Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John Rylands and Maimonides

Paleojudaica recently picked up on the report that the John Rylands University Library of Manchester has received a grant to digitize its Genizah collection. The article seems to say that the library has 30,000 fragments, all written by Maimonides.

Of course, this is a mistake. And I am sure that it was the journalist who misunderstood. But it reminded me of a story that Malachi Beit Arie tells. The JRUL was waking up to the fact that it was holding on to thousands of manuscript fragments, and no-one knew whether they were worth the effort of investigating. The Genizah collection was accumulated by Rabbi Dr Moses Gaster (1856-1939). The fragments sat in storage during World War II and suffered damage from the damp. So I imagine they also didn't look so impressive.

So they called Dr Beit Arie, the most famous Hebrew paleographer. He came, sat down, and was brought a huge box filled with fragments. He stuck his hand in, dubiously, and pulled out a page written in cursive Sefardic script. In fact, the distinctive script of Maimonides. He told the librarian what it was, and the response was "That's enough. We'll preserve it then."

Since then, several more Maimonides autographs have been found in the collection. But definitely not 30,000.

More articles on Maimonides autographs at JRUL:

Malachi Beit Arie, "A Maimonides autograph in the Rylands Gaster Genizah collection", Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 57 (1974) 1-6

Simon Hopkins, "Two new Maimonidean autographs in the John Rylands University Library", Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 67,2 (1985) 710-735

Abraham David, "An unknown autographic Genizah fragment of Maimonides’ code ("Mishneh Torah") in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester [B 5756]", Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 73,1 (1991) 3-5


Anonymous uknome said...

correct to JNUL

11:46 PM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

John Rylands University Library.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Ezra said...

may I add:
Scheiber/ Blau, An autograph of Maimonides from the Adler collection and the Leningrad Library 1981.
Also: S.D Sasssoon, A Comprehnsive study of the autograph manuscript, 1990.
And two publications by myself and Nissim Sabbato on the Maimonides draft of Sharh al-Mishnah: Sefer Zikharon LeShilo Refael, 1998, pp. 6-21; Yeshurun XV (2005), pp. 15-30.
Ezra, IMHM

10:11 AM  

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