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Only five manuscript copies of the Hebrew book of fables Meshal Haqadmoni have survived and all five were scribed and illuminated within 15th century Ashkenazi communities. Yet the text, including the captions for 82 illustrations, was written 150 years earlier in Spain by Isaac ibn Sahula. It turns out that the styles of the illustrations in these five copies, while distinct from each other, are rooted in the then prevalent styles of German popular illuminated books.
The manuscripts provoke several questions: Were the original copies of Meshal Hakadmoni, in Spain, illustrated? If not, how come that all the known 15th century Ashkenazi copies are illustrated? And more generally, what caused the renewed interest in the book of fables at such a geographic and time distance? What was the relation between the production of these copies, particularly the illustrations, to the surrounding German culture? The study by Simona Gronemann attempts to answer these and other questions. It is the first time that a hypothesis is being made as to a possible Ashkenazi prototype manuscript and as to further copies that might have existed in Germany and in northern Italy. All in all it provides an exciting journey through 15th century art of book illumination in central Europe, as affecting a Hebrew secular book.