This important 10th-century CE Karaite Book of Exodus was endowed with exquisite carpet pages decorated with stylised flowers and gilded geometric borders, executed in Islamic style. As in early Qur’ans, the ornamentation in this fragmentary Bible is chiefly functional, filling out incomplete lines or indicating major textual divisions. Typical motifs such as zig-zag bands, gold-tinted palmette chains and geometric interlacing enhanced in gold were adapted from Muslim designs.
The Hebrew biblical text in the manuscript was penned in Arabic script. The vowels were added in red ink, while the accents and diacritical marks were penned in green.
The Karaites, a Jewish sect founded in Babylonia in the 8th century CE, broke away from conventional Judaism and rabbinic tradition, accepting instead the Hebrew Bible as their only form of religious authority. The Karaites often used Arabic to transcribe the Hebrew Bible.
Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- Dalia-Ruth Halperin
- Illuminations and the art of writing, The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible manuscripts are often decorated with micrography – a Jewish scribal art that forms the outline of images in tiny script. Dr Dalia-Ruth Halperin considers the use of micrography and Carmina Figurata in Hebrew manuscripts.