Gikatilla (Yosef ben Abraham) Two Kabbalistic treatises, manuscript on paper, scribe: Shabbetai Kohen (subscription on fol. 15r), [Italy, fifteenth century].
135 x 104mm., pagination: I + II original flyleaves +106 + I, complete in 12 quires, collation: 14, 26, 38, 48, 510, 610, 710, 812, 98, 108, 1110, 1210, (entire volume resewn when rebound, some leaves pasted onto recto of the following leaf, original front flyleaves mounted on strong paper but counted), blanks: fols. 13v, 14r-18v, early inked foliation in upper right corner of each verso leaf, indicating 373-480 (manuscript was once part of a larger volume), early inked foliation in upper right corner of first 42 leaves of the second codicological unit, modern pencil foliation, text block: 90 x 77 mm., single column, 14 lines, ruled in dry point, text written in brown ink, in Italian semi-cursive script (a different hand has added the punctuation on fols. 2v-5r), in square script the Hebrew alphabet on verso of final leaf, catchwords indicating first word of each folio horizontally inscribed on preceding one at inner margin below the end of the written text, generally in good condition but largely water-stained, darkened edges, copiously annotated in Latin by Cardinal Aegidius of Viterbo, a few notes on the attribution of the works herein to Yosef Gikatilla on recto of second leaf, dated 16 April 1861, and 'V. De Rossi Codici Mss N.r 1235', referring to a similar manuscript preserved in the Palatina Library in Parma, and described by Giovanni Battista De Rossi in his catalogue of that collection, two unidentified stamps on recto of third leaf and at end, late 19th-century dark blue vertical-grain cloth, spine lettered 'Montefiore 122' in gilt, upper joint cracked.
⁂ A significant fifteenth-century manuscript containing two kabbalistic works ascribed to the famous Castilian kabbalist Yosef ben Gikatilla (1248 - after 1305), born in Medinaceli and a former pupil of Abraham Abulafia. He was a prolific writer and contributed significantly to the diffusion, through Spain, of the kabbalistic doctrines in Italy and other European countries. Among his numerous kabbalistic treatises the Share'are Orah or Sefer ha-Orah, translated into Latin by Paulus Ricius under the title of Portae Lucis, is especially noteworthy.
Another feature of importance of this manuscript lies in its early ownership: as the copious annotations in his own hand attest, the volume belonged to the leading humanist and Christian hebraist Aegidius da Viterbo (1469-1532), who was General of the Augustinian Order from 1506-1518 and later Cardinal. He was keenly interested in Kabbalah, and for ten years offered hospitality to the well-known Hebrew philologist Elijah Levita (1469-1532) in his Roman palace. Levita introduced him to the knowledge of Hebrew language and the mysteries of Jewish mysticism. Further, he collected and translated kabbalistic manuscripts for his patron, and the name of Yoseph Gikatilla is frequently quoted by Aegidius in his writings Schechinah and the Libellus de Litteris Hebraicis.
The present manuscript provides important autograph evidence of Aegidius' method of studying kabbalistic texts. Furthermore, it adds a new and important piece of information about the history of Aegidius's private library, which was almost entirely dispersed during the sack of Rome (1527).
fols. 1r-13r: Luach lechochmah ha-kabalah, literally the 'blackboard of the wisdom of Kabbalah', a short description of the ten sephirot, ascribed here to the Castilian Kabbalist Yosef Gikatilla
fols. 19r-98v: Sha'ar ha-Shamayim or Sha'ar ha-Zedek, by Yosef Gikatilla, a detailed explanation of the sephirot, introduced by six verses; seven verses on fol. 98v. The work appeared for the first time in print in Riva in 1561.
fols. 99r-106v: Sermon on the Tetragram.
1. Cardinal Aegidius of Viterbo (c.1469-1532); marginalia in his own hand.
2. a certain Rafael, member of the Sephardic family Nahmias, in all likelihood resident in Rome (ownership inscription, probably datable to the late seventeenth century on recto of second leaf, and the note 'lo venduto a Rafael namias').
3. the British banker Moses Montefiore (1784-1885); bequeathed by him to the Library of the Jews College, London (small label on front pastedown ''; see H. Hirschfeld, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew Mss. of the Montefiore Library, London 1904, no. 319; Important Manuscripts from the Montefiore Endowment, New York, Sotheby's October 27 & 28, 2004, New York 2004, lot 392, in neither case mentioning Aegidius' marginalia).
R. J. Wilkinson, Orientalism, Aramaic, and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation. The First Printing of the Syrian New Testament, Leiden 2007, p. 9; A. Tura, "Un codice ebraico di cabala appartenuto a Egidio da Viterbo", Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 68 (2006) pp. 535-543; M. Palumbo, "I codici postillati di Egidio da Viterbo, dal Sant'Uffizio alla Casanatense" in Egidio da Viterbo cardinale agostiniano tra Roma e l'Europa del Rinascimento, Roma 2014, pp. 299-322: 322.