is laid on the surface and absorbs the patterned, marbled, designs. Water colours are generally used in marbling, although oil colours can also be used; however, they do not permit as fine control or produce the clean, sharp lines of water colours. Mineral colours are seldom used because of their tendency to sink to the bottom of the trough due to their weight.
(definition adapted from the Etherington and Roberts Bookbinders Dictionary and Johnson & Middleton Bookbinders Dictionary)


Marquetry (also spelled as marqueterie; from the French marqueter, to variegate) is the art of applying pieces of wood veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. We can also produce marquetry designs in leather and metal.
Marquetry differs from the more ancient craft of inlay, or intarsia, in which a solid body of one material is cut out to receive sections of another to form the surface pattern. The word derives from a Middle French word meaning “inlaid work”.

Masorah (“tradition”)

The Hebrew Bible was originally written without full indication of the vowelling of the consonantal text, this being preserved by oral tradition. From the 6th-7th centuries CE up to the 9th, groups of scholars elaborated various systems for full phonetic representation (see vocalization, cantillation), the system perpetuated into the age of print being known, from the locale of the scholars who finalised it, as the Tiberian.

Matza (also Matzoh, Matzah, Matzo; pl.


A thin, brittle, unleavened bread eaten during the Passover holiday. Tradition states that matza is to be made with water and flour only. When the Jews were leaving Egypt, there was no time for the bread to rise – the result became matza.


The Medici family was a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th century. The family produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, and Leo XI), numerous rulers of Florence, and later members of the French royalty. The family also helped to spur the beginning of the Italian Renaissance.

From humble beginnings (the origin of the name is uncertain, it allegedly reflects a medical trade – medico), the family first achieved power through banking. The Medici Bank was one of the most prosperous and most respected in Europe. From this base, the family acquired political power initially in Florence, and later in the wider Italy and Europe.

The most significant accomplishments of the Medici were in art and architecture, within which the portfolio of talent employed by Medici is a virtual “Who’s Who” of Renaissance art and architecture. Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, the first patron of art in the family, aided Masaccio and ordered the reconstruction of the Church of San Lorenzo. Cosimo the Elder’s notable artistic associates were Donatello and Fra Angelico. The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michelangelo, who produced work for a number of the Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent. In addition to commissions for art and architecture, the Medici were prolific collectors and today their acquisitions form the core of the Uffizi museum in Florence.

In architecture, the Medici were responsible for some notable features of Florence; including the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the Belvedere, and the Palazzo Medici.


A seven branched candelabrum, the menorah is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people and has been said to symbolize the burning bush as seen by Moses on mount Sinai. It was traditionally beaten from a single piece of gold and used in the Tabernacle (the portable sanctuary used by the Israelites in the wilderness) and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Lamps burning olive oil were located at the head of each branch.

An eight-branched menorah figures in home and Synagogue ritual during the festival of Hanukah, which commemorates the rededication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Today, many synagogues also display either a menorah or an artistic representation of a menorah. In addition, synagogues feature a continually-lit lamp in front of the Ark, where the Torah scroll is kept. Called the ner tamid, this lamp represents the continually-lit menorah used in Temple times. A menorah appears in the coat of arms of the State of Israel.

Meshal ha-Kadmoni

see Isaac Ibn Sahula

Metal Dies

Engraved steel, brass or bronze stamps used in embossing a design or letter in leather.

(see also blind-tooling, embossing)


The Hebrew word for doorpost, mezuzah, also came to mean the encased parchment scroll inscribed with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 that is affixed to the gate and right-hand doorposts of a Jewish home.


Micrography (from Greek, literally small-writing), is a Jewish form of calligrams developed in the 9th century, with parallels in Christianity and Islam, utilizing minute Hebrew letters to form representational, geometric and abstract designs.

Midrash (“Exposition”)

The generic term for texts which record or assemble aggadic material.


Mikvah (or mikveh) is a “ritual bath” used for immersion in a purification ceremony within Judaism. Its main use nowadays is by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth. Immersion in a mikvah is also required during a traditional conversion to Judaism and in some cases for new cooking implements.


