An interesting article about the developement of this inventory appears in the further reading section.
Inventory of Judaica and Hebraica in Oxford Colleges & Museums
This inventory has been compiled from the responses received by OJH to a letter written to every affiliated College of the University in 2007. The letter referred to OJH’s intention to compile a “web-based inventory of Jewish and Jewish-related artefacts and other relevant objects and materials” held within the University and “relating to any of the three phases of the history of ‘Jewish Oxford’, namely:
- the period of initial settlement from 1075;
- the period of expulsion from 1290; and
- the period of return from 1656 to modern times.
The letter enquired “whether your College holds any items that may be relevant to this history. Such items could include – but may not be limited to – artworks, utensils, seals, books, maps, manuscripts, contracts, journals, correspondence and accounts. We are also interested in any Hebrew inscriptions, whether on or inside buildings, plaques and other objects or documents.” The letter invited each College to provide a description (and, if possible, also a photograph) of any such items.
All items listed in this inventory are therefore as described by the Colleges themselves. Almost all are held with the Colleges’ own libraries. A response was eventually obtained from every College; those reporting a ‘nil’ return are not listed below. Inevitably, some of the respondents interpreted the request more widely than others, with some including items of Hebraica as well as Judaica with no particular significance for the “history of ‘Jewish Oxford'”. The volumes of Hebraica held within the wider University, including the central Bodleian Library and various Faculty Libraries are believed to run to several tens of thousands – see this article for further information. OJH intends that the inventory below will be extended and updated as further information becomes available.
The college has a collection of Hebrew books made between 1681 and 1927, from a gift of Dr John Morris. Half went to Christ Church College and half to them. Pp. 63 and 64 of The History of the All Souls College Library by Sir Edmund Craster details this, but does not list the books. One is a 13th C. volume called A Universal Dietetic by Isaac the Jew.
Previously Balliol’s Hebrew manuscripts were said to have no relevance for local Jewish history – they came from abroad in the 19th century. However a rare document of conveyance in Hebrew of a land in Gamlingay from Merton College to Balliol was viewed in May 2007.
Illustrations taken by M Ward, by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Balliol College, Oxford
MS 364 parchment Pentateuch (beginning lost), Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, and the Haftaroth
Dated A.M.5063 (=A.D. 1303)
Given by the Rev Greville John Chester in 1865
MS 377 parchment roll, the stick having wooden knobs
The Book of Esther
17th or 18th century
Given by the Rev G J Chester
MS 427 One sheet from the Roll of the Law (54 lines)Obtained in 1865 from a synagogue in Tunis by the Rev G J Chester, who gave it to Balliol
MS 382 parchment, bound in bevelled wood boards covered with brown leather with brass corners and clasps
Old Testament with additions
Dated A.M. 5251 (=A.D.1491) Lisbon
Given by the Rev Richard Prosser in 1804
New Information: The Balliol Archivists have recently included a fascinating study of somne of their Jewish Manuscripts on their blog, with great illustrations.
‘One or two early deeds on deposit in the Bodleian.’ Holds the collection of books in Hebrew and related languages given to Christ Church by Morris, Regius Professor of Hebrew. This collection soon to be catalogued.
See Christchurch Library Newsletter Vol 6 Issue 3, Trinity 2010 for interesting articles about items in their collection.
Series of seven biblical manuscripts in Latin and Hebrew dating from the 13th century and possibly produced in Oxford. (MSS 5-11) Jewish and Christian scribes made these texts to provide tools for non-Jews to learn Hebrew. One technique employed in the manuscripts is the use of superscript translation known as ‘Lincoln Superscript’.
This is a 13th-century bilingual Latin-Hebrew manuscript, made in England, containing the five books of the Pentateuch.
This manuscript contains Rashi’s commentary to some of the historical, prophetic and didactic books including sections from Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Song of Songs, Jeremiah and the minor prophets.
This manuscript contains parts of the historical books, Joshua, Judges Samuel and Kings.
Hebrew Latin version of Minor Prophets
The manuscript contains two different items, 9a being the first third of 1 Samuel and 9b the entire two books of Chronicles.
