Jewish Studies Collections at New College library : early books

This week New College welcomes the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh. Delegates are welcome to visit New College Library where they’ll find a display of Jewish Studies related items from our Special Collections..

Early Jewish sacred texts, biblical scholarship and devotional works in Hebrew can be discovered throughout New College Library’s Special Collections.

leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Naḥman. Perush ha-Torah. Pisa: Bene Sontsino, 1514. Dal-Chr 15.

Continue reading

When size matters : big books

A really good question was asked by one of our student interns recently about the rare books collections they were working with : “Why are the big books so big?”. This set me thinking about the size of the books in our Special Collections, big and small, and why size matters.

[Bible. Authorized version]. The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments … Glasgow ; Edinburgh ; London : Printed and published by William Mackenzie ; 1862-1863. New College Library B.r.302a-b

The biggest book that I know in our collections is the Queen’s Bible, which is so large (48cm in height) and heavy it takes two members of staff to safely handle it. This Bible was prepared for the International Exhibition of 1862, at which it was an example of the new technology of using machinery for composing text, though the printing was done by hand. With only 170 copies published, it is bound in red morocco, embossed with royal cipher and other ornaments, with brass mountings and clasps. For this book, its size is all about impressing the onlooker and is part of its role as a luxury object.

The Bible: translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languages. London: Christopher Barker, 1583. B.r.33/1

Alongside this book, in our early Bibles collection we have several examples of pulpit Bibles such as this Geneva Bible used as the pulpit Bible in Crail, Fife. Traditionally Presbyterian churches in Scotland had a centrally located pulpit, reflecting the importance of the Bible as the foundation of faith. The large size of the book is part of its role as an object used in public worship.

Mikdash yeyai, ʻesrim ve-ʾarbʻa sefare ha-mikhtav ha-ḳadosh = En tibi lector Hebraica Biblia. Basel, 1534. LP4/2.10

In fact many of the largest books in our rare book collections are Bibles, and this is no surprise considering that the Bible is a very large amount of text, which requires a large book to fit it all in. This is even more the case for polyglot Bibles, which offer parallel versions of the text in different languages such as Latin, Hebrew and Greek, or for Bible versions that include commentary parallel with the text.  In the recently catalogued LP section, this folio edition of the complete Hebrew Bible, with Latin translation, and Latin commentary drawn from Rabbinic sources, is one of the greatest Christian Hebraists of the sixteenth century, Sebastian Münster. This Bible was highly valued by 16th century Christian students of the Hebrew language and the Hebrew Scriptures, and is likely to have been among the resources used by Luther in preparing his Genesis lectures (1535-1545), his last major work.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian

With thanks to Janice Gailani, Rare Books Cataloguer.

Last chance to see! Given in Good Faith : Scripture

The Given in Good Faith exhibition, which highlights some of New College Library’s treasures in the context of the exhibition themes of church history, worship, scripture and science is now in its final weeks at the Centre for Research Collections. If you haven’t been to see it, now is the time before it closes on 29 July!

New College Library’s collections reflect the essential place that the study of scripture has always held in the New College curriculum, as well as the study of Biblical languages to allow first hand engagement with Biblical texts. Complementing the Biblical texts are Biblical commentaries, from the Christian and the Jewish faith communities, in both printed and manuscript form. This is the first page of an illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as Rashi’s Commentary on Deuteronomy. Rashi was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), an acclaimed French medieval scholar, whose explanations of scriptures were valued for their precision and simplicity.

Yitzchaki, Shlomo. Commentary on Deuteronomy, undated. MS BOX 25.2

Yitzchaki, Shlomo. Commentary on Deuteronomy, undated. MS BOX 25.2

Continue reading

Jewish scholarship on display at New College Library

Babylonian Talmud. Sulzbach,1766. Folio, in 12 volumes

Babylonian Talmud. Sulzbach,1766. Folio, in 12 volumes. Longforgan Collection.

In celebration of the public lecture on The Bible and the Mishnah by Professor Shaye J D Cohen, Harvard University on Tuesday 5 May, we currently have Jewish texts from our Special Collections on display in New College Library.

This Babylonian Talmud is part of the Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library, an extremely well preserved example of a Manse library which came to New College in the 1960s. It is currently being catalogued as part of the Funk Donation projects. As well as this 12 volume Babylonian Talmud, works by Maimonides and Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi ha-Cohen are evidence of the importance of Hebrew scholarship to the Scottish Church.

Seder Ṭohorot Mishnayot mi-Seder Kodashim im perush / ha-Rambam. Venice : Daniel Bomberg, 1528.

Seder Ṭohorot Mishnayot mi-Seder Kodashim im perush / ha-Rambam. Venice : Daniel Bomberg, 1528. New College Library Dal-Chr 58

This image is from Maimonides’s commentary on the Mishnah which was one of the first to be published. It is part of the the Dalman-Christie Collection, which was transferred to New College Library in 1946 from the Church of Scotland Hospice in Jerusalem. This collection was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Donation Projects.

