A Battlefield of Books
A Battlefield of Books: the Cairo Genizah Collection
Lecture by Fellow Dr Ben Outhwaite
Described recently by Simon Schama as ‘the single most complete archive of a society anywhere in the whole medieval world’, the Cairo Genizah holds the accumulated writings of a highly cosmopolitan Jewish community thriving at the centre of an Islamic empire. It presents a unique window on that community as well as an unprecedented view of the wider Islamic society around it in the High Middle Ages, giving rise to the historian S. D. Goitein’s scholarly construction of the ‘Mediterranean society’. The Genizah Collection is mostly in Cambridge University Library, as the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah Collection, though bits of it are scattered in libraries worldwide. This year is 120 years since the Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter's announcement of the recovery of the collection in a famous article (A Hoard of Hebrew MSS) in the Times (1897).
Image: Hebrew Bible, the book of Nehemiah (Du Gunbadan, Iran, 903–4 CE, Hebrew, parchment T-S NS 246.26.2). Found online at Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo, a University of Cambridge virtual exhibition.
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