In item 9a (1 Sam. 1:1–20:16) shown below the Hebrew text was written first, with Latin superscript translation. The Latin Vulgate text has been written in the outer margin, arranged so that it is parallel to the Hebrew in translation.
Detail of superscript:
This is a thirteen-century English Psalter. Psalm i. is shown below.
Detail of superscript translation:
This contains the Hebrew text of proverbs and another Hebrew-Latin Psalter. The picture below also shows Psalm i.
Ashkenazi prayer book dating from c. 1200 (MSS 133). The owner was a Sephardi Jew from Spain now living in England. He used the blank pages of the prayer book to record different debts owed to him by a variety of Christian dignitaries around the year 1200. The list is written in Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic written in Hebrew letters.)
See pdf download with a good explanation of this document.
See Corpus’ Hebrew Manuscripts –A Mirror Reflecting the Early History of the Jews in England the copy of the paper about these manuscripts by Dr Pormann
Page from the prayer book starting with a blessing to be said after washing hands:
List of debtors in Judaeo-Arabic:
In addition to these manuscripts the collection contains:
- A nearly complete copy of Rashi’s biblical commentaries (MSS 165)
- Book of Job written with parallel texts in Latin and Hebrew, together with a Latin commentary. They were produced by Dr Robert Burhill, early 17th century scholar at the College
- Late 17th century accounts record payments to Isaac Abendana.
Images reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Dr Peter Pormann
An Article appeared in the Wall Street Journal Sept 23rd 2014 by the President of Corpus Christie College, Richard Carwardine about this object – click HERE to link to it.
On 7th March 2016 A Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of Corpus Christi College, Oxford edited by Prof Peter E Pormann, Professor of Classics and Graeco-Arabic Studies and Director of the John Rylands
Research Institute at the University of Manchester. was launched at an event in Corpus Christi College. Prof Pormann then gave a lecture about the Hebrew manuscripts held at the College.
The Edersheim collection, which belongs to Exeter College (which keeps the other half of the collection on site) is in the Oriental Institute Library (OIL). It was deposited by Exeter in the Ashmolean Library in 1954, and subsequently handed over to the Oriental Institute Library. The collection was catalogued in 1955 by Sheila Hoenigsberg, on index cards. The Exeter librarian, Ms Juliet Chadwick, is contemplating getting the Edersheim collection catalogued electronically, on OLIS, to antiquarian standard.The collection held at the OIL comprises c. 500 works (in c. 650 volumes): 19th cent. Judaica, much of it in German, includes c. 55 vols. of bound-together offprints and pamphlets, some early printed Hebraica (some Rabbinica, some biblical texts with commentary) and early Hebrew bibliography (Bartolocci & Wolf). Of particular interest is some early Judaica printed in Oxford.
Passover Plate, painted in black and dark red. Dated 1787. Recorded in Hibbert Journal, Winter, 1965.
Illustrations shown with the kind permission of Harris Manchester College
Recorded payments in Bursar’s Accounts under heading ‘Gifts and Alms’ (In Donis et Eleemosynis) to three successive Hebrew teachers – seemingly employed ad hoc – Dr Abendana (1687/88-1703/4), Mr Levy (1704/05- 1707/08), and Mr Gagnier (1709/10- 1739/40) at £2 a year each. The accounts also record a gratuity to Mr Gagnier’s widow. (Abendana and Gagnier are to be found in the Jewish Encyclopaedia). See the article about Dr Isaac Abedana in Oxford Jewish Heritage – Modern Period Personalities.
Archival references and dates for these six documents are:
Illustrations above are copyright of the Principle and Fellows of Jesus College Oxford
Two Hebrew manuscripts:
i) 74 Incomplete Passover Haggadah, on vellum, 16 leaves, ‘Sefardic provenance.
ii) 86 First volume of a ‘Hebrew Old Testament’, Genesis- II Kings. Some illuminations, on vellum, 212 leaves, Sefardic provenance, 19th century leather binding. First owner, Jonah ha-Kohen; then signed Greville J. Chester, whose note on later vellum fly-leaf says ‘This MS was brought from Algiers in 1865.
