Kennicott Bible

Bodleian Library, Oxford
ISBN 978-0-948223-00-6

£7,950

In stock (can be backordered)

The famous Kennicott Bible, MS Kennicott 1, is the most lavish Hebrew Bible in existence. The manuscript is illuminated throughout its 922 pages and contains the entire Tenakh (Old Testament) together with RaDaK’s  (Rabbi David Kimchi) Sefer Mikhlol, a grammatical treatise on the Tenakh.

Written in clear, square script, the entire Bible contains all the vowels, the massoretic text and singing notes. The bible is bound into a magnificent morocco goatskin box-binding, blind-embossed on all six sides.

This treasure of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is named after  Benjamin Kennicott, the English Hebraist (1718-1783) who continued the English tradition of studying the Hebrew bible.The history of the manuscript began in La Coruña (Corunna), north-western Spain, in 1476 when Don Solomon de Braga commissioned a famous scribe, Moses Ibn Zabara to write the Tenakh together with Rabbi David Kimchi’s Sefer Mikhlol for his son Isaac.

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In a lengthy colophon at the end of the biblical text, Moses Ibn Zabara states that he finished the work in the town of La Coruña in Galicia, north-west Spain, on Wednesday, the third day of the month of Av in the year 5236 from the Creation (24th July 1476). He says that he was wholly responsible for the entire text of all twenty-four books of the Bible: he copied it, added the vocalisation marks, wrote all the notes of the massorah, and finally checked it against a traditionally accurate Bible and corrected his text. He wrote the Bible for the “admirable youth, Isaac, son of the late honourable and beloved Don Solomon de Braga, [may his soul] rest in [the Garden of] Eden. The blessed Lord grant that he study it, he and his children and his children’s children throughout all the generations, as it is written (Joshua 1:8), ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.’ And God enable him to produce many books, in order to fulfil the saying (Ecclesiastes 12:12), ‘and moreover take care, my son, to produce many books, books without end’ Amen, God grant that it be so.”

Folio 120/121 The famous carpet pages, traditional in Sephardic bibles, depict the implements used in the Temple, the Mount of Olives, the table of Shewbread and the menorah guarded by the Lion of Judah.<small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Completed almost twenty years before the final Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, at a time when they were already being harassed by the Spanish Inquisition, this manuscript shows what great importance Jewish communities attached to the perpetuation of their heritage by investing in the production of an accurate and beautifully adorned Bible.

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From its inception the manuscript was planned as a lavish work. Two hundred and thirty-eight of the 922 pages of the Bible are illuminated with lively colours, burnished gold and silver leaf. In a unique statement at the end of the manuscript, the Jewish artist Joseph Ibn Hayyim writes his own colophon. While the scribe was always the more important (and well-paid) of the team, it is rare to find a Hebrew manuscript with a flamboyant Jewish artist whose extraordinary colophon appears in huge zoomorphic letters at the end of the book.

The highly stylized figures – almost modern in their abstract rendering – delight the eye with the richness of their colours and their varied compositions. The zoomorphic and anthropomorphic letters in the artist’s colophon are a manifestation of his rich imagination.

Joseph Ibn Hayyim created in his own individual and distinct style a unique masterpiece. King David on his throne, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, or Balaam as an astrologer consulting an astrolabe, are but a few of the text illustrations in the Kennicott Bible. Even RaDaK’s grammatical treatise Sefer Mikhlol was not copied as an austere text, but written within magnificently decorated arcaded pages, placed at the beginning and end of the Bible, possibly because the manuscript was commissioned for the youthful Isaac, in the hope that it might encourage his interest in grammar.

The original manuscript is still housed in its contemporary morocco box binding, blind-tooled and embellished with cut-out endpapers using motifs similar to the intricate, colourful carpet pages which divide the Bible into its three main sections: Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa.

The production of the entire manuscript, from the preparation of the parchment leaves to the ultimate phase of binding, bears witness to the close co-operation between the scribe, the illuminator and the patron.

Cecil Roth, one of the twentieth century’s greatest Jewish historians considered the Kennicott Bible “A masterpiece of Mediaeval Spanish Jewish art…” and “one of the finest Hebrew manuscripts in existence.”

