7 episodes

The Bodleian Library's winter 2009/10 exhibition tells the story of how together Jews, Christians and Muslims have contributed to the development of the book. Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting-place of Cultures draws on the Bodleian's Hebrew holdings, one of the largest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts in the world.

Covering a time span of 300 years between the thirteenth century and fifteenth century, the exhibition brings to light different aspects of Jewish life in a non-Jewish medieval society.

The social and cultural interaction between Jews and non-Jews in both the Muslim and Christian world is mirrored in the blending of the inherent elements of the manuscript such as decorative patterns, writing styles, script types and text genres. As a result Hebrew manuscripts produced in different geo-cultural regions look quite different, showing greater similarities to the non-Hebrew books produced in the same region than to each other.

By importing elements of the host culture, the Hebrew manuscripts are proof of coexistence and cultural affinity, as well as practical cooperation between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbours in the Middle Ages. The assortment of manuscripts is not restricted to religious text, but expend to literary and scientific works as well.

Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting-place of Cultures Oxford University

    • Education
    • 4.0 • 3 Ratings

The Bodleian Library's winter 2009/10 exhibition tells the story of how together Jews, Christians and Muslims have contributed to the development of the book. Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting-place of Cultures draws on the Bodleian's Hebrew holdings, one of the largest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts in the world.

Covering a time span of 300 years between the thirteenth century and fifteenth century, the exhibition brings to light different aspects of Jewish life in a non-Jewish medieval society.

The social and cultural interaction between Jews and non-Jews in both the Muslim and Christian world is mirrored in the blending of the inherent elements of the manuscript such as decorative patterns, writing styles, script types and text genres. As a result Hebrew manuscripts produced in different geo-cultural regions look quite different, showing greater similarities to the non-Hebrew books produced in the same region than to each other.

By importing elements of the host culture, the Hebrew manuscripts are proof of coexistence and cultural affinity, as well as practical cooperation between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbours in the Middle Ages. The assortment of manuscripts is not restricted to religious text, but expend to literary and scientific works as well.

    • video
    Introduction to Crossing Borders

    Introduction to Crossing Borders

    An introduction to the Crossing Borders exhibition. The exhibition tells the story of how Jews, Christians and Muslims have contributed to the development of the book. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 59 sec
    • video
    From Roll to Codex

    From Roll to Codex

    Piet explains codices, the oldest manuscripts in book form, looking in particular at a fragment of the Hebrew text of the book of Ecclesiasticus (ch. 40) from the Cairo Genizah, and the four Gospels in Syriac. Around the ancient Mediterranean the prevailing form of book was the roll. Made of papyrus or parchment, it was unrolled either from side to side, with the text written in parallel columns (scroll), or from top to bottom, with the text in one column (rotulus). In the third century codices came into use. Like a modern book, a codex consisted of separate pages that were bound together along one edge. By using both sides of the parchment or papyrus, more text could be transmitted on the same amount of writing material. The early Christian community in particular employed the new codex form for spreading the Christian message. After Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the codex finally ousted the roll and became the favourite book form. Hebrew books, however, continued to be written on rolls until the ninth century, a phenomenon which may reflect an attempt by Jews to dissociate themselves from Christians and their writings. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 2 min
    • video
    Arabic Art Forms in Spanish Book Production

    Arabic Art Forms in Spanish Book Production

    Piet explains Arabic design and illustration in Spanish books, looking in particular at the Kennicott Bible, produced in La Coruna, Spain, in 1476. Distinctive features of Arabic books, including their non-figurative illuminations, are manifest in Hebrew manuscripts produced under Muslim domination in medieval Spain. Biblical manuscripts in particular were inspired by the decorations found in manuscripts of the Qur'an, as well as by geometric or floral patterns typical of Islamic architecture. Islamic decorative patterns continued to be used by Jewish illuminators in Christian Spain after Muslim rule had ended there. Carpet pages - full-page, abstract decorations recalling the design of carpets - and micrography - patterns made using lines of minute script - were frequently included in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Bibles. This type of decoration is not found in Italian or northern European Hebrew books. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 1 min
    • video
    Hebrew Prayer Books for Public Use

    Hebrew Prayer Books for Public Use

    Piet looks at the three great Bodleian mahzorim (large and elaborately decorated prayer books for the festivals), which were illuminated by Christian painters in collaboration with and under the supervision of Jewish scribes. The majority of Hebrew manuscripts were copied out by Jews for their personal use. But during the second half of the thirteenth and the first half of the fourteenth centuries large and elaborately decorated prayer books for the festivals (mahzorim) were produced for communal use in the liturgy. Wealthy laymen vied with each other for the honour of leading prayers on festive occasions. These were the same men who commissioned large and splendidly decorated prayer books as status symbols. They wanted to enhance their prestige by employing the most sought-after professional scribes, by commissioning larger and larger volumes, and by engaging the best illuminators - often Christian artists. In fact, all three of the great Bodleian mahzorim were illuminated by Christian painters in collaboration with and under the supervision of Jewish scribes. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 3 min
    • video
    User-produced Hebrew Prayer Books and Shared Iconography

    User-produced Hebrew Prayer Books and Shared Iconography

    Some Hebrew manuscripts were produced in Christian workshops, others were made by Jewish artists themselves for their own use. Piet looks at examples of these and explores the shared iconography between Christian and Jewish faiths, such as the unicorn. Some Hebrew manuscripts were produced in Christian workshops, while others were made by Jewish artists themselves for their own use. An Ashkenazic siddur stands out as an example of a Jewish scribe-artist, influenced by the visual culture of his time, who drew on models, motifs and specialized techniques current in fifteenth-century Germany to illustrate his prayer book. Hebrew manuscripts shared iconography with other manuscripts from the same geo-cultural area. Italian Hebrew manuscripts thus recall the scenery of central Italy and depict the same plants and animals that appear in Latin manuscripts produced in local workshops, such as the famous atelier of Taddeo Crivelli in Ferrara. The mythological unicorn was a shared icon whose symbolic meaning depended on the genre or context. In Christian iconography the unicorn, resting with its feet in the lap of the Virgin, symbolises the incarnation of Christ; while in Jewish tradition it stands for the final redemption of Israel. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 3 min
    • video
    Sciences

    Sciences

    Piet looks at how the works of famous ancient thinkers such as Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid or Ptolemy traveled from culture to culture and formed the basis of Muslim, Christian and Jewish science and philosophy alike. Ancient Greek science and philosophy reached Christian Europe mainly through the Islamic world. A large corpus of Greek scientific works had been translated into Arabic (often via Syriac) in the eighth and ninth centuries, and Muslim thinkers continued to practice and advance these so-called 'foreign sciences'. Jews who lived under Islamic rule contributed scientific works of their own, written in Arabic. In the twelfth century the works of Greek, Muslim and also some Jewish thinkers started to be translated from Arabic into Latin, often with the help of Jews. Hebrew translations from Arabic made the same works available to Jews in Europe. Thus the works of famous ancient thinkers such as Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid or Ptolemy traveled from culture to culture and formed the basis of Muslim, Christian and Jewish science and philosophy alike. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 1 min

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