The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Animals at War in the Kennicott Bible (Corunna, 1476)

The Kennicott Bible was commissioned and produced in 1476 for the young Don Isaac ben Solomon de Braga, a resident of La Corunna, Galicia. The codex also contains portions of David Kimhi’s Sefer Mikhlol split into two parts, one at the beginning of the manuscript, the other at its end. The Mikhlol sections are laid out in two columns per page set into richly decorated architectural frames inhabited by a rich fauna: birds, monkeys, hares, dogs, peacocks, not to speak about various fantastic species, hybrids, and dragons, which are shown in various positions, often interacting with one another. Some of these images in the first part of the codex depict scenes of conflict and several hunts, where dogs chase hares.

One of the openings towards the end of the book shows a full scenario in two parts: a war between an army of hares and a wolf to the right, and a war between cats and mice to the left. This opening has occasionally been discussed as a depiction of a world-upside-down (mundus inversus) and as a polemical scenario about the Jews’ experience in a Christian environment. This lecture with challenge these suggestions and instead interpret the war between the cats and the mice as an allegory of relationships among the nations of the world, while the right hand page visualizes a utopian situation when the hunters (the wolf) no longer constitute a threat to the weak (the hares).