The North French Miscellany or the North French Hebrew Miscellany as it is often called, is one of the finest extant French Hebrew manuscripts, and was executed over a 20 years period, from 1278 to 1298 CE. Very few 13th-century CE Hebrew illuminated manuscripts from the North of France have survived in either private or public collections. Of these, the British Library’s manuscript is undoubtedly the most exquisite and richest, on account of its outstanding miniatures and the breadth and diversity of its texts.
The manuscript which has 747 folios (i.e. 1,494 pages), contains a large variety of biblical, legal, liturgical and historical writings. It comprises 84 different groups of texts of which 55 are main texts and 29 were written in the margins. Among the works copied in the Miscellany are: the Pentateuch (the Torah) and Haftarot (readings from the Prophets), the daily liturgy for the entire year, the Passover Haggadah, Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) and large number of poems. The texts were penned by Benjamin the Scribe who signed his name a number of times, yet left no other information about himself.
Several artists attached to three major contemporary Parisian workshops were responsible for the French Gothic illuminations, some of which are circular in shape. The miniatures depict biblical scenes and Jewish biblical personalities including Abraham, Moses and Aaron, Kings David and Solomon, Queen Esther. Benjamin the Scribe collaborated with talented Christian artists whose identities remain nevertheless unknown. Apart from the major illuminations, nearly all the folios in the North French Hebrew Miscellany are adorned with marginal decorations featuring a vast array of arabesques, birds and fishes, grotesques, fabulous animals and flowers.
Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.