Filters – history, codicology, palaeography

I think it’s clear that more is written on this flower than three letters reading ‘r.o.t’. Don’t you?  I’ve seen nothing published about these other inscriptions and if you know of any efforts made to interpret them, I’d be glad to hear.

9v detail inscriptions cleared

By default, micrography so fine is presumed Jewish or Karaite.

Given the parchment’s date, and by reference to the history of Europe from the 11th-16th centuries, we can limit further the probable origin of this manuscript. This because during that period,  the kings of Europe drove Jewish subjects out.

Henry II ordered his Jewish subjects from Mainz in 1012 A.D.,

Germany expelled further communities in 1159 (and 1348);

Expulsion from Gascony in 1287 was apparently a means employed by the king to avoid meeting his debts; from the rest of England all Jews were driven out in 1294.

In 1306, the Jews were driven from France, and from Crimea in 1350, while Hungary joined the list in 1349-1360.

By 1415,  therefore, Jews were permitted to live in relative safety only in five places: peninsula Italy and the Adriatic, Poland, Holland, Austria and Moravia-Bohemia. They were driven from Austria in 1421.

We may probably exclude even Austria by reason of its using parchment perfectly equalised by that time (1415-21) and the same appears to be true of Bohemia as far as can be judged by manuscripts still in Tepla.

To maintain that these inscriptions on fol.9v are by a German Jew in 1415 is almost* impossible.

                       *almost…:  very small Jewish communities were to be found in some German cities as late as the                 1440s.  See previous post’s end-note ‘Coburg’.

For Moravia and Bohemia the matter is somewhat complex and a passage in Baresch letter to Kircher (1635) makes it worth going into detail:

A great change occurred in the fifteenth century, due partly to the general hostility then manifested toward the Jews in the cities, and partly to local conditions, as the country was the prey of warring factions owing to the Hussite movement, and the Jews were accused of favoring the rebels. The first expulsion occurred in Iglau in 1426; and it was probably due to the influence of the Franciscan friar John of Capistrano on the young king Ladislaus Posthumus (1440-57) that the Jews were later expelled from Brünn, Znaim, Olmütz, and Neustadt (“Luaḥ,” ed. by Epstein, Brünn [1887, or 5648]; Willibald Müller, pp. 12-17). The king gave them only four months’ time to find another home.

In his letter,  using the terms of hypothesis, Baresch speaks of..

… herbae peregrinae, in Volumine depictae, notitiam hominum in partibus Germaniae subterfugientes..

But in any case, doubt must arise as to whether any letters inscribed on folio 9v were intended to spell out a German word, let alone  ”r.o.t’.

One might speculate that, in anticipation of an explusion, some Jewish trader, chemist or physician arranged a copy to be made of  his book for the benefit of friends or apprentices. It is also possible he might then take refuge in Bohemia, where Jews were persecuted by the populace but never ordered to leave.

On the whole, though, given the finish for this parchment, we probably do better to turn (as the makers of the North French Miscellany did) towards the Italian peninsula and Adriatic.  Together with  Sicily, Spain and Portugal they offered the surest refuge in Europe – until 1492.

  • Information about Moravia and Bohemia from the Jewish Encyclopaedia: ‘Moravia’
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