From North Africa and Europe in the west, through the Middle East to China in the east, our collection of Hebrew manuscripts manifests Jewish cultural and social lives spanning a thousand years. Explore some of these newly digitised collection items, examine key themes in our collection, and read expert articles to learn more about Jewish wisdom, culture, history and religion.
The exceptional collection of decorated Hebrew prayer books in the British Library contains an intriguing work produced in Italy in 1469 CE. Dr Evelyn M Cohen explores its unique representations of women participating in Jewish rituals.Read more
Jonnie Schnytzer reads between the lines of a commentary to The Book of Creation, and explores how copyists have the power to alter the meaning of secret symbols.Read more
The British Library Maḥzor Vitry is one of 11 preserved manuscript copies of the lost 11th-century original attributed to Simḥah ben Samuel of Vitry. Dr Justine Isserles revisits this highly significant manuscript.Read more
Most readers of the Bible feel that they sometimes need an explanation – a gloss – to understand a text written and edited many centuries before it reached their hands. Dr Javier del Barco looks particularly into the practice of producing glossed Hebrew Bibles in medieval Ashkenaz.Read more
The catalogue records for the British Library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts are remarkably diverse and informative. Dr Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert explores how this data can be further improved and standardised in preparation for scholarly analysis.Read more
Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works.Read more
Using the work of the Library’s Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project, Dr Yossi Chajes examines ‘visual Kabbalah’, its interpretations and its importanceRead more
By looking into Jewish mystical texts and the use of names in Jewish magic, Dr Agata Paluch considers the use of divine and angelic names to gain special powers, cast magic, or even attain unification with God.Read more
Theories abound on the date that Jews arrived in China. Some point to the period following Moses’ birth, others to the dispersion of the Ten Lost Tribes by the Assyrians in 720 BCE, and others to the Diaspora following the...
Passover is a major Jewish Spring festival that has been celebrated annually since ancient times. It typically falls between late March and late April, and marks the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage through divine intervention, as told in the biblical...
Making notes in a book in not always an act of vandalism. Sometimes it is an act of caring. I often put my name in my own books before lending them. And I am not the only one. Manuscripts were...
Johanan, having copied a manuscript in Tivoli in 1514 in neat Sefardi script, describes himself in the colophon as “the smallest of the disciples, who laps up the dust of the feet of the sages, the servant of their disciples…...