Some early Hebrew sacred writings, in the Senior Library.
The seal of Mildegod, on a deed which bears the reference Oxford St. Aldates 34. The deed is transcribed in full in H. E. Salter, “The Cartulary of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist” (3 vols., OHS, 1914-16), vol. II, pages 149-51, with a photo of the seal on vol. III, facing page 434
Images are the copyright of the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford
Apart from reference books and dictionaries, not uncommon, the other two most interesting items are:
i) 13th century title deed (star) dated 6 May, 1243. Inherited from the Hospital of St John the Baptist, part of a set of four documents relating to a grant of land at Thornborough in Buckinghamshire, from William de Mortone to the Hospital. It states that Benjamin, Joseph and Vives, sons of Copin, surrender to the Hospital the mortgage they had for a loan of 70 marks from their grandfather Copin, on de Mortone’s land at Thornborough.
This star is published in M. Burrows (ed.), Collecteana II, (Oxford Historical Society 1890, p. 297)
No College reference number given.
ii) Hebrew Dictionary printed in Venice c. 1529, gift of John Harding, Regius Professor of Hebrew in the late 16th century.
List of Jewish and Hebrew books in the library. 33pp.
1 – Hebrew starr or acquittance, for an estate at Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire conveyed by William de Leycester to Walter de Merton, 1267/8 (ref. MCR D.1.58)
plus a Latin deed relating to this same transaction (MCR 2349)
2 – Hebrew starr or acquittance by Aaron, son of Abram, for an estate conveyed by William de Watville to Walter Merton, c. 1270 (ref. MCR 1099)
A paper published in the Journal of Jewish Studies by Dr Peter Pormann in 2004 gives detail about the first starrs and is reproduced, but without the original Hebrew text, by kind permission of the author. Click here to view
3 – Hebrew starr or acquittance by Hagimus, Denikel and Menaser son of Aharon, for estates in Cheddington and Ibstone, Buckinghamshire, conveyed by Stephen Chenduit to Walter de Merton, c. 1270 (ref. MCR 2423)
Hebrew writing at foot of star.
4 – Hebrew starr relating to estate in Barkby, Leicestershire (1271) MCR 1146
5 – MCR 188, which is dated 28 February 1266/7, and is on behalf of Jacob son of Moses and his wife Hannah for the sale of the house of John Halegod in Oxford to Walter de Merton. The house was on the site of what is now the college gatehouse. The document is in Latin but is subscribed by Jacob in Hebrew at the bottom, confirming the validity of the deed on behalf of himself, his wife and his heirs. The Hebrew inscription is largely obscured by a fold in the parchment at the bottom of the document so can be, quite literally, overlooked.
6 – Fragment of Torah scroll in Hebrew, eighteenth century (?) (ref. MCR F.1.7A)
7 – Book of Esther in Hebrew, eighteenth century (?) (ref. MCR F.1.7B)
8 – Two Hebrew hymns at the back of ‘Nugae Philologicae or Philological Trifles, 1828: notes on philology made by Thomas Jessop. (ref. JES4)
There are also six manuscripts in Hebrew, written in the late 15th or 16th centuries and given to the college by Robert Huntington in 1673. These were almost certainly acquired by him when he was based in Aleppo.
Note also a photocopy of an article in the college magazine Postmaster (2002) that refers to two of the Hebrew starrs, (MCR 1099 and 2423) The article is called ‘Thomas Bodley as a Hebraicist’.
New College has a good deal of Hebraica — mostly early-modern and for the study of the ancient Hebrew language by Christian scholars. There are no MS Hebrew Bibles, however among our collection of printed books is a big Bomberg Bible presented by the Bishop of Winchester in the late sixteenth century. Most of our Syriac material is of course New Testament. There are many Hebrew printed books, mainly from Christian presses.
