January 25, 2019

Babylonian Talmud

Of the nearly 500 Hebrew manuscripts held by the Bavarian State Library, the one presented here is without doubt the most valuable. It is the only surviving manuscript in the world that contains, with the exception of two missing leaves, the complete text of the Babylonian Talmud including some extra-canonical tracts: Derekh Eretz zuta, Pirkei Azzai, Kallā, Sôferîm, and Gērîm. In addition, the manuscript contains some texts that do not relate directly to the Talmud. Numerous entries of the names of owners make it possible to trace the history of the manuscript, which was written in France in 1342. According to an entry in a manuscript of a Bible now preserved at the State and University Library of Hamburg, this Talmud was in the possession of the Jewish merchant family Ulma in Pfersee near Augsburg in the year 1772. Some time later it was sold to the Augustinian priory of Polling (Upper Bavaria). After the dissolution of the monastery in 1803, the manuscript was transferred together with other valuable books to the Munich Court Library, which became the Bavarian State Library, where it is now preserved. The Talmud (meaning instruction or learning) is a central text of Judaism and records rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, ethics, customs, history, and philosophy. The Babylonian Talmud is a compilation of rabbinic opinion written in the third to the fifth centuries in Babylon (present-day Iraq) and in what is today Israel.