Professor Malachi Beit-Arié introduces the Kennicott Bible

The Facsimile

INTRODUCTION

Published as a sumptuous facsimile after five and a half years in the making, the Kennicott Bible facsimile, inspired and enthusiastically supported by the late David Patterson, was acclaimed by the Bodleian and many other libraries, as the highest quality that had ever been achieved in a facsimile. This was partly due to the excellent condition of the original manuscript, but to a greater extent to the unrelenting quest for perfection at every stage of its reproduction.

<small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

INTRODUCTION

Published as a sumptuous facsimile after five and a half years in the making, the Kennicott Bible facsimile, inspired and enthusiastically supported by the late David Patterson, was acclaimed by the Bodleian and many other libraries, as the highest quality that had ever been achieved in a facsimile. This was partly due to the excellent condition of the original manuscript, but to a greater extent to the unrelenting quest for perfection at every stage of its reproduction.

<small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
Folio 443/442  Above the magnificent arcaded pages, an army of rabbits besieges a lone wolf in a castle on the right and an army of cats attacks a dogs’ castle on the left. <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Photography

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 images of each of the manuscript’s 922 pages.

Folio 185a King David <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Colour Separation and Proofing

In order to reveal up to 24 different colours applied by the artist in a single square inch of design, laser scanners were used to produce the first set of colour separations. Printed ‘wet’ proofs on the same paper that was to be used in the facsimile, were then compared against the original manuscript and adjustments noted on the proofs to be corrected later, by hand, by the colour separators in Milan. 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. To ensure and maintain the quality of colour and accuracy of detail while printing, Linda and Michael Falter stood at the printing press and personally checked and approved the quality of every sheet for the duration of the printing process.

Paper

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. Taking more than a year to develop, the paper is so close in appearance and feel to real parchment that it leads many experts to believe it to be skin!

Photography

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 images of each of the manuscript’s 922 pages.

Folio 185a King David <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Colour Separation and Proofing

In order to reveal up to 24 different colours applied by the artist in a single square inch of design, laser scanners were used to produce the first set of colour separations. Printed ‘wet’ proofs on the same paper that was to be used in the facsimile, were then compared against the original manuscript and adjustments noted on the proofs to be corrected later, by hand, by the colour separators in Milan. 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. To ensure and maintain the quality of colour and accuracy of detail while printing, Linda and Michael Falter stood at the printing press and personally checked and approved the quality of every sheet for the duration of the printing process.

Paper

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. Taking more than a year to develop, the paper is so close in appearance and feel to real parchment that it leads many experts to believe it to be skin!

Folio 5/6 The exceptional arcaded pages decorating RaDaK’s Sefer Mikhlol. <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Printing

Facsimile Editions sought out a company that for generations had practised the Master Printer’s craft. Grafiche Milani in Italy regarded the reprinting of the manuscript as a supreme challenge in which the entire workforce would strive to produce a work of unparalleled, consummate beauty. Their ingenuity, dedication and integrity ensured perfect reproduction of the lavish gold and silver and the intricate yet vibrant colours of the hundreds of illuminated pages. Many processes and materials were used in unusual combinations to produce these effects. 

Gilding

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.

Holes

The scribe would have bought the very best parchment available, but occasionally a skin would have a hole in it. As parchment was costly, the scribe could not afford to discard it so he would carefully circumscribe the text around a hole. For the two holes in the facsimile to appear in exactly the same position as the holes in the manuscript, the printing on each side of the leaf had to be positioned with perfect relative precision so that when the hole was cut no text was damaged on either side of the leaf.

Kennicott Bible folio 73b Parashat Vayetzeh  <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Printing

Facsimile Editions sought out a company that for generations had practised the Master Printer’s craft. Grafiche Milani in Italy regarded the reprinting of the manuscript as a supreme challenge in which the entire workforce would strive to produce a work of unparalleled, consummate beauty. Their ingenuity, dedication and integrity ensured perfect reproduction of the lavish gold and silver and the intricate yet vibrant colours of the hundreds of illuminated pages. Many processes and materials were used in unusual combinations to produce these effects.

Kennicott Bible folio 73b Parashat Vayetze  <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Gilding

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.

Holes

The scribe would have bought the very best parchment available, but occasionally a skin would have a hole in it. As parchment was costly, the scribe could not afford to discard it so he would carefully circumscribe it in the text. The two holes in the facsimile were cut to appear in exactly the same position as the holes in the manuscript. This meant that not only did the printing have to register perfectly on each side of the page but the printing of both sides of the page had to be positioned with perfect relative precision so that when the hole was cut no text was damaged.

