AUCTION 55 | Thursday, June 21st, 2012 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts Autograph Letters, Graphic & Ceremonial Art

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Lot 280


Commentary by Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) on the Order Nezikin of the Mishnah. Fifteenth century Yemenite Manuscript. Consists of the Mishnah on Order Nezikin in Hebrew and the commentary in the original Arabic. Yemenite Hebrew script. Textual illustrations. Tractate Avot did not appear in the original manuscript and was added here by Rabbi Yihya ben Suleiman Kafah in 1903 (see below). ff. 209. Corners rounded in the Yemeite style, strace stained or wormed in few places. Early Yemenite sheep binding. Sm. folio.

Yemen: 15th-century

Est: $30,000 - $40,000
<<Fifteenth century Yemenite Manuscript of Moses ben Maimon’s Commentary on the Mishnah.>> The manuscript was acquired by Rabbi Yihya Kafah (1850-1932), a Yemenite scholar fluent in both rabbinical literature and in secular studies and founder of the Darda’im, a movement to encourage rational intellectualism in Yemen. R. Yihya found that five leaves at the beginning of the manuscript and four leaves at the end were lacking and so he copied the missing text from another early manuscript, and later collated the text with other ancient codices inserting his emendations in the margins, as he reported in his colophon: “I purchased this Order of Nezikin from which a few leaves were missing at the beginning and at the end, and I needed to bring it to completion, and it was finished in 2214 Seleucid era [1903]… and I proofread [the entire manuscript] as well in 2227 [1916]… Yihya ben Suleiman Kafah.” Rabbi Yihya passed the manuscript on to his grandson, the great scholar Rabbi Yosef Kafah. Rabbi Yosef (1917-2000) was renowned as a foremost expert on Judeo-Arabic literature in general and on the writings of Maimonides in particular. He consulted all available manuscripts, including this one, in the preparation of his eminent edition of the commentary on the Mishnah by Maimonides and written in the original Arabic (Jerusalem, 1968). Rabbi Kafah believed that Yemenite manuscripts preserved the most accurate versions of the writings of Maimonides who is known to have corresponded with the Jews in Yemen and to have sent them authorized copies of his books. In preparing his edition of the commentary, R. Kafah relied extensively on this manuscript which he considered to be one of the most valuable for establishing the text as it was not only an ancient copy but embodied emendations from other old manuscripts as well. With thanks to Dr. Benjamin Richler, Director (retired) of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem for his assistance in researching this manuscript.