A 14th-century illuminated Ashkenazic Pentateuch.

What is the Hebrew Pentateuch?

The Pentateuch is the Greek term used when referring to the Torah or Five Books of Moses. It is one of the three main divisions of the Hebrew Bible and is the holiest section to Jews, as according to tradition, it was written down by Moses at divine dictation. The five books making up the Hebrew Pentateuch are: Be-reshit, Shemot, Va-yikra, Be-midbar and Devarim, which in the English Bible relate to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Hebrew titles derive from the first distinctive word appearing in each book, while the names used in the English Bible (usually of Greek origin) describe the central theme dealt with in each book.

The manuscript

Copied on parchment in neat Ashkenazic square and semi-cursive scripts, this handsomely illuminated codex was produced in Germany at the close of the 14th century. Besides the Torah, it also comprises of the Hamesh Megilot (Five Scrolls), the Haftarot (readings from the Books of Prophets) and grammatical treatises. Interestingly, this manuscript supplies ample data about the original commission and contributors in two colophons. According to the colophon on f. 169v (digitised image 3), the main scribe, Simhah bar Samuel ha-Levi, completed writing the Pentateuch on 22 March 1395. The colophon on f. 252r names him again, and provides Coburg, 1396 as the place and year of completion. Also inscribed on that page, is the name Meir bar Obadiah called ‘the young Liebertrot’, who was the patron of the Coburg Pentateuch.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.