publisher colophon

15. Seal of Judah Son of Reuben Chasdai

*Yehudah bar Reuben Hasday Zayin-Lamed-Hay-Hay

Judah Son of Reuben Chasdai, His Memory Be for Life Through-out Eternity

Dimensions: 31 mm. Matrix.

Location: French National Library, Paris, Medal Room, Schlumberger Legacy, No. 1081.

Bibliography: Schlumberger and Blanchet, 1914, No. 681; Blumenkranz, 1965–66, No. 2, 23 (7); Bedos, 1980b, No. 2, 23 (7).

This round seal with its circular Hebrew legend shows a classic hexagon, called the “Seal of Solomon” by Gustave Schlumberger when he gave the matrix to the French National Library. In the outside of each corner of the hexagram is a small six-pointed star. Within the hexagram is a bird facing left, and over it a Hebrew letter described as a mem by Schlumberger and as a samech by Blumenkranz. The matrix is attached to a rod-like holder about four inches long.

By its size, shape, inscription, and image one would consider this to be an Ashkenazi seal rather than one from the south of France. In some ways it is even closer to German medieval Jewish seals than to those from northern France. However, the fact that a surname has been adopted by this family—a custom rather rare among the Ashkenazi at this time—would suggest that the owner was a Sephardic Jew. The name of Chasdai has well-established links to Spain; among the illustrious holders of that name are the sage Chasdai Crescas and the legendary diplomat and patron of Jewish scholarship Chasdai ibn Shaprut. This seal, German by style, and French by association, shows how difficult it is to categorize such objects in national terms.

The odd Hebrew letter above the bird in the center of the seal has no known significance. These occasional errant letters or symbols on personal seals, like the decorations on bookplates today, probably simply reflect the taste of the individuals who ordered them.

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