The word miniature, derived from the Latin minium, for red lead, refers to a picture in an ancient or medieval manuscript; the simple decoration of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment.

Mishnah (“teaching”)

The earliest full codification of rabbinical elaboration of pentateuchal law (see Halachah). Arranged topically, it was promulgated under the authority of Rabbi Judah Ha-nasi (“the Patriarch”), around 200 CE.

Mishneh Torah

Title of the halachic code by Maimonides.


The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of al-Andalus (= Andalsia, but used also to mean the Iberian Peninsula including present day Spain and Portugal) and the Maghreb (Morocco) and western Africa, whose culture is often called Moorish.

In 711, the Moors invaded Visigoth (i.e Christian Hispania). Under their leader, an African Berber general named Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. They attempted to move northeast across the Pyrenees but were defeated by the Frank, Charles Martel, at the Battle of Tours in 732. The Moors ruled in the Iberian peninsula, except for areas in the northwest (such as Asturias, where they were stopped at the battle of Covadonga) and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees, and in North Africa. Though the number of “Moors” remained small, they gained large numbers of converts. According to Ronald Segal, author of “Islam’s Black Slaves”, some 5.6 million of Iberia’s 7 million inhabitants were Muslim by 1200, virtually all of them native inhabitants. The progressive Christian reconquest over the centuries culminated with the subjection of Granada in 1492.


Morocco denotes a goatskin tanned by any vegetable tannage. Morocco goatskins are very durable, flexible, beautifully grained, and relatively strong, making them ideally suited for bookbinding.

Mould-Made Paper

Paper made in separate sheets in a mould. Mould-made paper is characterized by natural, fuzzy edges. Handmade papers have four ‘deckle’ (fuzzy) edges, while mould-made papers usually have two.


Mudéjar is the name given to the Moors, and native Andalusians practising Islam, who remained in the Iberian Peninsula after the Christian Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity. It also denotes a vernacular style of Iberian architecture and decoration, particularly of Aragon and Castile strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship.

The Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of techniques and ways of understanding architecture resulting from Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side, emerged as an architectural style in the 12th century in the Iberian peninsula.


North Light

In the northern hemisphere light emanating from the north is considered to have a diffused and even quality.


Offset Lithography

A printing process that involves the transfer of the image from a metal plate to a rubber-covered cylinder, which is then offset (transferred) by pressure onto the paper. The image area of the plate is receptive to ink, whereas the remaining, non-printing area of the plate is water-receptive.


The property of vellum or paper that determines the “show-through” of printing (or writing) from the back of the sheet. Black paper is 100% opaque, while clear glass is transparent.


The chemical reaction in which a material combines with oxygen to form an oxide. Everyone is familiar with rust, which is a form of metal oxidation that occurs when iron reacts with oxygen in the air to become reddish-brown iron oxide. When precious metals oxidise they are commonly referred to as being ‘tarnished’. Oxidised silver turns black.



The study of the evolution, development, and styles of handwriting. In the case of Hebrew and other languages written by Jews in Hebrew characters (e.g. Arabic, Spanish), differences between communities (Sephardim, Ashkenazim) and occasion (formal ‘square’ or everyday ‘rabbinic’ script) can be revealed.

(see also codicology)


Literally ‘division’: the weekly portion of the Torah, also called Sidra (order [of reading]).


Stretching and drying the skins

Stretching and drying the skins

A translucent or opaque material made from the wet, limed, and unhaired skins of sheep, goats, or similar small animals, by drying at room temperature under tension, generally on a wooden frame known as a stretching frame. Good parchment must be thin, strong and yet flexible, and must have a smooth surface if it is to be used for writing. Click here for an illustrated description of the parchment-making process.

(see also vegetable parchment, vellum)


Literally, a “curtain” which shields the synagogal ark and alludes to the veil which hung before the holy of holies in the temple. Ashkenazic custom drapes the ark outside, whilst Sephardim hang it inside the doors.

