JANUARY 22, 2017 BY
The Golden Haggadah, created in Catalonia around the year 1320, is among several hundred items that have recently been digitised by the British Library as part of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project.
The project has involved the photographing, description and, where necessary, meticulous conservation of 1,300 items ranging from illuminated service books to Torah scrolls, from scientific and astronomical treatises to great works of theology and philosophy. They bear witness to the full flowering of culture, thought and artistry in the Eastern and Western Jewish communities across more than a thousand years.
“The British Library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts is one of the finest and most important anywhere in the world,” said Ilana Tahan, the Library’s Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. “It spans all major areas of Hebrew literature, with Bible, liturgy, kabbalah, Talmud, Halakhah (Jewish law), ethics, poetry, philosophy and philology particularly well represented. Its geographical spread is vast and takes in Europe, North Africa, the Middle and Near East, and various countries in Asia, including Iran, Iraq, Yemen and China. This project makes 1,300 codices and scrolls freely available to scholars and researchers around the world as never before, with items fully searchable by date, place of origin, scribe and keyword.”
The resource has been promoted via the Library’s social media platforms using the hashtag #HebrewProject, and through blog posts and tweets on topics ranging from the largest and smallest items (a 52 metre long leather Pentateuch scroll and a scroll of the Book of Esther just 50mm wide) to the processes of conserving both the scrolls themselves and, in the case of some Torah scrolls, the often elaborate embroidered covers that have protected them for centuries.
“Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness of these remarkable treasures far beyond the research audience,” said Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, digital curator for the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project. “By sharing spectacular images from the manuscripts, as well as going behind the scenes on the work of digitisation, we want to encourage people to find out more and explore online manuscripts that they would previously only have been able to access on microfilm or by visiting our Reading Rooms at St Pancras.”
A second phase to the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project was announced last year, in partnership with the National Library of Israel. The second phase of digitisation – currently underway – will see at least a further 860 manuscripts photographed and made available online.
You can learn more about the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project on Twitter @BL_HebrewMSS