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Hebrew Manuscripts

Date range: 14th-19th centuries

Medium: Manuscript

There are about 400 codices, Torah scrolls and marriage contracts on paper and parchment and two fragments on papyrus. Hebrew MSS 1-34 were purchased by Enriqueta Rylands in 1901 with the Crawford collection. Fifteen further manuscripts were acquired between 1909 and 1952.

The Crawford manuscripts 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.

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.

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Digital facsimiles and descriptions of selected manuscripts are available via University of Pennsylvania Libraries OPENN.

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