Mischna, sive, Totius Hebraeorum juris : rituum, antiquitatum, ac legum oralium systema. Amsterdam : Gerardus & Jacobus Borstius, 1698. New College Library Dal-Chr 45

Mischna, sive, Totius Hebraeorum juris : rituum, antiquitatum, ac legum oralium systema. Amsterdam : Gerardus & Jacobus Borstius, 1698. New College Library Dal-Chr 45

This is the frontispiece from one of the volumes in this six volume set of the Mishnah with text in  Hebrew and Latin. It also contains commentaries of Maimonides and Bertinoro in Latin. New College Library holds copies in both the Dalman-Christie and the Longforgan Collections.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Rare New College Library book is an international success

 Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman ... [1514]

Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman … [1514]

 A rare and early commentary on the Pentateuch from New College Library has just arrived back in Edinburgh, after travelling all the way to Latvia to be part of the exhibition “1514. The Book. 2014“. New College Library staff worked together with exhibitions, museum and conservation staff from Library & University Collections to ensure that the volume has a safe journey. The exhibition was held until April 2015 at the National Library of Latvia. It included 80 books drawn from the collections of 18 different European libraries with rich collections of sixteenth-century publications. They were all published in 1514, a year of great change, 60 years after Gutenberg and on the cusp of the Reformation in Europe.  Opened by two presidents – Latvian HE Andris Berzins and Austrian HE Heinz Fischer, the exhibition received more than 101,200 visitors over the year, including other political leaders of EU countries such as Angela Merkel. 

This work,  Perush-ha Torah, is just one of the early works of Jewish scholarship in the Dalman-Christie collection of Hebrew books, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Donation Projects at New College Library.  The Dalman-Christie Collection was transferred to New College Library in 1946 from the Church of Scotland Hospice in Jerusalem.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Travel back 500 years with rare Hebrew book from New College Library

 Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman ... [1514]

Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman … [1514] פירוש התורה / להרב רבינו משה ב״ר נחמן.

This early commentary on the Pentateuch, published in 1514 has travelled all the way to Latvia to be part of the exhibition “1514. The Book. 2014“. On display until April 2015 at the National Library of Latvia, the exhibition includes 80 books published in 1514. Why 1514? The exhibition creators identified 1514 as a year of great change, 60 years after Gutenberg and on the cusp of the Reformation in Europe. The exhibition is “an opportunity to view the European cultural space in terms of a single year”.

The author, of this work, Perush-ha Torah,  was Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman or Nahmanides (1195-1270). He was a Spanish rabbi and leading scholar of Talmudic literature in the mediaeval period. This book is just one of the early works of Jewish scholarship in the Dalman-Christie collection of Hebrew books, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects at New College Library.  The Dalman-Christie Collection was transferred to New College Library in 1946 from the Church of Scotland Hospice in Jerusalem.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Dal-Chr 15r

Ancient Language Encyclopedias from Brill now on trial

Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and LinguisticsTrial access is now available to the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online, and the Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics, published by Brill.Access is via the eresources trials page or via Brill Reference Online.

The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day.

GreekThe Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (EAGLL) is a unique work that brings together the latest research from across a range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of Ancient Greek. It is an indispensable research tool for scholars and students of Greek, of linguistics, and of other Indo-European languages, as well as of Biblical literature.

The trial access period ends on 10 December 2013.

 

New College Library’s Torah Scroll

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

New College Library’s Torah Scroll (Pentateuch) was on display to visitors today in the Funk Reading Room.

Scrolls such as these are an integral part of Jewish communal life, being read in their entirety in a yearly cycle. The portions of the masoretic texts are divided into weekly portions and their reading in communal worship is followed by a set reading from the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.

This scroll is no longer suitable for ritual use, as it is no longer bound onto its original etzim (rollers) or clothed in its original protective and decorative garments. Some letters are damaged, indicating its non-kosher status. Conservation work was undertaken in 2008 to ensure that the scroll was preserved in an appropriate state for study and teaching, and it received new rollers and new box. The funds for this work were raised by the New College Library Book Sale.

The provenance of the scroll is not known, but it may have come to the Library at the same time as other objects from Jewish religious practice in the New College Library objects collection. These include a phylatctory or tefillin,  a small, black leather cube-shaped case made to contain Torah texts.

Bar Ilan Global Jewish Database now on trial

logo_small_v1_en-USThe Bar Ilan Global Jewish Database is now on trial until 20 June. The Bar Ilan Responsa Project is the world’s largest electronic collection of Torah literature of its kind. The database includes the Bible and its principal commentaries, the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi with commentaries, Midrash, Zohar, Halachic Law (Rambam, Shulchan Aruch with commentaries), a large Responsa collection of questions and answers and the Talmudic Encyclopedia.

Access to the database is via http://www.ed.ac.uk/is/databases-trials. University of Edinburgh users have IP based access on campus, or off campus via the VPN, and clicking on search or browse should allow access to the content.

Context of Scripture Online on trial now

Context of Scripture OnlineContext of Scripture Online is now available on trial access to University of Edinburgh Users. Access is available on campus and off campus via the VPN. The trial ends on 19 February. See the eresources trials web page for more information.

Context of Scripture Online is a reference work aiming to provide access to a broad, balanced, and representative collection of Ancient Near Eastern texts that have an impact on the interpretation of the Bible. These ancient Egyptian, Semitic, Akkadian and Sumerian writings form the rich background to the literature of the Hebrew Bible.