Last Quarter of the Fifteenth Century

Daily Prayer Book According to the Italian Rite



This volume is an example of a typical Italian daily prayer book made for private use. In this manuscript, however, the text ends with the blessings for the burning of the hametz, before the prayers for Passover. Copied by the well-known scribe Aryeh ben Eliezer Halfan, it contains seven decorated pages executed by him in the same ink used for the text.

The identification of the scribe is based on his embellishment of the word aryeh (lion), on folio 96v, to which he added little dots to create foliate forms. Aryeh did something similar, but more sophisticated, on folio 93r. He added a small decoration to the name Judah, a reference to Genesis 49:9, “Judah is a lion’s whelp,” which reads in Hebrew, gur aryeh yehudah. The ornamentation used by the scribe resembles decoration that appears in a number of manuscripts with colophons by him. At least eigh- teen manuscripts by Aryeh are known.

Aryeh ben Eliezer was a member of the renowned Halfan family of scribes and scholars. His ancestors were among a group of Jews expelled from France in 1394 who found refuge in Piedmont, in northern Italy. Aryeh’s manuscripts reflect this diverse back- ground in their alteration, or even mix, of Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Italian types of script.

The decorations contained in this prayer book are particularly delicate. The initial word elu on folio 1v is framed by a roundel of fine penwork. Above it are two winged angel heads; on the left a long-necked bird stands on one leg, while below a dog chases a hare. At the bottom of the page an unidentified family emblem contains another long-necked bird. The initial words adonai melekh, on folio 59r, are placed within a panel that displays equally delicate pen- work. Depicted at the left is a monkey with a leash around its waist. Another monkey, also on a leash, appears on folio 101v. There seems to be no connection between the prayers and the decorations that accompany them in the manuscript. [es]

selected literature
Freimann 1950, no. 44, pp. 247–248; Sirat 1972, 3, no. III, 16.

Daily Prayer Book According to the Italian Rite [Italy], copied by Aryeh ben Eliezer Halfan, [last quarter of the 15th century]

Parchment, 180 leaves, 110 × 75 mm (4.3 × 3 in.), old leather binding

Braginsky Collection 1