19 May 2017

The Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts Given by John Claymond

John Claymond (d.1537), first President of Corpus Christi College,
as depicted on his funerary brass in the College Chapel
Books in Hebrew in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, fall into three groups. There are miscellaneous printed books acquired at a variety of dates ranging from the first years of the College's existence, to 21st-century electronic versions. There are also a few miscellaneous manuscripts acquired from various sources, mostly before the 18th century. For the present we will look at the third, most important, group: the seven 13th-century English manuscripts given to the College by John Claymond, the first President. They have been described as "the most important collection of Anglo-Hebrew manuscripts in the world".

Each of these seven deserves a separate blog post, but we will provide here a brief overview.

MSS 5 and 8 form a pair. They are both approximately 385×305mm in size. Each page is written with two columns of Hebrew and two of Latin translation. The texts are complementary: MS 5 has the Pentateuch/Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and MS 8 has the Prophets (except Daniel).
MS 5
MS 8
Two volumes (MSS 9 and 11) each contain two separate biblical texts, bound together such that each text starts near the middle of the volume, so that one is read from left to right, and the other from right to left.

MS 9 contains I-II Chronicles, with Hebrew as the primary language, and therefore to be read from right to left, with Latin interlinear translations and marginal glosses:
MS 9
On the facing page is the beginning of I Samuel, with parallel and interlinear Latin translations, to be read from left to right:
MS 9
Similarly, MS 11 has Proverbs on the left, to be read from right to left, with Latin interlinear translations and marginal glosses; and Psalms on the right, to be read from left to right, in Hebrew with a Latin parallel translation, and numerous marginal glosses:
MS 11
A second volume of the Psalms is MS 10. In the exhibition it is open to show, on the left page, the preface attributed to Robert Grosseteste, and on the right the beginning of Psalms, with of St Jerome's Latin versions, and the Hebrew with a Latin interlinear translation:
MS 10
MS 7 contains the Former Prophets of the Hebrew Bible, i.e. Joshua, Judges, I-II Samuel, and I-II Kings. Although it is almost entirely in Hebrew, it was clearly written for non-Jewish readers, as shown by the "pointing" (i.e. the vowels have been indicated):
MS 7
Finally, MS 6 contains Rashi's commentary on parts of the Prophets and the Writings. In the exhibition it is open to show the schematic drawing of Canaan:
MS 6

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