Israel Museum

“Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,” opens Psalm 1 of the Book of Psalms in a richly illustrated scene from a late-15th century, northern Italian illuminated work known as the Rothschild Miscellany. King David, to whom many of the Psalms are traditionally attributed, is shown playing his harp amid a pastoral scene featuring stags, does, birds and a rabbit. The Miscellany consists of more than 70 religious and secular works, including books of the Bible, a yearly prayer book and the Passover Haggadah. Of its 948 pages, 816 are illuminated.

The collection received its current name because it had been owned by the Rothschild family in Paris. The Miscellany had been stolen from them during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War; after the war someone tried to sell it to Alexander Marx, librarian of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Realizing that it had been stolen, Marx returned the work to the Rothschilds. Somewhat later, Mordechai Narkiss, director of the Bezalel Museum in Israel, (the fore-runner of the Israel Museum) attempted to persuade James de Rothschild that a manuscript of such importance was a Jewish national treasure that rightly belonged in Israel. In 1957, on hearing of Narkiss’s illness, de Rothschild sent the Miscellany to the museum as a gift.