Hebrew Fragments in European Libraries

WEBSITE: Books within Books: Medieval Hebrew Fragments in European Libraries.

Books within books: Hebrew Fragments in European Libraries is a European network of scholars working on fragments of medieval Hebrew books and documents recovered from book bindings and notarial files in various libraries and archives in Europe, Israel and USA.

Hebrew manuscripts are important and often unique witnesses of Jewish presence and intellectual activities in medieval Europe. Only a small percentage of the books and writings produced in the past have been preserved. The corpus of fragments reused in bindings has considerably enriched our knowledge of medieval Hebrew manuscripts.

Thousands of such fragments have been identified in various libraries and collections in Austria, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Czech Republic. The richness and diversity of this corpus, referred to as well as the ‘European Genizah’, by analogy to the treasure trove of Hebrew fragments recovered from the Cairo Genizah, offers a unique opportunity to reconstruct the history of the Hebrew book and of the Jewish communities in Medieval Europe.

This European network has two main objectives:
– To provide a framework for collaboration and exchange between existing projects in various European countries, and to diffuse news about major scientific events and publications concerning Medieval Hebrew manuscripts
– To provide a systematic inventory and description of the Hebrew fragments in a series of Catalogue publications and as an online database accessible to registered users.

The European network was created in 2007 as the initiative of the chairpersons of several projects which have been carried on at a national level or in a specific library or archive. Several projects have been carried on for many years and have already elaborated a database and/or inventories of Hebrew fragments, others are at a less advanced stage of research.

The numbers of fragments identified in each country vary from several dozen (Switzerland) to several thousand (Italy). Coordinated from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, France, the network includes today some twenty partners in eight countries.

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