Manuscript. Italy. 15th century. Parchment. 376 fols. 20 x 29 cm. Italian script.
Illuminated 15th century mahzor of prayers for the entire year according to the Italian ("Roman") rite, written and illuminated by Joel ben Simeon.
The Italian or Roman rite is distinct from the Ashkenazi or Sefardi rites. It includes a greater number of passages from ancient Israelite origin than do other liturgical versions and also preserves many Israelite liturgical poems alongside those from the Golden Age of Spain. Use of this version was largely limited to within Italy.
The mahzor contains standard daily, Sabbath and festival prayers, readings from the Torah, Haftarah and prophets, Ethics of the Fathers with Maimonides' commentary (translated by R. Judah Alharizi), blessings, regulations and halachic legal documents. It abounds with liturgical hymns, works pertaining to festivals and fast days, and Aramaic acrostics that accompanied festival Torah readings. It also contains rare hymns and prayers, some of which are not in print and some of which are rare even in manuscripts.
The mahzor has many lovely decorations, all pen drawings in ink. It is rich in drawings of beasts and birds, imaginary and mythical creatures and symbols – heraldic, religious and astrological.
The manuscript was donated to the Library by Mr. Henry Moskowitz in 1970 in memory of his parents, first wife, daughter and brother, and the rest of his family who perished in the Holocaust.