München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod.hebr. 119

Classical Ilan
Manuscript name
München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod.hebr. 119
This miniaturized ilan drafted in semicursive script by an Italian scribe ca. 1500 is in the back binding of a miscellany now in Munich: Munich, BSB, Cod.hebr. 119, fols. 24b–25a. The classical parchment behind it is easily discerned. A sefirotic tree dominates the double page, flanked by the menorah and table, which are never found in the simple epistemic images of the tree that merely remind the reader of its basic structure. Their evocative presence communicates the capacity of the ilan to summon and hold divine immanence. Another indication of the ambitious program of the Munich codex ilan is to be found in its representation of the realm beneath the sefirotic tree. The lowest sefirah of Malkhut appears as if docking atop the celestial spheres, which are represented in accord with astronomical convention as concentric circles. In this seemingly ad hoc sketch—an impression confirmed by the scribe’s attestations to elements in need of revision—we find texts written at every conceivable angle in and around the diagram. The visual confusion also reflects the fact that the scribe has taken an additive approach to his work. Having compressed one ilan parchment to fit these facing pages, he then supplemented it with material he found on others, to which he refers when noting their divergences from his base model. “I saw in another yeri‘ah” is a recurring inscription on these cramped pages. The scribe has supplemented texts from Meirat ‘einayim and Recanati as well, perhaps culled from another ilan. The jumble is a snapshot of the fifteenth-century Italian kabbalistic bookshelf or, at the very least, of its representation in the ilanot at this scribe’s disposal. The miscellany contains materials going back to 1404, but this back-matter ilan was likely executed later in the century. The codex was in the collection of Egidio da Viterbo and includes his marginal notes. It is discussed in Maximilian de Molière, “Studies in the Christian Hebraist Library of Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter,” (Ph.D. diss., Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 2021). Adapted from J. H. Chajes, The Kabbalistic Tree (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2022.
Support material
Cod.hebr. 119
Alternative identifier
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
2 folios, each measuring
20.8 cm
27.2 cm
Creation time
... Translation
... Commentary
... Object