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Moses Gaster Manuscripts Collection

Medium: Manuscript

Number of items: over 800

In 1954, with the aid of the Pilgrim Trust, the Friends of National Libraries and private donations, the John Rylands Library purchased the collection of manuscripts in Hebrew, Samaritan and other scripts assembled by Dr Moses Gaster (1856–1939), along with his collection of fragments from the Cairo Genizah.

Gaster acquired his large collection of Samaritan manuscripts through correspondence with priests in Nablus, the headquarters of the Samaritan community. Where he could not secure the originals he had copies made for him. There are 355 Samaritan codices and scrolls, including manuscripts of the Pentateuch, commentaries and treatises, and liturgical, historical,chronological and astronomical codices. There are detailed census lists of the Samaritans and lists of manuscripts in their possession.

Some 350 codices and scrolls in Hebrew script include prayer-books of many Jewish communities, apocryphal writings, commentaries, treatises, letters, marriage contracts and piyyûtîm. Among countries represented are Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Italy, Morocco, and, particularly, Yemen.

A further 123 manuscript codices were donated to the Library by the family of Dr Gaster, including manuscripts in Arabic, Greek, English, Latin, German, Flemish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Persian, Turkish and Ethiopic. Many of the items relate to Jewish history.

In addition, there is a collection of amulets and other objects primarily relating to Jewish and Samaritan mystical practices. These include objects, such as beads and metalwork, as well as manuscript and printed amulets.

See also:

Further information:

  • Maria Haralambakis, 'A Survey of the Gaster Collection at the John Rylands University Library, Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 89, no. 2 (2012/13), pp. 107-30.
  • Edward Robertson, Catalogue of the Samaritan Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Volume II The Gaster Manuscripts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962). 326 pp. (Samaritan MSS 28-375).
  • 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.


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