Perek Helek

The 10th chapter of the mishnaic tractate Sanhedrin (which deals with criminal law), is an appendix concerning future fate and begins “All Israel have a portion (helek) in the world to come”. In his commentary Maimonides explains at length his understanding of the Jewish assertion of belief in an afterlife as a cardinal article of faith.


From ‘potential of Hydrogen’, a measure of acidity or alkalinity. Values range from 0 to 14. pH is said to be ‘neutral’ when it is 7.0: lower values are increasingly acidic; higher values are increasingly alkaline. In principle, papers that contain no free acid and have a pH value of 7.0 are said to be ‘neutral’ and thus will last much longer than papers with low pH values which may deteriorate much faster over time. In practice, papermakers consider a paper with a pH value of 6.0 or greater to be acid free. Such papers may be produced from cotton fibres, rags, esparto, jute, chemical wood pulps, or virtually any other fibre, with special precautions being taken during manufacture to eliminate any active acid that might be present in the paper pulp.

Piyyut (pl. piyyutim)

Derived from the Greek word poietes (poet), piyyutim are liturgical hymns, composed from late antiquity onwards, to highlight items in the statutory liturgy for festivals and other special occasions.

Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris, or simply plaster, is based on calcium sulphate hemihydrate. It is created by heating gypsum to about 150ºC. A large gypsum deposit at Montmartre in Paris is the source of the name. When the dry plaster powder is mixed with water, it re-forms into gypsum, initially as a paste but eventually hardening into a solid.


A series of vertically aligned holes down each side of the parchment sheet between which the scribe ruled horizontal lines to aid his writing. Although, they were often trimmed off before the manuscript was bound, where they do occur in the original, they are reproduced in our facsimiles.


A test print to check the accuracy of the colour reproduction. Many proofs may be made (up to four) before a page is approved for printing.


Provence is a former Roman province and is now a region of south-eastern France, located on the Mediterranean Sea adjacent to France’s border with Italy and part of the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur. The traditional region of Provence encompasses the départements of Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône in addition to parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes. The region is best known for dry rosés and fruity red wines. The Jewish communities of medieval Provence belonged to the same intellectual and cultural milieu as those in Spain.

Psalms (Tehillim)

Psalms (from the Greek: Psalmoi, ψαλμοί; Hebrew: Tehillim, תהילים) is a book of the Hebrew Bible, containing 150 pieces. Jewish tradition maintains that the Psalms are all the work of King David, although this is rejected by all modern biblical scholars.


“Lots”, i.e. the casting of lots. The festival celebrated on 14-15th Adar (March) in commemoration of the events rehearsed in the biblical book of Esther.



A group of leaves folded together prior to binding, also know as a ‘section’. In modern day book production, where a large sheet of paper is mechanically folded down many times to produce a quire, all the quires will be of the same number of pages (an even multiple of 4), for example 4, 8, 16 or 32. However, in manuscript production, scribes had no such mechanical restrictions and would cut the vellum down to page size before working on it, thus enabling them to have quire sizes of 12 or 20 pages or any other odd multiple of 4. They frequently even inserted single leaves (2 pages) to correct omissions or add to the text, resulting in quires of 6, 10 or 18 pages. In making our facsimiles we carefully maintain the original quire construction by individually cutting each bifolio leaf (4 pages) and hand assembling them in the same order as in the original manuscript. As we do not fold down from a large sheet we, too, have no constraints to restrict us in production.



The RaDaK, (initials of Rabbi David Kimchi), was born in the city of Narbonne in the Provence area of southern France in the year 1160. He was only ten when his father, Rabbi Joseph Kimchi, passed away and his brother Rabbi Moses Kimchi took charge of the task of providing young David with a proper education.

His primary contribution was a commentary on all of the Hebrew bible. For many students of the Bible, his commentary is perhaps that of choice on the Psalms and and some of the Prophets etc. He was able to weave together a clear explanation of the text, providing necessary background, making connections clear, often critical of Christian misinterpretations of the text, and with a very useful analysis of grammatical points relevant to the understanding of the Biblical text. He also wrote a separate grammar/lexicon called Michlol, in which among other things he introduced the distinction between long and short vowels. He clarified the relationships of the “binyanim,” the structures of the Hebrew verbal system, e.g. by defining the nif’al as the passive form of the active kal.

