In my talk I would like to address the intertwined relationship of materiality, textual structure, and social history of books exemplified in Pirqa de-Rabbenu ha-Qadosh, a popular Hebrew anthology from the 11th century. Books as historical artefacts are products of culture and time. Their material features are the first signs that hint at the socio-historical context in which the book came into being. Starting out from the material aspect of this obscure medieval manuscript book, proceeding to the book’s peculiar and highly fluid textual structure and the question of its edition, one will finally be able to deduce the book’s use and purpose. Only if the three aspects i.e. the physical feature, fluid textual structure, and its social history, which characterise the book and which are reflected in the conditions of the artefact’s production, are viewed together will the manuscript book reveal its complex transmission and production processes and will hence allow for the proper understanding of the mentalities of the culture that produced it.
During last decades a great variety of fragments from Hebrew manuscripts were found in the bindings of manuscripts from Western European countries mainly from Italy. One such fragment was found in the binding of La Concezione della Immacolata Virgine Maria written in 16th-century Italy. The fragment appeared to be a part of Midrash Tancuma that is a collection of aggadot (sort of commentaries) on Pentateuch written supposedly in the 5-6th centuries. According to the codicological data our fragment was made in the 13th century in the region of Northern Italy. The lecture will provide information concerning origin of the manuscript and the fragment, detailed desciption of the codicological data, and textological comparison to the two other known versions of the text.
The Genoese Kaffa and the neighboring Solkhat, the regional capital of the Golden Horde, were two important economic centers in medieval Crimea. They served as a crossroad of different cultures, religions, and numerous ethnic groups. Among these were the Jews, who migrated to the Crimea from Eastern and Western Christian and Muslim lands, bringing with them numerous manuscripts on various subjects (such as legal, exegetical, grammatical, philosophical, mystical, medical). The data presented in these manuscripts, their colophons, the included deeds of sale or ownership notes, provide a window into the social and cultural world of these Jewish communities.