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Hebrew manuscripts: History and scope 4

Gaster and Shapira Collections

The acquisition of the Shapira and Gaster Collections enriched the Hebrew holdings with, among many other items, Karaite, Yemenite and Samaritan manuscripts.

In 1877-1882, nearly 300 Karaite and Yemenite manuscripts were acquired through the book dealer Moses Shapira (1830-1884). In 1927, the British Museum purchased 1,129 manuscripts from the library of Dr. Moses Gaster (1856-1939), who had been the leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation in England and the foremost Samaritan scholar of his time. 

Although the Gaster library contained many copies of earlier manuscripts, it nevertheless enriched the Hebrew holdings by nearly 80 Samaritan manuscripts, numerous kabbalistic texts, autographed works of 17th and 18th centuries scholars, communal records and beautifully decorated marriage contracts, as this Italian contract dated 1776 shows.

Marriage contract of Moses ben Judah

Marriage contract of Moses ben Judah from Ascoli and Ester, daughter of Joshua Sabbetai. Ancona, Italy, 1776. [Or MS 12377M] © The British Library.

Next: Genizah fragments