The David Simonsen Manuscripts

An introduction to the collection and its digitization

Detail from Cod. Sim. Heb. 70, fol. 278b

Thanks to a very generous grant by Mr. Harry Rosenberg and Mrs. Annette Rosenberg, Copenhagen, The Royal Library has the pleasure to make available, as digital facsimiles, the collection of manuscripts acquired in 1932 from Prof. Rabbi David Simonsen, as The David Simonsen Manuscripts. The donation also covers the digitization of parts of The David Simonsen Archives; for more on this part of the project, click here.

The digitized items range from the only Genizah fragment in Danish collections - a Judeo-Arabic letter, tentatively dated to the 12th century - to modern copies of manuscripts in other libraries. Until now, the perhaps most well-known manuscript has been “Gemma’s Prayerbook”, an Hebrew prayer book written for the widow Gemma (Yemma) in Modena in 1531. It is lavishly decorated with red and blue patterns – to the beholder perhaps reminiscent of the “Blue Fluted” line of Royal Copenhagen porcelain.

The scope of the collection can perhaps best be described in numbers.Twenty countries of origin have been identified, together with fifteen languages. All in all, 193 volumes of different types, have been digitized, covering 137 shelfmarks - and resulting in more than 26,000 digitizations. 

The majority of the manuscripts contains Halakhic texts, i.e. texts related to the legal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and the other Jewish authoritative texts, e.g. the Talmud. But there are also documents concering personal and community history, a single musical score,  three marriage contracts eand many other works and documents. 

Illuminated manuscripts

The following manuscripts contain illuminations:

Cod. Sim. Heb. 4: כסא שן (Sermons)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 8: קובץ דינים ומנהגים (Collection of halakhic texts)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 19: תאג (Yemenite Pentateuch) 
Cod. Sim. Heb. 37: עברונות (Calendar calculations)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 40:  פירוש האגדות (Kabbalistic commentary on the Talmud)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 47: ספר שתילי זתים (Commentary on Song of Songs)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 61: עץ חיים (The Tree of Life, a Kabbalistic work)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 63: אהל יעקב (Texts on philosophy of religion))
Cod. Sim. Heb. 70: מחזור ("Gemma's prayer-book")
Cod. Sim. Heb. 75: מעורר אהבה (Liturgical poem for the holiday Shavu'ot)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 107: הגדה של פסח (Passover Haggadah)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 111: שרביט הזהב (Circumcision liturgy)
Cod. Sim. Heb. 113: סדר עשרים וארבעה פרקים ממסכת שבת (The Mishnaic tractate Shabbat)
Cod. Sim. Heb. rot 1: כתובה (Marriage contract, 1831)
Cod. Sim. Heb. rot. 2: כתובה (Marriage contract 1847)
Cod. Sim. Heb. rot. 3: כתובה (Marriage contract, 1847)

Exclusions from the project

A small amount of items has so far been excluded from this project, namely the ten Esther scrolls (i.e. megillot; shelf mark Cod. Sim. Heb. rot. 4-13), as the scroll format is awaiting the development of a viewer compatible with the underlying retrieval system of The Royal Library's digitized items. A fragment of a liturgical text, possibly  from the 14th century (Cod. Sim. Heb. Add. 12), is so badly damaged by water and mould, that it can only be documented, not scanned. The resulting photos will be made available in due course.