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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Carpet Illuminations of Codex Leningrad National Library of Russia Ms. Evr. I B 19a
by Schmidt, Susan Lynn, Ph.D., The University of the Holy Land, 2019, 424; 27827878
Abstract (Summary)

Codex Leningrad (L) is the oldest, complete masoretic Hebrew Bible extant (1008–1011 CE). Penned in Fustat, Egypt, the bulk of modern masoretic scholarship for Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, and forthcoming Quinta edition, derives from L. Written, masorated, vocalized, and probably illuminated by Samuel ben Jacob (the Sofer) for his patron, Mevorakh ben Yosef ha-Kohen, L contains 16 “carpets” at the end of the codex. These illuminations are comprised of micrography, which forms the imagery. Each carpet takes up the space of an entire folium. Seemingly, the carpets of L have been largely ignored because of the great effort required to transcribe them. Whether viewed simply as art, or approaching each carpet one by one, until now, scholars have assumed that each included masoretic lists.

The purpose of this dissertation is to confront these presuppositions by asking, “What is the content of the carpets and the iconographical significance in the carpets of L as a whole?” This requires a transcription of the micrography of all 16 carpets with an apparatus of three columns: The Sofer’s text, the scriptural text it represents (as applicable) and the English translation. This enables the reader to observe any iconographical themes on the space. For accessibility, due to the sheer volume of information, each transcription is located with the appropriate carpet and not in the appendix. The carpets are also compared as they relate to each other via the masoretic content, as well as the iconography in their openings.

The masorah in the carpets is compared with other later manuscripts containing masoretic rubrics from the treatise Okhla we-Okhla, such as Frensdorff’s edition of Paris Ms. no. 148 (12–13th CE), Díaz Esteban’s edition of Ms. Halle (14th CE), the Rabbinic Bible of Ya’akov ben Ḥayyim (1525 CE), and Ginsburg’s compilation (1880–1905). The findings for masorah in L are then collated into a summary of those rubrics shared with these manuscripts. This is the first time such a comparison is implemented and charted. (Chapter 3).

By integrating codicology (Chapter 2), the effects of cultural transfer and artistry (Chapters 4 and 5) of the Islamic Fatimid period on Samuel ben Jacob’s oeuvre are discussed. The Karaite idea of “Book” as the tri-partite sanctuary metaphor became an integral concept for Karaite Jews in the Diaspora, impacting later biblical manuscripts of Rabbanite Jewry. In addition, the mosaic floors of synagogues in Eretz Israel, as well as Jewish funerary art of the late Roman and early Byzantine period, became representational art in plastic forms. “Book” became representative of architecture, forming a uniquely Jewish result via the material witness of the carpet iconography and likely the contribution from Palestinian Jews.

A proposed methodology explains Samuel ben Jacob’s rationale in the sequential mapping or “choreography” (Chapter 6) in creating each carpet. Remarks and observations in the conclusion (Chapter 7) are followed by Appendices (I–VII). These include translation of the colophon of L (f. 1r), a translation of the comparison of the Torah, Prophets and Writings to a tri-partite sanctuary theme in Diqduqe ha-Te’amim §3 (f. 479v). The translation of the “Poem of the Vine” שרי ה גפ) ן on f. 490r), Samuel ben Jacob’s signature or ח י תמ ה (f. 491r), and extra epigraphs of the provenance of L (f. 491v), are incorporated. A summary transcription of all newly discovered dedication/colophons and ח קז blessings, which have never before been published, are collated in Appendix VI. Finally, a list of the catchwords and signatures of the quires in L are enumerated.

A transcription of the carpets within Samuel ben Jacob’s Pentateuch (Gottheil 14 or L[m]) or his devices in his two other works of Major Prophets (Gottheil 27 and L17), are not included, due to the volume of information. These other manuscripts merit separate treatment and Yosef Ofer has published some of this material. In addition, this work is not a historical summary of L, nor a study on Karaism per se, except to shed light on Samuel ben Jacob, his scribal devices, and the context of the material witness of L.

It is hoped that this dissertation will be a tool to open the door to masoretic studies in the English-speaking context and serve as a mechanism to help to unlock codicology and iconography in the carpet illuminations in other manuscripts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ofer, Yosef
Commitee: Marcus, David, Olszowy-Schlanger, Judith, Penkower, Jordan
School: The University of the Holy Land
School Location: Israel
Source: DAI-A 81/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Judaic studies, Religion
Keywords: Illuminated texts, Religious icons, Codices, Hebrew Bible, Bibliography, Codex Leningrad
Publication Number: 27827878
ISBN: 9781392373606
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