Talmud off Union Square
One of the most impressive aspects of the exhibit is the provenance of the books on display. Many are from JTS, but many others are from private collections. Those are the books the public doesn't normally have access to, and this exhibit shows what a range of treasures are held by private collectors.
The first manuscript on display as you walk in is a Geniza fragment of Bavli Baba Kamma. It is a good example of how the Geniza brings the Jewish world together. The text is written in an Oriental (i.e. Middle Eastern) hand. It contains interlinear corrections in a Sefardic script. And glosses in Ashkenazic letters.
The curators did not pay much attention to marginal comments in the printed books on display, which is a shame. There is an ed. princ. of the Talmud Yerushalmi with personal milestones in the life of its owner, Yedidya Benveniste. A Wilhemsdorf 1716 printing of Megillah that belonged to someone named Eizik Berlin in 1853.
There were some silly mistakes in the captions. The Wien 1865 Talmud contains textual variants, titled Or Haganuz, from a manuscript in Vienna. But that manuscript, and those variants, are of the Tosefta, not the Bavli. And a large volume printed by Isaac Prostitz in Cracow 1597 is not Bavli either, but rather Alfasi. The explanation of the difference in editorial technique between the Bavli and Yerushalmi (persecution prevented the Yerushalmi from being completed) was presented, I think, too confidently.
An odd choice was one of the websites featured in the contemporary section. Come-and-hear, which besides hosting a transcription (legal?) of the Soncino translation of the Talmud, also provides the full text of a book by a woman named Dilling, who exposes Talmudic Judaism as a Marxist conspiracy of the Anti-Christ.
Some other notables pieces were a small volume of Baba Kamma copied by Anshel Moses Rothschild and passed down through his family (today it belongs to YIVO). A gemara printed in Shanghai in 1942, inscribed with the name Moshe Meir Mandelbaum, who was, as he says there, "currently in Shanghai".
The video footage of people learning Talmud the world over was cute. Recognized a few people I know. The special part there was a couple of minutes filmed in Ponevizh before WWII. It shows a teacher (sorry, no idea who it is), looking very animated and happy, learning with his students crowded around. All of whom were well-shaven, with ties and fedoras.
But must we really accept that the Schottenstein translation of the Talmud is the pinnacle of this tradition?