But the college has a very interesting history in the early-modern study of Hebrew: there were at least five prominent Hebraists in the sixteenth-century college, including a few of the holders of the Regius chair;
· Thomas Neale, who published in 1557 a translation into Latin of Kimchi on Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi;
· Neale’s Hebrew verses on the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1566 survive in MS Bodley 13.
· William Thorne is a significant figure too, and we have some of his books – he came up with a motto in Hebrew
· Josephan Greek. An edition of the (Greek) 4 Maccabees was published by a college fellow (Luid vi) from a college manuscript on the Oxford press in 1590,
· John Luid, also owned and heavily annotated a copy of Johannes Reuchlin’s De Accentibus et Orthographia Linguæ Hebraicæ (Haguenau, 1518), which is now in the Bodleian under the shelfmark 4oP64Art.
Our thanks for this New College information supplied by Dr William Poole
i) Hebrew Old Testament (sic) 13th century. At present in Bodleian. (MS Oriel 73)
ii) Deed relating to Moyses Hall, 1291-92. States that the tenement once belonged to Lumbard the Jew.
The Queen’s College
Some published books of Jewish interest, and ‘archive evidence for payments to two Rabbis’ for the study of Hebrew in the 17th and 18th centuries. This evidence is referred to in J.R.McGrath, The Queen’s College, 1921, vol.ii, pp. 83, 88.
Illustrations by the kind permission of the Provost and Fellows of the Queen’s College Oxford:
MS 143 & MS 253, item 51. ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts at St John’s College, Oxford,’ ed. Emilie Savage-Smith, OUP, 2005, pp.98-106.
Hebrew printed books (info. from Geoffrey Neate, head of OLIS) :
458 different works, in 625 physical volumes, incl. multiple copies. Of these, c. 1578 works were published before 1800.
The Library has a small collection of engravings that were produced in the middle of the 18th century for the antiquary and collector Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) We have a scan of an engraving dated 1743 depicting a silver amulet with Hebrew writing.
It is labelled ‘Symbolum Benedictionis apud Judaeos Lamina argentea insculptum penes – Ric. Rawlinson L.L.D. et S.R.S. Ann 1743. pondus 1. Unc. 3. Denar.’
1618, Trinity received a bequest of books from Edward Hyndmer, (Benefactions B1.3 f.9.) which included an octavo volume listed as ‘Bellarmini Grammatica Hebraica’.This is no longer to be found.
There is an interesting note about payments to Abendana. During the presidency of Ralph Bathurst (President 1664-1704), payments appear in the Computus accounts to the Hebrew scholar Isaac Abendana. He seems to have been paid at the rate of 10 shillings per pupil per term between 1687 and 1695. The highest number of students he had at Trinity was three, in the third quarter of the year 1687-8. Archival Reference: Trinity College Archive, Computus volume 3: Accounts I/1/3. It should be noted that no accounts survive between 1696 and 1719, so his employment by Trinity could have continued through this period.’
First Jewish Scholar:
‘Under the reforms of the University Commissions, Trinity’s new statutes came into force in 1882, in which year the first Jewish Scholar, Simeon Moses, was elected. He appears in the College Register, reference: Register D, 257′
i) No documents pre-1290; none of their properties involved Jewish transactions.
ii) Accounts show regular payments being made to Abendana, Levi and Gagnier for teaching Hebrew.
iii) Arthur Lehman Goodhart became a Fellow in 1931 (Professor of Jurisprudence) and then Master, 1951-63. Believed to have been the first American and first Jew to head an Oxford or Cambridge college. Buildings and courtyards in the College are named after him, his wife Cecily, and his sister, Helen Altschul.
iv) Arnold Goodman, Master, 1976-86
Portraits of both these men hang in the College.
Worcester College has a number of fine documents of interest which will be shown on this page here later this year.
1) A pair of phylacteries (tefillin)
Accession numbers: 1887.28.1 A set of tefillin. Originally catalogued at the Museum as: ‘2 Phylacteries, for the arm and forehead (“tephylin”).’ Two black leather boxes with leather straps, one box embossed with the letter ‘shin’ on one side and a ‘shin’ with a fourth line on the other.
