Eleventh EAJS Summer Colloquium
Books within Books: New Discoveries in Old Book Bindings
18–20 July 2011, Wolfson College, Oxford
Convener: A. Lehnardt
The 2011 Summer Colloquium of the EAJS was held at Wolfson College, Oxford from July 18th – 20th 2011. This year’s colloquium was an occasion – after the colloquium in Mainz in 2007 – to bring together researchers dealing with Hebrew manuscripts fragments and Hebrew documents found in old book bindings all over Europe. These new materials encourage new studies of palaeographical and codicological material, philological studies of rare or autographic texts, lexicography, as well as comparative studies and historical analyses based on rare documents.
The keynote lectures took place on the first evening. In his introductory address, “Ginze Europe – The state of Research and new Developments,” Prof. Dr Andreas Lehnardt (Mainz) recalled the beginning of the European Genizah Project as a network of European researchers and presented a short survey of his recent research in Germany concerning fragments through the Genizat Germania Project, as well as several new discoveries including a marriage contract from Italy from the end of the 16th century and of great importance for historical research. This was followed by a paper titled “Carta pecudina literis hebraicis scripta. The Awareness of the Binding Hebrew Fragments in History: An Overview and a Plaidoyer,” presented by Dr Saverio Campanini (Paris), wherein he traced the concept of dealing with Hebrew Fragments in Europe, mainly in Germany. In addition to reviewing his introduction to Andreas Lehnardt’s volume Genizat Germania (2010), he pointed out that while a history of research on fragments indeed exists, this research was conducted mainly by amateurs rather than scholars using self-reflective methods.
The first full day of the conference started with a paper on “Ginze Yerushalayim – Hebrew Binding fragments in the Jewish National Library Jerusalem,” by Dr Abraham David (Jerusalem). He presented a remarkable overview of the collection of fragments held at the JNUL, especially from Yemenite Bindings, underlining the importance of these discoveries, which include letters of Isaac Luria (16th century). Most of these fragments were not known even to researchers who worked for years on the complete manuscripts in this institution. In his paper “The first Autograph of the Tosaphists from the European Genizah,” Prof. Dr Simha Emanuel (Jerusalem) argued for the importance of research on medieval autographic texts. He presented a fragment from Austria of a text written by R. David, brother of Judah ben Qalonymos of Speyer (Tossafist), from the end of the 13th century – surely a highlight among the recent discoveries in Austria. Dr Pinhas Roth (Jerusalem) presented “Fragments of Medieval Halakhic Works in Girona,” emphasizing features of the discoveries related to the Halakhic discussions on Excommunication which took place in Provence, with a special interests on scholars from Digne and Manosque (11th-14th centuries). Then, in a paper titled “Reconstruction of a Sefer Haftarot from the Rhine Valley,” Dr Judith Kogel (Paris) proposed a codicological analysis based on medieval Ashkenazic codices and fragments (kept in Parma and Strasbourg) in order to determine when the Sefer Haftarot appeared as separate works or as a part of a codex which includes Pentateuch, Megillah, and Haftarot. In his paper “Rare fragments from Yemen” Dr Michael Krupp (Jerusalem) presented a wide panel of fragments coming from Yemenite Book Bindings in his private collection; a number of Sephardic and Italian fragments had been discovered in his collection and were discussed at the Colloquium for the first time.
In her presentation “A list of books discovered in Munich specimens,” Dr Elodie Attia (Mainz) focused on new materials from Munich, especially a list of books from southern France. She reconstructed its origin (Provence – Comtat Venaissin) and its date (probably 14th century) according to other documents from southern France that came from the same book binding. In a paper titled “The newly found Hebrew fragments in the Russian State Library,” Dr Alina Lisitsina (Moscow) presented news about discoveries in Moscow, and presented the identification of various fragments from the Russian National Library, among them a hitherto unknown leaf of Midrash Tanhuma (Buber). The work in progress is of great importance to the European Genizah. In his paper “Diagnostics and chemical analysis as interpretative skills for manuscripts,” Luca Baraldi (Modena) argued for the use of chemical techniques and scientific analyses in order to improve the interpretation of manuscripts. In a paper titled “Hebrew Fragments in a Regional Perspective: Reconstructing the Book Culture of Jews in Medieval Moravia,” Dr Tamas Visi (Olomouc) reconstructed the cultural particularism of the Jews of Moravia, showing preservation of more traditional texts than in other places in Central Europe. In her paper “Economic Hebrew Fragments of Arxiu Històric de Girona,” Dr Esperança Valls (Gerona) underlined the importance of several unedited documents from Girona, especially those provided by pinqassim. These new documents offer insights into local economic aspects and legal proceedings of the Bet-Din in the Catalan 14th century; they are also of great importance for historical researches. Finally, Prof. Dr Marta Keil (St. Pölten) invited us, in a paper titled “Fragments as Objects: Medieval Austrian Fragments in the Jewish Museum Vienna,” to consider the material aspects and contexts of the fragments, presenting them as “objects” through a virtual visit to the Jewish Museum of Vienna.
On the second day of the colloquium, Prof. Mauro Perani (Ravenna) started by discussing “Documents on Jewish Economic Activity in the 14th-16th centuries from the Italian Genizah,” presenting cultural and historical materials that included documentary sources (such as registers, account books and contracts) concerning Italian Jews from the 13th to 16th centuries. In his paper “Specimens of Jewish Deathbed Bequests (15th C. Spain),” Dr Javier Castaño (Madrid) presented researches in Navarra (Northern Spain), and underlined the diversity of the documentary sources he found (13th to late 15th century) as well as the notarial Jewish culture that can be analysed from Wills. In her pioneering paper “Hebrew Manuscript Fragments in Switzerland,” Justine Isserles (Geneva) proposed a preliminary overview of new medieval fragments kept in Switzerland (Bibles with Targum, Mahzorim, Haggadot, Piyyutim). Dr Saskia Dönitz (Berlin) discussed in her “‘With two letters two worlds were created’ – A fragment on the Hebrew letters from Genizat Germania” the possibility of the reconstruction of an unknown commentary of Menahem ben Shlomo, kept among the long known fragments of the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin, a fragment previously discussed by M. Steinschneider in his catalogue. Finally, Prof. Dr J. Olszowy- Schlanger (Paris), in a paper titled “Fragments of Jewish-Christian relations: the Alpha Beta de Ben Sira of Durham,” traced how a fragment produced by a Christian Hebraist of the 13th century can shed new light on Jewish and Hebrew knowledge in mediaeval England, according to the analysis of the superscriptio’s ductus.
A final plenary discussion considered further developments, including the opening of the BwB Database (http://www.hebrewmanuscript.com). The research group, composed of doctoral and post-doctoral students as well as advanced researchers, is currently focussing, on the one hand, on Book History and Culture, and on the other, on documentary historical sources providing fresh evidence of Medieval Jewish Communities all over Europe. These two aspects are both of great importance. In addition, these discoveries raise many questions about the transmission of texts and documents more generally. Hebrew codicology, palaeographical analyses and material features are, consequently, of greater importance. If the text is transmitted by a vehicle (incunabula, printed book, etc.), this should also be taken into account. In future research, more attention should be paid to the history of research itself, as well as to the non-Jewish languages that refer to local dialects (Catalan, Provençal, Franco-German, Central European area). They all demonstrate the usefulness of Hebrew fragments found in Europe for shedding new light on Jewish Culture as well as on local Jewish reality in the Christian realm.