Monday, November 08, 2010

The Authorized Copy

Someone notified me this morning that today, 8 November, is the 408th birthday of the Bodleian library in Oxford. It seems fitting that today they also launched (or at least, today I became aware of) a new website with a digitised version of one of their most important Hebrew manuscripts - the famous MS Huntington 80. There is more content that has yet to be posted, but the manuscript itself can now be seen in its entirety.

This manuscript contains the first two books of Mishneh Torah by Maimonides. It is famous because, towards the end of the manuscript, Maimonides himself wrote a note declaring that this manuscript was corrected against his own personal copy of Mishneh Torah. Therefore, it must reflect a very accurate version of the book.

Without getting here into the polemics that sprung up around this manuscript a few decades ago, I would like to mention that in a recent article, Karmiel Cohen has demonstrated that this manuscript does not always reflect the final stage of Mishneh Torah. There are instances where R Abraham Maimonides testifies that his father changed his mind and corrected the text, and this correction is not reflected in the Huntington manuscript. But, on the whole, it is definitely a manuscript worthy of a great deal of attention.


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