New discoveries in the Marche Talmudic and Rabbinic Fragments from Camerino

Prof. Mauro Perani
Universita di Bologna

In January 2020, I was informed about the presence of various fragments of Hebrew manuscripts in the Camerino division of the State Archive of Macerata in the Marche region of Italy. I immediately traveled to Camerino, where I was welcomed by Dr. Daniela Casadidio, Director of the local State Archive Section. I was able to locate and photograph some twenty-three Hebrew fragments reused as bindings for a series of notarial documents or protocols. These fragments were reused in the second half of the sixteenth century, in particular between 1520 and 1581. This chronological span of the recyling of the Hebrew fragments in Camerino corresponds to the most intense reuse across Italy[1].

The town of Camerino hosted a Jewish community since at least the thirteenth century. A parchment deed drawn up on 24 December 1290, records the moneylending activities of two Jews Bonaventura di Angelo and Dattilo di Angelo, both from Rome and residing in Camerino in the district of Mezzo[2].

In the fourteenth century, a moneylending bank operated in the town. In 1412 and 1414 the Jewish community was taxed 92 florins and 4 bolognini to contribute to the funding of the army of the deposed Pope Gregory XII. In the fifteenth century, several Jewish families resided in Camerino and engaged in finances. A prominent family originally from Rome adopted the name “da Camerino” after their Le Marche town of residence[3].

Among them, Emanuele di Bonaiuto da Camerino has been described in a 2014 study by Mafalda Toniazzi, as “a great banker and a talented businessman, protagonist of this dialogue, who was also a careful scholar, able to gather around him characters of the caliber of Jehuda Messer Leon, Yochanan Alemanno and Ovadiah da Bertinoro, to collect a large library and to act as a cultural intermediary between the two places”[4].

It is therefore not surprising that Christian notaries in Camerino had ready access to Hebrew dismembered parchments to be reused as book-bindings

To draft the records of legal deeds and transactions, the notaries of Camerino, as elsewhere in Italy, used small notebooks 150/160 mm high and 120/130 mm wide, called bastardelli. Once filled up, these small booklets for preliminary drafts were often bound together into larger units. Sometimes as many as twenty-five bastardelli were all bound together. According to the assessment of Dr. Daniela Casadidio, the bindings of the Camerino volumes differ from each other. This lack of uniformity probably indicates that they were not the work of a professional binder’s workshop, but

they were crafted by the employees of the notarial study themselves. We have no data on how they acquired Hebrew fragments for reuse, but it is likely that such materials were available on the market.

The twenty-three Camerino fragments belong to several different original codices: three were early Italian Bible manuscripts, one a copy of the Talmud digest of Alfasi, one codex contained Rashi on the Babylonian Talmud, one Rashi on the Bible and one is a fragment of Tashbeṣ of Samson ben ṣadoq. A detailed catalogue of these fragments will appear shortly in the Materia Giudaica. In this blog post, I present briefly the Talmudic and Rabbinic fragments. The early Bibles from Camerino will be described in the next BwB Magazine.

Two fragments (catalogued as Fr. ebr. 3 and Fr. Ebr. 19) survived from a codex containing the Talmud abridgment of Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi, the Hilkhot ha-Rif. The preserved fragment contains the tractate Bava Meṣi‘a 57a-57b (Fr. Ebr. 3) and 61a-61b (Fr. Ebr. 19). It was reused to cover the bastardello of the notary Corvini Stefano di Camerino, number 3348 and number 3422 respectively, containing acts of 1555[5]. This book on parchment in Italo-Sephardi script of the thirteenth century is relatively small, 270 x 215 mm, when compared with usual size of Talmudic fragments found in Italy, which can reach as much as 470 x 360 mm.

Fig. 1 – Fr. ebr. 19: Al Fasi, Hilkhot ha-Rif, Baba Metzi‘a, f.  61a-61b.

