A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Rothschild Miscellany

Jerusalem, Israel Museum, MS. 180/51

This manuscript was created in the Veneto region of Italy in 1479 for Moses ben Yekuthiel Hakohen, who wanted to collect the customs of religious and secular Jewish life in a single lavish volume. The miscellany is written in square and semi-cursive Ashkenazic script using brown ink, its decorations in tempera paint and gold and silver leaf showcasing 70 sacred and secular works across 474 folios. On the first page the biblical King David sits in a meadow plucking a harp, composing the psalms while surrounded by animals.

Another page likewise displays the work of composition, this time depicting the 13th-century poet Jehoseph ben Hanan ben Nathan Ezobi writing Ke’arat Kesef (‘The Silver Bowl’), an educational, ethical, and religious poem dedicated to his son on the occasion of his wedding. The brick walls and bottle-glass windows of Ezobi’s study offer a striking contrast to the pastoral setting of the David illumination, connecting the creative work of poets and musicians across time from the biblical past to the well-to-do homes of prosperous medieval Jews. Though the original covers of the Rothschild Miscellany do not survive, the facsimile edition reproduces the surviving binding of a different luxury manuscript that was also produced in 15th-century Italy, offering a compelling reconstruction of the book’s potential original appearance.

To the best of our knowledge, this manuscript has yet to be fully digitized and made available online.  If you would like to bring an open-access digitization to our attention, please contact the UAG at Pitt.

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