The Mudejar binding is unique to Hebrew manuscripts. Only six box-bindings of this type exist today.  <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Binding

Finding a binder to accurately copy the original binding of the original manuscript was not easy. Blind-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 engravers painstakingly traced the box’s detailed design in a time-consuming and costly process carried out for 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.

Presentation

The facsimile and commentary volume are presented together in an elegant presentation case.

Personalised Dedication

The facsimile can be personally dedicated by an expert calligrapher at no extra charge. Whether the facsimile is intended as a gift to an institution or a private individual, our calligrapher can inscribe a beautifully decorated certificate with an inscription of your choice.

Kennicott Bible folio 84b Parashat Shelach Lecha  <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Presentation

The facsimile and commentary volume are presented together in an elegant presentation case.

Personalised Dedication

The facsimile can be personally dedicated by an expert calligrapher at no extra charge. Whether the facsimile is intended as a gift to an institution or a private individual, our calligrapher can inscribe a beautifully decorated certificate with an inscription of your choice.

Folio 352/353  The intricate geometrical, woven design is exquisitely executed in vibrant colours. The beginning of the Book of Psalms in which each Psalm is numbered and contains the traditional Masoretic text. <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Commentary Volume

The study of the Kennicott Bible and its illuminations was carried out and written especially for this facsimile by Professor Bezalel Narkiss, Founder of the Centre for Jewish Art, Jerusalem, and Dr Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, its Director.

Pages 56-57 of the 98 page Commentary Volume with extensive bibliography. <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
The commentary volume bound in morocco goatskin to match the facsimile. <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
Library case containing the Kennicott Bible and Commentary volume  <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Specification

Folio 44a The Song of the Sea <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Codicology

Bodleian Library MS. Kennicott 1
ISBN 0 948223 006
922 pages, 238 illuminated pages with gold and silver
24 canonical book headings
49 parashah headings structured with gold in different motifs featuring zoomorphic figures in many colours
27 lavishly-illuminated arcaded pages framing the text of the Sefer Mikhlol
9 fully illuminated carpet pages
150 psalm headings, numbered and illuminated with gold and silver
Page size 320 x 262 x 100mm (12½” x 10⅓” x 4″)

Paper

Specially and exclusively milled for this facsimile on
neutral pH, 160gsm, vegetable parchment paper.
The opacity, feel and thickness are almost identical to the original manuscript.

Colour Separation & Proofing

Laser scanning and skilled hand correction
Perfect colour matching by constant comparison to the original in Oxford
Up to four sets of ‘wet’ proofs made for each page

Printing

Offset lithography in eleven colours
Publishers personally supervised the production of every sheet.

 

Kennicott Bible folio 113a, Parashat Ki Thavo<small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
Kennicott Bible folio 113a, Parashat Ki Thavo <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Paper

Specially and exclusively milled for this facsimile on
neutral pH, 160gsm, vegetable parchment paper.
The opacity, feel and thickness are almost identical to the original manuscript.

Colour Separation & Proofing

Laser scanning and skilled hand correction
Perfect colour matching by constant comparison to the original in Oxford
Up to four sets of ‘wet’ proofs made for each page

Printing

Offset lithography in eleven colours
Publishers personally supervised the production of every sheet. 

Kennicott Bible folio 300b - the beginning of the Book of Joel<small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Gilding

Gold and silver metal foils applied by hand to each illumination
Seven craftsmen took over four months to complete

Binding

Finest morocco goatskin box-binding
Interlacing geometric designs embossed using handmade dies on all six sides
Facsimile edges gilt with 23 carat gold leaf

Presentation

Facsimile and commentary volume enclosed in velvet lined, portfolio box

Gift Certificate

Beautifully decorated gift certificate with a personal inscription is offered at no additional charge

Shipping & Insurance

Price includes insurance and courier delivery

Edition

• Strictly limited to 500 numbered and 50 Ad Personam copies. Each volume, discreetly numbered by hand on the inside back cover using minute steel dies, is accompanied by a numbered and signed certificate carrying the seal of the Bodleian Library.

• On completion of the edition, the printing plates were destroyed (in a process that accords with halachic requirements) so as to protect the significant investment value of each facsimile.

See explanatory letter from London Beth Din

Folio 2/3  Part of RaDaK’s Sefer Mikhlol exquisitely illuminated perhaps to entice the bible's young recipient to study more grammar <small><a href="https://www.facsimile-editions.com/copyright/">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

The Kennicott Bible Facsimile

£7,950

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