Much midrashic material was also elucidated by RaDaK in his Biblical commentaries.

He was a champion of the Rambam and defended him against critics of his philosophical works. When Solomon ben Avraham of Montpellier promulgated a ban against the “Moreh Nevuchim,” the “Guide for the Perplexed” of the Rambam, the RaDaK was sharply critical of the ban.

A traditional Torah scholar, whose works had a remarkably modern flavour, he died in 1235.

Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera is a round building in Oxford, England, built by James Gibbs between 1737 and 1749 to house the Radcliffe Library. The building was funded by John Radcliffe, who died in 1714. After the Radcliffe Science Library moved into another building, the Radcliffe Camera became a reading room of the Bodleian Library. It now holds books from the English and History collection.


Rashi is a Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi or Rabbi Shlomo Yarchi (February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1105), a Jewish rabbi in France in the Middle Ages, famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud and Bible. Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise yet lucid fashion, Rashi appeals to both beginning students and learned scholars, and his works remain a centrepiece of contemporary Jewish study.

Born in Troyes, France, Rashi departed at the age of twenty to study at the yeshiva of Mainz. He founded his own yeshiva in Troyes in 1070. Scholars believe that Rashi’s commentary on the Torah grew out of the lectures he gave to his students in his yeshiva, and evolved with the questions and answers they raised. Rashi completed this commentary in the last years of his life. It was immediately accepted as authoritative by all Jewish communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardi alike. Rashi’s commentary, which covers nearly all of the Babylonian Talmud (a total of 30 tractates), has been included in every version of the Talmud since its first printing in Italy.


A printed image is an optical illusion. In its basic form, an image is printed in four component colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) – known as CMYK (although we use up to ten colours). If you look at an image through a magnifying glass you will see coloured dots of varying size on a white background. These dots are very precisely positioned so that the brain is effectively confused into seeing a full colour image. If any one of the colours is imprecisely positioned it is said to be out of ‘register’ and the image will appear blurred and the colours will look strange. The image may even be fringed with the ‘out of register’ colour which has been shifted very slightly sideways and some of it is now printed slightly outside the margin of the image.

(see also Colour Separation)


The process of loosening a manuscript’s sewing and removing solidified glue from the spine so that the leaves can open flat, preferably at 180° to each other, to facilitate distortion-free photography without damaging the manuscript.


In the modern historical view, the Renaissance is understood as an historical age that was preceded by the Middle Ages and introduced the Reformation. The Italian Renaissance of the 15th century represented a reconnection of the west with classical antiquity, the absorption of Greek science – particularly mathematics – from Arabic, whence Latin translations; the return of experimentalism; the focus on the importance of living well in the present (e.g. Renaissance humanism); an explosion of the dissemination of knowledge brought on by printing and the creation of new techniques in art, poetry and architecture, which led to a radical change in the style, and substance of arts and letters. This period represents Europe emerging from a long period as a relative backwater, and the rise of commerce and exploration. The Italian Renaissance is often labelled as the beginning of the “modern” epoch, although modern scholarship emphasises its continuity with the foregoing period which had witnessed the European rediscovery of Aristotle etc. through Latin translation of Arabic and sometime Hebrew versions of the texts beginning in the 12th century.

Rosh Hashanah

“Head of the year”. The Jewish New Year on 1st Tishri (September – October).

Roth, Cecil

A renowned Jewish historian and recognized expert in Jewish art, he was born in London in 1899 and educated at Oxford University. Initially trained as a general historian with an interest in Italy, Roth soon began to concentrate on Jewish subjects, first as a freelance journalist and lecturer and later as a reader at Oxford University (1939 to 1964).

Upon retiring from Oxford, Roth settled in Jerusalem and was a visiting professor at Columbia University, Queens College of the City University of New York, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and Bar Ilan University.

