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Perplexing commentary

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

1153 ed of Moreh Nevuchim with mss commentaryAmong the many enjoyments of rare book cataloging are those delightful encounters with the unexpected. Maimonides’ philosophical masterpiece, Guide for the Perplexed, has always been the subject of much scholarly attention, its editions efflorescing with commentaries. In one of the Hebrew Union College's Library’s (Klau Cincinnati) copies of the 1553 edition, published in Sabbioneta, Italy, there appears a manuscript commentary in the margins of about 30 leaves in a hand so skilled it was nearly overlooked, trompe l’oeil, as if it had been printed. The text itself is an apparently unpublished commentary entitled Sefer Otsar Tov by the 14th-century Spanish scholar and doctor Shem Tov ben Isaac ibn Shaprut. Not much is known about Shem Tov's life; although it seems he took part in a famous disputation in Pamplona in 1375 with the man who would become the antipope Benedict XIII. He is best known for his book Pardes Rimonim, a kind of philosophical investigation of Talmudic aggada.

Jordan Finkin, Assistant Hebraica Librarian

detail of Shem  Tov's commentary

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