London, British Library, Add MS 27210
This intricately illuminated manuscript was made in Barcelona, Spain and used to tell the biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt during the festival of Passover. The lavish opening cycle of full-page illuminations includes vivid depictions of plagues, poignant scenes of mourning, and a dramatic portrayal of Pharaoh's army charging into the Red Sea.
The Song of Miriam offers an exclamation of gratitude and praise for the Jews’ safety, followed by scenes of the preparation and celebration of the Seder. Such representations offered a ceremonial guide for the holiday and suggest firsthand knowledge of Jewish ritual, but some motifs – like the winged angels – seem derived from Christian workshop practice. Such images complicate our understanding of interactions between Jewish and Christian artists, particularly given that they appear in an era associated with rising antisemitism in Europe.
Though the manuscript’s early history is unknown, it was given as a precious wedding gift to Eliyahi Rava in 1602 by his new father-in-law, Rabbi Joav Gallico of Asti, located in the Duchy of Savoy. The original is in the British Library, in London, but this high-quality copy is among the cornerstones of the medieval Hebrew facsimile collection at Pitt – a collection that has grown significantly in recent years thanks to generous support from the Program in Jewish Studies and the University Library System.
This manuscript has been fully digitized and is available at the website of the British Library.