A prolific writer, Roth published more than 600 books and articles, a number of which have been translated into many languages. His popular works include The House of Nasi (two volumes, of which Dona Gracia is the first), A Short History of the Jewish People, The Jewish Contribution to Civilization and The Standard Jewish Encyclopaedia. From 1966 until his death in Jerusalem in 1970, he served as editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.



The court which, in temple times, administered criminal law and certain other matters. Its constitution, rights, and procedures were set forth in the mishnaic [076] tractate so titled. From Greek synhedrion (“session”)

Seatonian Prize

The Seatonian Prize has been awarded annually since 1750 by the University of Cambridge for an English poem on a sacred subject. The winner for the first three years was Christopher Smart, despite a spell in Bedlam (the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital) in 1751, where his malady took the form of praying, literally without ceasing. Smart won much credit by his success, enabling him to survive at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, despite a weakness for taverns, the pressure of his creditors, and even the discovery that he had taken a wife. In 1754 his fellowship was extended on condition that he continued to write for the prize.


See quire


Literally meaning ‘order’, Seder refers to the order of the ritual meal and explication, conducted on the first two nights of Passover, the festival recalling the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.


Prayers and liturgical poems, seeking “divine forgiveness”, recited during and leading up to the penitential season of 1-10th Tishri and culminating in the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Sephardi (pl. Sephardim)

A Hebrew term, meaning “native of Spain” – Jews of Spanish and Portuguese extraction. Following their expulsion in the fifteenth century, the Iberian Jews settled around the Mediterranean, the Balkans, western Europe, and the Americas. Sephardi Jews have a different Hebrew pronunciation from Ashkenazim [010] and also have differences in some prayers and practices.

(see also Ashkenazi)

Shemoneh Perakim

“Eight chapters”. Maimonides, in his commentary to the Mishnah, prefaces the tractate entitled Aboth (“[ethical teachings of] the Fathers”, i.e. rabbis up to c. 200 CE) with a disquisition on psychology and ethical philosophy.


Commander of the army of Hazor in northern Palestine, whose defeat by the Israelites was celebrated in the song of Deborah, see Judges 4, -5.


A sofer, sopher or sofer ST”M (Hebrew: סופר סת״ם, “scribe”) is a Jewish scribe who can transcribe Sifrei Kodesh (holy scrolls), tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzot and other religious writings. ST”M, סת״ם, is an abbreviation of the three terms, Sifrei, Tefillin and Mezuzot.

Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 in Spain under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile, to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. It was to a large extent under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy, with only the Inquisitor General appointed by Rome. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabel II.

The Inquisition, as an ecclesiastical tribunal, had jurisdiction only over baptized Christians. However, since Jews (in 1492) and Muslim Moors (in 1502) had been banished from Spain, jurisdiction of the Inquisition during a large part of its history extended in practice to all royal subjects. The Inquisition worked in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of ex-Jewish converts and their descendants known as conversos, or marranos. In its dealings with converted Muslims and Jews and also illuminists, the Spanish Inquisition, with its “auto de fe”, represents a particularly notorious period in the history of the Inquisition. The Portuguese Inquisition worked independently and to some extent in rivalry with the Spanish.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. The minimum millesimal fineness is 925. The term “Sterling Silver”, in reference to the .925 grade of silver, emerged in England by the 13th century.

(see also Hallmarking


Suede is made from the inner splits of a side of leather, usually cow. Because suede does not include the tough exterior skin layer, it is less durable but softer than standard (“full-grain”) leather.



The fringed prayer-shawl with stripes (black or blue) wrapped by Jewish men round their shoulders during times of prayer.


The Talmud (‘learning’) is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. The Talmud has two components: the earlier Mishnah, which is the first written compendium of Judaism’s Oral Law; and the Gemara (‘completion’), a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Bible. The terms Talmud and Gemara are often used interchangeably. The Gemara is the basis for all later codes of rabbinic law and is much quoted in other rabbinic literature.

Targum (pl. targumim)

The translation into and, to some extent, paraphrase of the Bible in Aramaic made in the early centuries of the Common Era.


