Manuscript. Morocco and Egypt, 1161-1168. Paper. 180 pages. 276x198mm. Sefardi semi-cursive script; headings in Sefardi square script.
This manuscript, in the author's own hand, with his corrections and revisions, is written in Judeo-Arabic. i.e. the Arabic language rendered in Hebrew letters. The Judeo-Arabic text is interspersed with citations and terms left in Hebrew.
The two-volume manuscript includes handwritten annotations by two of Maimonides' offspring: his son, Avraham (Hechasid) Ben HaRambam, and his great-grandson David Hanagid (II). The manuscript was in the possession of Maimonides' family until the middle of the 15th century. In the 17th century, the complete manuscript of Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah was found in the city of Aleppo in Syria. The work was split up and today three sedarim (Zeraim, Nezikin and Kedoshim) are in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Seder Toharot has been lost, seder Moed is held by the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, along with this manuscript, seder nashim.
The manuscript is of unique importance because it is living testament to Maimonides' work on the commentary, and the subsequent input of his son and great-grandson. The manuscript shows us where Maimonides erased, amended and corrected his own writing and as such documents the various iterations of his consideration of the text. Moreover, the text is also an indirect documentation of Maimonides' life, mainly during his wandering from Morocco to Egypt in the 1160s. By his own testimony, he began working on the commentary in 1163, when he was 23 years old, and completed it seven years later. Scholars contend that some of the changes in the manuscript can be related to Maimonides' move from Morocco to Egypt, at least with regard to the changes he made to the Judeo-Arabic.