This article reports on the identification of what is possibly the oldest complete sefer torah we have, dated c.1155-1225, at the University of Bologna. (The scroll was previously thought to date to the 17th century.) The article notes:

“I realised that the style of the writing was older than the 17th century so I consulted with other experts,” he said of the scroll, which measures 36 metres by 64 cm (39 yards by 25 inches).

He said the scroll showed many graphical features and scribal devices that were no longer used by copyists of Hebrew scripts in the 17th century.

What are these "graphical features and scribal devices" that were no longer in use by the 17th century? Are these just subtle variations in the calligraphic hand, or is it something more pronounced?

The article includes a photo, but it's not very clear and nothing jumps out at me. But I'm not a sofer(et). (Here is a link to a higher resolution photo; thanks Fred.)

(Thanks to SethJ for sharing the article.)

  • judaism.stackexchange.com/a/18405/759
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2013 at 18:21
  • @DoubleAA thanks. Most of the variations mentioned in that answer are ones we still do today, but that presumably wasn't meant to be a complete list. May 29, 2013 at 18:23
  • 1
    See also the links in the comments to my answer there with Menachem
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2013 at 18:24
  • This <A HREF="vosizneias.com/131904/2013/05/28/…> states that the scroll predates restrictions on the writing of Torah scrolls instituted by Rambam. I was going to ask what these restrictions were. May 29, 2013 at 18:25
  • Maybe it has the tagin of the Bal Haturim
    – sam
    May 29, 2013 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


After a quick read of the text I note here the following explicit features which are rarely if ever present in modern (certainly Ashkenazi) scrolls:

14:6 the Torah has שלשים (we have שלשם)
14:22 the Torah has חומה with the Vav hanging above the word (ie. a correction)
15:7 the Torah has גאונך with the Vav hanging above the word (ie. a correction)
15:10 the Torah has כעופרת with the Vav hanging above the word (ie. a correction)
15:19 the Torah has only one Parsha break on the last line of the song
16:20 the Torah has תולעים with the Vav hanging above the word (ie. a correction)
16:27-28 the Torah has a "Rambam-style" Setumah
16:31 the Torah has והוא with the first Vav hanging above the word (ie. a correction)
16:34 the Torah has a column heading beginning with a Tzadi
17:7 the Torah has רב (we have ריב)
17:16 not clear if כס-יה is one word (we have it as two)
17:16-18:1 the Torah has a "Rambam-style" Petucha

The Taggim (crowns on the letters) are pretty inconsistent compared to modern scrolls (which indicates the scribe was adding them on to very particular letters, not being lazy). See for example the letter ה with 3 crowns in exactly 6 places להאיר‎ (13:21), הגדלה‎ (14:31), רמה‎ (15:15), נבהלו‎ (15:), התף‎ (15:20), רמה‎ (15:21). Note also unusual horn-like Taggim on certain letters (eg. כמכה‎ (15:11), מחספס‎ (16:14)).

Likely the article you cite was referring to these Taggim issues, as well as things like the various "curly" פ and ט (the picture is not clear enough to directly identify these but some look pretty suspicious).

(Obviously this is only a partial answer as I can't see the whole scroll, but it's a start. There could be all sorts of different spellings or Parsha breaks or big/small/weird letters in it.)

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