Known as phylacteries in English, these are small black boxes containing passages of scripture with black straps attached to them, worn by men at weekday morning prayer. One box is placed on the head, and the other is placed on the left arm, near the heart.


The first five books of the Hebrew bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), portions of which are read every Sabbath. Traditionally, a reading of the entire Torah is complete in one year. The word Torah comes from the Hebrew root Yod|Reish|Hey, which means ‘to instruct’. The Torah contains the basis and early history of Judaism and from it are derived all of the laws that Jews follow today.

The Torah is comprised of two components: The Written Torah and the Oral Torah. According to Jewish tradition, they were both delivered to Moses at Mount Sinai. The Written Torah is comprised of the Five Books of Moses. The Oral Torah, which appears today in Judaism as the Mishnah and Talmud, explains the Written Torah.



Paper or board which has not had its surface modified by the application of clay or other pigments and adhesive materials to improve its finish in terms of printability, colour, smoothness or opacity. Coated papers tend to have a sterile feel and are therefore not suitable as a vellum or parchment facsimile.


Vegetable Parchment

A paper made by passing a completely unsized sheet of paper through a number of chemical processes which eventually form a very tough, stiff, smooth paper with an almost identical appearance to that of animal parchment.

(see also parchment, vellum)


Vellum is generally defined as a material made from calfskin, sheepskin, or virtually any other skin obtained from a relatively small animal, e.g. antelope. The difference between vellum and parchment is somewhat blurred, although traditionally the former was made from an unsplit calfskin, and consequently had a grain pattern on one side (unless removed by scraping) while the latter was produced from the flesh split of a sheepskin, and consequently had no grain pattern. The important distinction between vellum (or parchment) and leather is that the former is not tanned but is prepared essentially by soaking the skin in lime and drying it under tension.

(see also parchment, vegetable parchment)


The alphabet invented in Palestine-Syria is the ancestor of all Semitic and western alphabets. It was designed to signify consonants only, leaving the reader to decide from the context whether, for example, wll stands for wall, well, or will. At a fairly early stage, reading was made easier by the supplementary use of some consonants to indicate vowels where there was little risk of misunderstanding (compare, in older English spelling, the use of v for v or u, and i for i or j). When the Greeks took over the Semitic alphabet, they retained certain letters which they did not need as consonants and gave them new values as vowels: thus the Hebrew ayin, originally written as a circle ‘O’ became the Greek and Roman ‘o’. The Hebrew alphabet with some consonants also acting as ciphers for vowels was, and has remained 99% adequate, and thus most Hebrew is to-day written without the full apparatus of phonetic symbols, elaborated in the early middle ages in order to authentically preserve the traditional pronunciation of biblical texts. Prayer-books etc. are printed with all vowel-symbols in order to assist those whose knowledge of Hebrew is inadequate for them to dispense with such guidance.

(see also Cantillation, Masorah)



Yiddish is a non-territorial Germanic language spoken throughout the world and written with the Hebrew alphabet. It originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in central and eastern Europe, and spread via emigration to other continents. In the earliest surviving references to it, the language is called loshn-ashkenaz (“language of the Ashkenazim”) and taytsh, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for the language spoken in the region, now called Middle High German (compare the modern Deutsch). In common usage, the language is called mame-loshn (“mother tongue”), distinguishing it from biblical Hebrew and Aramaic which are collectively termed loshn-koydesh (“holy tongue”). The term Yiddish did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature of the language until the 18th century, but for a significant portion of its history it was the primary spoken language of the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe and beyond.


The congregational morning prayers are introduced with the blessing of God as “former (Hebrew yozer) of the luminaries”. Hymns composed for insertion at various stations in this section of the service are thus collectively styled.



The Zohar (“splendour, radiance”) is considered the most important product of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. It is a mystical commentary on the Torah (the five books of Moses), written in medieval Aramaic and Hebrew. It contains a mystical discussion of the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, sin, redemption, good and evil, and related topics.


Zoomorphic (literally ‘animal-like’) refers to artwork, decorated objects, or characterization of human figures with an animal motif or appearance.

(see also anthropomorphism)