September 1446 or 1447
Mordecai Finzi's copy of a work by Averroes

THIS MANUSCRIPT is a handwritten copy of two treatises of Averroes 'Middle Commentary on Aristotle's scientific works, On Generation and Corruption and Meteorology, translated from Arabic into Hebrew by Kalonymos ben Kalonymos at the end of 1316 in Arles (Provence). The copy, written in an elegant current semi-cursive Italian script, was produced, according to the scribe's inscription in a minute script at the end of the first treatise, by Mordecai Finzi in Mantua. The completion date of the first work's copying is rendered as: 18 September of the year [5]207 [of the creation]. However, the Jewish year 5207 ran from 22 September 1446 to 10 September 1447.Probably the copyist erred in the date, mixing the Christian day of the month and the Jewish year (an error in the Christian day seems more likely than one in the Jewish year), completing his work either in September 1446 or September 1447.
Mordecai ben Abraham Finzi did not mention for whom the copy was made, but there is little doubt that it was for his own use. A scion of an Italian banking family, he was a renowned physician, scholar, author and translator of scientific works in astronomy, mathematics and astrology. [1] It is tempting to ascribe to him the anonymous Tables for the Length of Daylight, printed by Abraham Conat in Mantua in the mid-I470s, as Moritz Steinschneider did, of which the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana owns one of only two known copies.
The Rosenthaliana manuscript is not the only copy in Finzi's own handwriting which has survived to the present or at least until recently. There are another seven manuscripts which were written by him between 1441 and 1473 in northern Italy, particularly in Mantua. Three of the manuscripts are neat copies of his own translations, one contains mainly his own writings, and three are copies of scientific and medical works he copied for his own use, as did many other Jewish scholars.
In 1441 in Mantua, Finzi produced MS. Oxford, BodIeian Library, Lyell 96 (not included in Adolf Neubauer's Catalogue). The manuscript contains Finzi's translation and redaction of the Oxford Tables (astronomical tables drawn up for Oxford by John Batecombe in 1348). Finzi indicates in his colophon that the translation was carried out 'with the assistance of a non-Jew'.
Another autograph manuscript is found in Oxford's Bodleian Library, MS. MICH. 350, fols. 1-64, 83 - 96, which contains a compilation of some ten short writings, mainly in astronomy, but also in mathematics and astrology, composed and copied by Finzi on parchment quires in the course of several years. One of the works (fols. 54r - 61v) was completed on 21 June 1446 in Mantua. On fol. 22v the year 1463/1464 is mentioned, and a marginal note on fol. 49r refers to the year 1469/1470.
In Mantua on the eve of 13 December 1446, Finzi completed the copying of three philosophical works (MS. Cambridge, Trinity College, F. 12.35). The copy was produced for his own use, as he explicitly states in the colophon. MS. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, OR. 4° 648 (Steinschneider Catalogue no. 119), fols. 120 v, line 11- fol. 148 r, is another surviving example of Finzi's scribal activity and again an owner-produced book. Finzi completed the copying of another philosophical work (by Ibn Tufayl), the beginning of which was copied by a different scribe in a Sephardi script. He finished his copying in Viadana (Mantua province) on 24 January 1460.
According to A. Z. Schwarz the manuscript HS. IV, kept at the library of the Jewish community in Vienna until the Second World War, contained a compilation of medical treatises copied by Finzi on 28 January 1446 in Legnago (Verona province), indicating Finzi's presence in another region of northern Italy in 1446. [2]
The last extant dated manuscript copied by Finzi was written in Mantua again. MS. Jerusalem, Jewish National and University Library, Heb. 8° 39I5 is a neat copy of Finzi's own translation of Algebra attributed to Dardi of Pisa. Finzi started the translation in Mantua on 24 November 1473, and the neat copy was made some time later. An additional autograph manuscript undoubtedly written by Finzi is an undated copy of his own translation of the Algebra of Abu Kanil in MS. Mantua, Jewish community, 17.
Notes written in the margins of several scientific and philosophical manuscripts are signed by Mordecai Finzi or bear his acronym. These attest, together with the manuscripts copied by him, to the scribal activity and intensive use of books of a Jewish scientist and author in fifteenthcentury Italy.

MALACHI BEIT-ARIÉ


Notes

[1] On the original scientific writings of Finzi, see the recent article by Y. Tsvi Langermann, 'The Scientific Writings of Mordecai Finzi, Italia 7 (1988) P. 7-44.
[2,] A.Z. Schwarz, Die hebräische Handschriften in Österreich. [...] IIA (New York 1973) No. 298, p. 29-34.

Reading

M.Beit-Arié, 'The Codicological Data-Base of the Hebrew Paleography Project: a Tool for Localising and Dating Hebrew Medieval Manuscripts', Hebrew Studies, Papers Presented at a Colloquium on Resources for Hebraica Held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 11-13 September 1989/11-13 Elul 5749. (British Library Occasional Papers 13, London 1991), 165-197.