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The Melekh Manuscript

Amongst the many rare books in the collection of the ICAEW the Summa de Arithmetica by Luca Pacioli is perhaps the most well known. The binding of one of our copies is a temporary cover made out of an old Hebrew parchment which appears to have been added by the Venetian bookseller. The volume would have been sold with the idea that the purchaser would add a more fitting cover but in this case it has remained in the temporary binding.

The parchment was removed when this copy of the Summa de Arithmetica was rebound in May 1972. The manuscript was translated by G. Lee before being placed in a new frame and hung on the wall of the ICAEW Library & Information Service where it remained for 30 years. The manuscript is not on display at present.

G. Lee dated the manuscript to the 15th century, surmising that it was probably of German origin. In his opinion, G. Lee thought the text would have been considered heretical and most likely to have been confiscated by the synagogue authorities but that 'as it contained in several places the standard Jewish abbreviation of the divine name it would have been considered impious to destroy it directly. It was therefore ritually singed with the flame of a lamp; the shape of the indentation at one side is consistent with such burning'.

You can read more about the manuscript and its translation in the article 'The Melekh Manuscript: A Discovery in the English Institute Library' by G. A. Lee, published in The Accountant (pages 622-624) on November 16th 1972.