Given to the Museum by Hermann Adler, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, via Adolf Neubauer, Reader in Rabbinic Hebrew at Oxford University, in 1887
2) Black paper skull cap
Accession number: 1912.48.1 Black paper skullcap. Originally catalogued at the Museum as: ‘Black paper cap worn by Jews during the saying of grace at mealtimes, so that the head may be covered. This one was used at the complimentary dinner to the Hon. Walter Rothschild in November 1912, one being served to each person present.’ It is folded, diameter 95 mm. It is the sort of skullcap with ‘sides’, not just the simple hemisphere. (Walter Rothschild is probably Lionel Walter Rothschild, second baronet and zoologist.
Poulton, the donor, was Professor of Zoology at Oxford University and, like Rothschild, a Fellow of the Royal Society, so it is plausible that Poulton and Rothchild were friends and associates.)
Given to the Museum by Edward Bagnall Poulton in 1912.
3) Amulet, probably a mezuzah. A glass tube, inside which is an inscribed roll of paper/parchment.
Accession number: 1893.81.1 A mezuzah. Originally catalogued at the Museum as: ‘Jewish charm for fixing to doorways, a verse from the Quran [sic] in a glass tube, English.’ Stoppered glass tube with a roll of parchment inside. The outside of the scroll is said to be inscribed with the word ‘Shaddai’, but it is now too fragile to be extracted from the tube and inspected.
Loaned to the Museum by Henry Balfour, the first curator, in 1893 (bequeathed in 1939).
Accession number: 1893.47.1 A mezuzah. Originally catalogued at the Museum as: ‘Jewish “mezuza” in metal case from a front door post in Manchester.’ Copper case containing a parchment roll, with sliding lid inscribed ‘Shaddai’ and holes for fixing to the doorpost.
Given to the Museum by Mr Rogers of Oxford in 1893.
5) Inscribed lead amulet, and two others on a wooden plaque
Accession numbers: 1917.28.8 Two amulets. Originally catalogued at the Museum as: ‘2 Jewish leaden circular amulets stamped with inscriptions, for protection of boys against the Evil-eye, etc. London.’ The amulets are fixed to a wooden plaque, probably for display. The inscription is the same on both and was translated by Rabbi Eli Brackman of the Oxford Chabad Society in 2007 as: ‘It shall be the will before you God our Lord and the God of our fathers that the infants of Israel shall be protected from evil eye and the illness of Ascara (inflammation of the throat) shall not effect their mouths and God shall raise them to the study of Torah and protect them with your mercy. Amen!’
From the collection of Edward Lovett. Given to the Museum by Henry Balfour in 1917.
1917.28.9 Original display label says: ‘Jewish amulets for boys to wear for protection against the Evil-eye & other evil influences’. The accession book entry repeats this, calling it ‘1 of 2 leaden circular amulets stamped with inscriptions. London.’ Diameter: 37mm. There is some confusion over this and two amulets nailed to a wooden plaque, probably for display purposes. On the back of this plaque is the translation: ‘This child to grow for the Scripture, to marry and engender T R M H A V A [cabbalistic symbols] To save your people Israel from the evil eye and not to let anything foul in their mouth, that they should grow up for your scripture, & you to cover them with your money. Amen.’Source: Collected by E. Lovett, donated to the Museum by Henry Balfour in 1917
6) Amulet, nut with four shells, mounted in brass, with eye.
Accession number: 1968.13.285 Hazelnut with shell in four segments, mounted in a brass ring with a loop for suspension. The accession book entry suggests that it was worn as an amulet by Russian Jews in London.
From the collection of F. T. Elworthy. On loan to the Museum from the Somerset Archaeological Society since 1968.
i) Accession number: 1938.34.73 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 660 mm long. Very long and curved (rather than almost bent at an angle), tip cut off obliquely, open end cut as jaws. The accession book gives no definite provenance, but suggests England as a possibility.
