An exciting discovery has been made of the oldest scroll containing the Pentateuch (it is not as old as the Leningrad *codex* from around the year 1000; but it is the oldest *scroll* with the entire text – 12th century or 13th).   My thanks to my colleage Evyatar Marienburg, knowledgeable about all scholarship Jewish, for informing me about this.  For the fuller account, see



The document, located and identified by a professor of the University of Bologna contains the entire text of the Torah, dates back to a period between the second half of the 12th century and the beginning of 13th (1155-1225) and is kept at the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (BUB).

Bologna, 28 May 2013. The University Library of Bologna has kept from times immemorial, and without knowing, the world’s oldest scroll of the Hebrew Pentateuch. The document, labeled as “Roll 2”, is of soft sheep leather (36 meters long and 64 cm high), comprises the full text of the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and had previously been cataloged a 17th–century scroll. Instead, “Roll 2”, was copied in a period between the second half of the 12th and the early 13th century (1155-1225) and is therefore the most ancient complete Hebrew scroll of the Torah known today: a copy of immense value, the importance of which is evident to scholars and a non-specialist-audience alike.

The discovery was made by Mauro Perani, professor of Hebrew at the Department of Cultural Heritage, of the University of Bologna, Ravenna Campus, during the compilation of a new catalog of the Hebrew manuscripts, held in the BUB. The age, established by the textual, graphic and paleographic examination of the scroll, was confirmed by two carbon-14-tests, carried out at the Center of dating and diagnostics of the Department of Innovation Engineering of the University of Salento and by the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory (Illinois State Geological Survey) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The antiquity of “Scroll 2” had not been recognized by Leonello Modona, a Jew, native of Cento, who worked for years as a librarian at BUB, and who was the first to catalog the BUB-Hebrew-manuscript-collections, in 1889. Modona did in fact date the scroll back to the 17th century and described its Hebrew letters as “an Italian script, rather clumsy-looking, in which certain letters, as well as the usual crowns and strokes show uncommon and strange appendices.” Professor Perani, on the contrary, examining the scroll for the new catalog, noticed that its early square, oriental script of Babylonian tradition was very elegant and finely written and the graphical and textual structure were totally atypical and had to be much older than 17th -century. The text of the scroll does in fact not take into account and respect the rules, fixed by Maimonides (dead in 1204), who established in a definitive way the whole rabbinic regulation about copying the Pentateuch. The BUB-Torah-scroll actually shows many graphical features and scribal devices, absolutely forbidden to copyists after the Maimonidean codification.

Unfortunately, to date, it is not known, how and when “Roll 2” has joined the acquisitions of the BUB, nor whether, as very likely, it was acquired after Napoleon’s suppression of monastic and religious orders. The interest aroused around its discovery, will, however, encourage further studies, as to the identification of its source.