3 - Babylonian Talmud

Eight fragments, mainly single folios, removed from an interesting manuscript containing the Babylonian Talmud, copied in Spain in the 13th century, and then, by some sequence of events of which we have no details, brought to central Italy, used as a sacred text, and then finally reused in the binding of four printed books. The fragments from the Talmud are of particular importance both for their antiquity and because of the fact that this work was the Hebrew book most systematically disputed, confiscated and burnt by the Catholic Church and its Inquisition to the point where only one complete manuscript exists, preserved in Munich and copied in the XV century, alongside a few other incomplete manuscripts.
The Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) is less ancient than the Palestinian Talmud (Yerushalmi), but more complete. The 63 tractates of this vast work, a veritable encyclopaedia of Jewish religious law and the foundation text of rabbinic education, have titles like "Blessings", "Sabbath", "New Year", "Divorce", "Oaths", "Sacrifices" and "Birds' Nests". The fragments on display are from the tractate Niddah which is on the interpretation of the Biblical rules governing impurity caused by the menstrual cycle of women (Leviticus 15:19-31)

The Perugia Talmud folios come from the same Talmud manuscript as those discovered in the Bologna State Archive, respectively fragments no.195 and 204 belonging to Talmud ms. T.CVIII. The Bologna fragments contain pages from the same tractate (Niddah 23a-24a; 25a-25b; 26b-27a)
It is interesting to note that the date of the reuse of the Bologna folios (1555) is two years after the publication of Giulio III's Papal Bull of 1553 prescribing the confiscation of all copies of the Talmud in Rome and their subsequent destruction on a bonfire lit in the Campo dei Fiori on the Jewish New Year in September of that year. The Pope after having carried out the confiscation in Rome, invited all Christian leaders to follow the Roman example, and confiscations and bonfires tragically took place in all the principal cities of Italy. So it appears that this splendid Talmud codex was cut up and reused after it had been confiscated and condemned to be burnt. We know that parchment codices were frequently removed from the bonfires because the vellum of which they were made was very valuable and one could make money by selling it to book-binders for reuse. The books now in Perugia which were bound with other pages from the same manuscript, even though they were published in Venice in 1550, were rebound after 1553 as was customary in that period. This confirms the fact that the confiscations following the Papal Bull of 1553 resulted in there being a large quantity of Talmud codices to burn, and, fortunately for us, some folios which would escape the flames. The fact that the disiecta membra of the same manuscript reached Perugia and Bologna, shows how the second-hand dealers who sold parchment manuscripts for reuse, travelled far on their commercial business. Reused fragments of the most ancient manuscript discovered so far, containing parts of the Tosefta copied in the east in the 10th century, have been found in Faenza and Norcia.