Purchased from W. D. Webster by Henry Balfour in 1911 and bequeathed by him to the Museum in 1939.
ii) Accession number: 1938.34.72 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 480 mm long. Described in the Museum’s card index as: ‘Thick horn, conical embouchure cut in thickness. Incised decoration at one point. A rectangle of horn has been let in here as a major repair and has been incised to match. Possible decoration was added at this time.’ The accession book gives no definite provenance, but suggsts England as a possibility.
Purchased by Henry Balfour in 1911 and bequeathed by him to the Museum in 1939.
iii) Accession number: 1938.34.71 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 510 mm long. In imperfect condition, with broken embouchure and holes in the walls. Provenance given as ‘England’.
Purchased from Stevens Auction Rooms by Henry Balfour in 1936 and bequeathed by him to the Museum in 1939. (No image)
iv) Accession number: 1938.34.70 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 378 mm long, with scalloped bell. Said to be from London.
From the Charles Lund collection. Purchased from Stevens Auction Rooms by Henry Balfour in 1926 and bequeathed by him to the Museum by him in 1939.
v) Accession number: 1938.34.69 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 450 mm long. Several holes have been repaired with red sealing wax. The accession book entry provides no definite provenance, but states that it was used by ‘English Jews’.
From the collection of either Richard Farrer Herschell or Farrer Herschell. Purchased from Stevens Auction Rooms by Henry Balfour in 1918 and bequeathed by him to the Museum by him.
vi) Accession number: 1938.34.68 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 535 mm long. With a carved figure of a dog (?) near the bell, and incised decoration. Several holes have been repaired with black sealing wax. The accession book entry provides no definite provenance, but states that it was used by ‘English Jews’.
From the collection of either Richard Farrer Herschell or Farrer Herschell. Purchased from Stevens Auction Rooms by Henry Balfour in 1918 and bequeathed by him to the Museum in 1939.
vii) Accession number: 1888.1.1 Shofar, trumpet of ram’s horn, 330 mm long. Catalogued by Henry Balfour, the Museum’s first curator, as follows: ‘The horn much flattened, drilled through the solid end and slightly opened to form a cup-shaped mouthpiece. Other end deeply notched at the edges and strongly curved. Blown in the synagogue on New Years Day and at Feast of Atonement. London Synagogue.’
Given to the Museum by N. Lipman, via Hermann Adler, in 1888.
Accession number: 1932.88.97 Candle. Catalogued by Henry Balfour, the Museum’s first curator, as follows: ‘Taper ceremonially burnt on Friday nights by Jews (Jewesses): made of braided pink, green and yellow plaited waxed strands. Bought in Islington Market, London.’ The candle is 240 mm long, flat and rope-like.
From the collection of Edward Lovett. Given by Lovett to Henry Balfour, who gave it to the Museum in 1932.
9) Charm or amulet
Accession number: 1968.13.90 Bronze amulet, circular with a pierced projection for suspension. With Hebrew inscriptions on both sides, together with depictions of vines, scrolls (?) and a large letter ‘He’. The inscriptions were translated by Rabbi Eli Brackman of the Oxford Chabad Society in 2007 as follows: ‘It shall be the will before you God our Lord and the God of our fathers that the infants of Israel shall be protected from evil eye and the illness of Ascara (inflammation of the throat) shall not effect their mouths and God shall raise them to the study of Torah and protect them with your mercy. Amen!’; and ‘’This child shall grow up to the study of Torah, to chupah—Jewish marriage and good deeds.’ Said to be worn by children of Russian Jewish immigrants in London.
From the collection of F. T. Elworthy. On loan to the Museum from the Somerset Archaeological Society since 1968.
10) Mezuzah (called ‘Amulet for doorpost’)
Accession number: 1968.13.286 A mezuzah. Parchment in a flat metal container for fastening to the doorpost, 152 mm long. A window has been cut into the container, revealing the inscription ‘Shaddai’. The Museum’s accession book entry gives the provenance as London.
From the collection of F. T. Elworthy. On loan to the Museum from the Somerset Archaeological Society since 1968.