Only one fragment preserved (Fr. Ebr. 8) comes from Rashi Bible commentary. This parchment bifolio in Ashkenazi non-square script of the fourteenth century contains Rashi on Genesis 3-6. Partly preserved, this fragment measures 150 x 130 mm (the reconstructed height was c. 300 mm). It was used to bind the Bastardello of the notary Panunzio Petralata di Visso, containing deeds ranging from 1565 to 1567; number 2628

Fig. 2 – The inner side of Fr. Hebrews. 8: Rashi’s commentary on Genesis

Rashi Talmud commentary is preserved in five fragments from one parchment codex (Fr. ebr. 1, 2, 10, 12 and 13). The full size can be gauged from the best-preserved fragment 1, measuring 230 x 140 mm. The text, written in Italian non-square bookhand of the thirteenth century contains various parts of the tractate Shabbat of the Babylonian Talmud (Fr. ebr. 1 BT Shab. 75a-75b, Fr. ebr. 2 BT Shab. 112°-113°, Fr. ebr. 10 BT Shab. 2b-3b, Fr. ebr.12 BT Shab. 26b-27b, Fr. ebr. 13 BT Shab. 123a-124b). These fragments were reused to cover different bastardelli by the notary Credentini Marino di Giovanni di Camerino. Fr. Ebr. 1 and 2 contain his acts of 1520, number 2310, Fr. ebr. 10 pertains to December 1542-1544; number 2202, Fr. ebr. 12 – December 1545; number 2201 and Fr. Ebr. 13 covers the records of December 1557; number 8763.

Fig. 3 – Fr. ebr. 13: Rashi’s Commentary on the Talmud, Shabbat 123a-124b
Fig. 4 – Fr. ebr. 23: Tashbeṣ by Samson ben Ṣadoq.

A further rabbinic fragment discovered in Camerino, Fr. ebr. 23, is a parchment folio in fourteenth-century non-square script that belonged to a codex of the Tashbeṣ – the popular gathering of responsa of the disciple of R. Meir of Rothenburg, Samson ben Ṣadoq. The fragment was reused as a binding of the notary Benedetto Fermani di Fiastra, containing acts of 1566; number 921.

  1. For an in-depth study on the reuse of Hebrew manuscripts as ligatures in Italy see: M. Perani (ed.) in collaboration with Emma Abate, Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts Reused as Book-bindings in Italy, ‘European Genizah’: Texts and Studies, vol. 6, Brill Leiden Boston, 2022, including five studies by Perani and twenty articles by other specialists of Hebrew manuscripts, codicology and paleography; see also M. Perani, The Italian Genizah Project founded by Prof. Josef Baruk Sermoneta zal in 1981. An Updated Report after 37 Years of Researches, in “Zakhor”, Nuova Serie, Volume 2/2018, Euro studio editore, Roma, pp. 265-284; Id., A trentasette anni dal decollo della ricerca dei frammenti ebraici riusati come legature in Italia. Il tutto nel frammento, in Caterina Tristano (ed.), Frammenti di un discorso storico. Per una grammatica dell’aldilà del frammento, “Fondazione Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo” (CISAM), 2019, pp. 285-323.
  1. Discussed in the nineteenth-century study of Colocci, A., Chapters of the Jews of the city of Camerino, in Archivio Storico Marchigiano, I, Ancona 1881, pp. 745-748, see Italia Judaica, Tel Aviv University, Data Base of the Italian Jewish communities online created by the late Prof. Shlomo Simonsohn, under the heading “Camerino
  1. For a complete overview of the Jewish community of Camerino see the online site mentioned in note 2.
  1. M. Toniazzi, Nuovi documenti su Emanuele di Bonaiuto da Camerino, banchiere e uomo di cultura ebraica tra Marche e Toscana del XV secolo, in Periferie Dinamiche economiche territoriali e Il capitale culturale», X (2014), pp. 121-133. ISSN 2039-2362 (online) © 2014 eum
  1. In this year the bull Cum nimis absurdum was promulgated by Pope Paul IV – previously Cardinal Pietro Carafa one of the major supporter of the Roman Inquisition. Two years earlier, in 1553, Pope Julius III had ordered the confiscation and the burning of the Talmud in Rome. Shortly after, he was imitated by several other administrations of Italian towns.

Cite this blog post
BwB magazine (2022, June 29). New discoveries in the Marche Talmudic and Rabbinic Fragments from Camerino. Books within Books. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from

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