The Special Collections Division of the University of Manchester Library holds a collection of around 15,000 fragments, mostly written in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, from the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, purchased from the estate of 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 texts, literary material relating to grammar, philosophy, medicine, astrology and astronomy together with documents such as letters, bills and notebooks etc.
The Rylands Cairo Genizah Project, funded for three years by the AHRC (2006 - 2009), aims to make available images and descriptions of all the Rylands Genizah fragments to form an online searchable and browseable catalogue. Rylands Genizah already holds high resolution images of the majority of these fragments (about 87%) with new material to be added in due course.
Using digital images we hope to enable scholars working on Genizah material anywhere in the world to see exactly what is stored in Manchester, discover hitherto unidentified works, and compare the fragments held in Manchester with collections elsewhere, for example Cambridge and The British Library.
In addition to the AHRC, the Rylands Genizah Project has also received funding from Mr Joe Dwek, the Friedberg and Safra Foundations, and the British Academy.
The University of Manchester Library collaborated with the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at The Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. The Institute is adding descriptions of a substantial amount of Rylands Genizah fragments to its Aleph database of manuscripts.
We strongly advise all users, but especially the scholarly user, of Rylands Genizah first to consult our extensive Introduction to Rylands Genizah in order to find out:
- What the entire Rylands Genizah collection of about 15,000 fragments exactly consists of,
- Which fragments are presently available online in the form of digital images,
- How to use Rylands Genizah to your best advantage.
We welcome any comments and new input to Rylands Genizah.