11) Hannukah lamp
Accession number; 1965.9.40 Hanukkah lamp of brass, with a row of small spouts fixed in a panel and slotted to a trellis-work upright, which supports the shamash or attendant light. 232 mm long and 169 mm high. No definite provenance.
Bequeathed to the Museum by Estella Canziani in 1965.
12) Hannukah lamp
Accession number: 1965.9.41 1965.9.41 Hanukkah lamp of brass, with a row of small spouts slotted into an openwork upright. No shamash or attendant light. 204 mm long and 181 mm high. No definite provenance.
Bequeathed to the Museum by Estella Canziani in 1965.
13) Hanging lamp ‘Used in synagogue’
Accession number: 1884.116.86 Hanging lamp of brass with eight long, open, oil reservoirs arranged around a central pillar with a loop for hanging at the top. According to the original documentation it was ‘used in Jewish synagogues’. No definite provenance. Acquired by General Pitt-Rivers by 1879 and displayed by him at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) from 1879 to 1884. Given by Pitt-Rivers to the University of Oxford as part of the founding collection of the Museum in 1884.
*****All the above, with the exception of the three metal lamps, are assumed to be English, although there are few specific statements about provenance.
Ashmolean Museum (reopened in November 2009 following a multimillion pound refit)
The ‘Bodleian Bowl’, copper alloy, H 25.5 cm Diam. 24.5 cm. 13th century, Norfolk, c.1696.
A two handled tripod cauldron, cast with a Hebrew inscription in relief about its girth, recording that it was presented “as a gift by Joseph, son of the holy Rabbi Yehiel”. The latter was a renowned Talmudic scholar who is known to have travelled in 1260 from Paris to Palestine (along with his son Joseph), where he died seven years later.
The bowl was for long assumed to have been carried back to England as Crusader booty, but recently a document has been brought to light that records the transfer in 1258 of a property in Colchester from Joseph and another of Yehiel’s sons named Benjamin, to a third son named Samuel. Current opinion favours an interpretation that the cauldron, decorated with fleurs-de-lys and probably of French manufacturer, was presented by Joseph to the Jewish community in Colchester before his departure for Palestine. This is currently in the Department of Antiquities.
Found in a moat in Norfolk about 1696, it was later acquired by Richard Rawlinson, who bequeathed it to the University in 1755. Upon its arrival at the Bodleian, the bowl was given the shelf-mark MS Rawl. D. 1513, which indicates it was originally classified as a manuscript. AN2009.10 The label in the Ashmolean says: Bodleian Bowl, 1200s, probably France, bronze.
- Several “Jewish Marriage Rings” (six in gold and one silver), These were on display in the Western Art ‘Fortnum’ Gallery prior to the 2009 closure of the Museum for refurbishment.
- Mandaic and Aramaic ‘magic bowls from Iraq (5th-6th Century) – in the Reading and Writing gallery.
- At least two seals bearing Hebrew names in Ancient Near East gallery (8th-7th century BC) – ‘Edom and Jerusalem Judah’ case, as well as objects from the time of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (around 700 BC).
- Aramaic ostraca from the Jewish colony at Elephantine, Egypt – 5th Century BC, mentions passover. In the ‘writing’ case.
- A few things in the Mediterranean Gallery on the medieval Jewish quarter in Cairo.
- There is an ossuary and Greek inscription from Jericho in the ‘Rome’ gallery, which is perhaps from a Jewish tomb there -difficult to identify (Roman period).
- Unfortunately there is no current display feature of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ jar – which is still in need of conservation. The Ashmolean has no actual dead sea scroll fragments.
- There are works by Jewish artists:
- Amedeo Modigliani
- Ossip Zadkine
- Sir Jacob Epstein
- David Bomberg
- Mark Gertler
- Alfred Aaron Wolmark or Simeon Solomon
- and others..see the downloadable pdf of the Notes of an Exhibition held in 1992 about Jewish Artists in the Ashmolean
The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It is second in size only to the British Library.
It is one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom and whilst it has a continuous history dating back to 1602, its roots date back even further.
The Bodleian Winter exhibition 2009 may be of interest see Special Events
Museum of Oxford