Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fragment of the Month

As noted by Paleojudaica, the Taylor Schechter Genizah Unit in Cambridge has launched a new feature, focusing on a different fragment every month. This month, they highlight a watermark they discovered in a fragment of the Book of Tobit. I'm a little confused, though, because my impression was that Oriental watermarks have barely been catalogued, so the possibility of finding a mark that matches this one is very low.

Last month, they showcased a palimpsest, where the newer text is Masoretic, and the lower text is a Latin sermon by Augustine. They note that "Christian texts do find their way into the Collection, however, often as the undertext of palimpsests". For a fascinating study of Christian texts that found their way into the Genizah without being recycled, having been written in Hebrew characters, see the recent article by Kristina Szilagyi, 'Christian Books in Jewish Libraries: Fragments of Christian Arabic Writings from the Cairo Genizah', Ginzei Qedem 2 (2006), 107-162.

The first fragment shown was the tail end of a responsum by Maimonides, later re-used by someone who scribbled some prayers around it. Not the attitude you would expect towards an autograph of the Rambam.

6 Comments:

Anonymous andy said...

The links are not working, at least for the moment.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Nusach Anglia said...

The April entry and the corrective comment show how hard paleography really is!

Oh, and the Camb. network (JANET is her name) was down last night. Should be all better now...

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Thanks for drawing attention to the FOTM! It is not designed as the last word on these fragments, merely to inspire interest (as can be seen from MAF's addition to the Rambam 'graphs).

As for the question of the watermark, the English edition (transl. Nicholas de Lange) of Colette Sirat's 'Hebrew Manuscripts of the Middle Ages' (CUP 2002) reads (p. 108):

'Watermarked paper is European.'

I should think that much of the quality paper used in late Genizah mss comes from SW Europe.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Miriam said...

Jonathan Bloom ('Paper before print' Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001) specifies: 'Muslim papermakers identified their paper by pasting some sort of trademark on the outside of a bundle' (p. 88). Also, by the fifteenth century, Italian paper had supplanted local production in many parts of the orient, compare p.86 for the Maghreb.


A watermark as complex as a hand would have been considered too offensive by Muslim religious law to be manufactured in the orient. In fact, Bloom mentions a long fatwa for conservative Muslims troubled by the images on the European paper they had to use. The conflict was resolved by the decision that 'writing God's name on such papers ... replaces falsehood with truth' (p. 86f).

2:09 PM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

Thank you for those illuminating comments on watermarks, about which I know next to nothing.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Brooklyn Habiru said...

Perhaps you would be willing to provide some speculative insight into why someone felt comfortable scribbling some Teffilos around his John Hancock...

PS: You’ve been tagged

9:38 PM  

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