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Hebrew Manuscripts

There are about 400 codices, Torah scrolls and marriage contracts, dating from the 14th to the 19th century AD. Hebrew MSS 1-34 were purchased by Mrs Rylands from Lord Crawford in 1901.

They include:

  • a lavishly illuminated early 14th-century Sephardi Haggadah (Hebrew MS 6)
  • a text of Nachmanides' Commentary on the Pentateuch, containing illuminations by the Florentine artist Francesco Antonio del Cherico (Hebrew MS 8)
  • a collection of 19th-century benedictions from Honan (Hebrew MS 24)
  • a 14th-century text of the 'Ammude ha-Golah of Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil (Hebrew MS 31)
  • the earliest known Italian illuminated Megillah, 1618 (Hebrew MS 22), among the Scrolls of Esther

Hebrew MSS 34-49 are miscellaneous manuscripts acquired between 1909 and 1952.

Most of the remaining manuscripts were acquired in 1954 when the Library bought the collection of Dr Moses Gaster. The collection includes prayer-books of many Jewish communities, apocryphal writings, commentaries, treatises, letters, marriage contracts, piyyûtîm, and thirteen scrolls of the Law. Among countries represented are Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Italy, Morocco, and, particularly, Yemen.

In addition there are almost 10,600 fragments in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic from the Genizah of the Synagogue of Ben Ezra in Old Cairo, purchased from Dr Moses Gaster in 1954.

About 90% of the items are on paper, the remainder on parchment. The vast majority are very small fragments. They date from the 10th to the 19th century AD and include religious and literary texts, and material relating to grammar, philosophy, medicine, astrology and astronomy.

Many parts of the Mediterranean world are represented in the collection, and there are numerous fragments written in Ashkenazi hands.

There are several autograph fragments of Maimonides, including portions of his Guide of the Perplexed and Commentary on the Mishna.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue of Hebrew MSS in course of preparation.
  • Alexander Samely, 'The Interpreted Text: Among the Hebrew Manuscripts of the John Rylands University Library', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 73, no. 2 (1991), pp. 1-20.
  • Genizah fragments uncatalogued: see S.D. Goitein, 'An Eleventh-Century Letter from Tyre in the John Rylands Library', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 54 (1971-2), pp. 94-102.
  • Malachi Beit-Arié, 'A Maimonides Autograph in the Rylands Genizah Collection', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 57 (1974-5), pp. 1-6.
  • Simon Hopkins, 'Two New Maimonidean Autographs in the John Rylands University Library', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 67 (1984-5), pp. 710-35.
  • Katrin Kogman-Appel, ‘The picture cycles of the Rylands Haggadah and the so-called Brother Haggadah and their relation to the western tradition of Old Testament illustration’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 79, no. 1 (1997), pp. 3–19.
  • Marc Michael Epstein, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative and Religious Imagination (New Haven and London, 2011).

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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