Jewish Studies Collections at New College Library : archives

Currently on display at New College Library for the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh at New College is this lovely manuscript item from New College’s historic archive collections, originally coming from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

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

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.

The New College Library archives hold the papers of Old Testament and Hebrew and Semitic Languages scholars such as Prof Oliver S Rankin (1885-1956), which contains many writings in German, teaching notes and notes on Jewish festivals, Prof John Duncan (1796-1870) and Prof Norman W Porteous (1898-2003). These papers are important sources for researching Christian academic engagement with the Jewish people and Jewish-Christian Relations. Sir George Adam Smith’s (1856-1942)’ collection includes turn of the century photograph albums of the Holy Land and accompanying notebooks. Jewish texts such as a nineteenth century Torah scroll, a Pentateuch from Nablous, Yitzchaki’s Commentary on Deuteronomy and a manuscript copy of Bedarshi’s ‘Sepher Bechinath Olam’ can be found in our miscellaneous ‘Box’ collection.

Entry from one of Sir George Adam Smith's commonplace book from Palestine c.1892 (ref. SMI1.7.3)

Entry from one of Sir George Adam Smith’s commonplace book from Palestine c.1892 (ref. SMI1.7.3)

Other significant archive items / collections

The excellencie of the Hebrew Language’ `1636. (ref. MS WEE)
Extracts from Weemes’ ‘The Christian Synagogue’ – Importance of the Hebrew language within Christian spirituality entitled: ‘The excellencie of the Hebrew language. In the Antiquitie preservation from confusion from the beginning, and the eternal lasting of it in heaven. With an epistle dedicatory to the Earl of Haddington, by Walter Swintoun.

Papers of Sir George Adam Smith (1856-1942). (ref. GD9 or MS SMI1)
This collection contains many interesting types of material relating to Palestine, including letters, correspondence, diaries (some with illustrations), sermons and photographs.

Papers relating to the Church of Scotland’s Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, Palestine, 1839.
Material can be found throughout New College’s archives relating to this mission, including in the papers of the Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (ref. MS MACCH), papers of Rev Andrew A Bonar (ref. GD38), and the papers of Alexander Thomson, Esq., of Banchory (ref. MS THO).

Papers of Rev Prof Alexander Whyte. (ref. MS WHY)
The archives of the Rev Prof Alexander Whyte contains many sermons relating to the ‘Jewish Church’, such as can be found in boxes ref. MS WHY 5, 6, 7, 9, 25 and 35.

Papers of Joseph Oldham New College Library, ref. MS OLD, MS 5026-7, MS BOX 25.3.3. and Centre for the Study of World Christianity ref. CSWC2 New College is privileged to hold many papers by Joseph Oldham, who is regarded as the father of modern ecumenism. They provide insight into theological, ethical and racial matters both in wartime and the intervening years of peace.

Papers of Rev Prof Norman Walker Porteous (1898-2003). (ref. MS POR B)
Professor Norman Porteous is believed to have been the University of Edinburgh’s oldest graduate and had almost his entire career in association with the university. His correspondence spans the majority of the 20th century and includes letters in German to and from theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth, Walther Eichrodt and Martin Noth. Some letters are especially revealing about life in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.

Papers of Rev Prof Oliver Shaw Rankin (1885-1956). (ref. GD12)
Professor Rankin’s papers contain a plethora of notebooks containing careful notes on topics such as the Pentateuch, Jewish philosophic thought, the Midrash, rabbinics and the Talmud. Notes have been taken from sources in German, French and Hebrew.

Papers of Rev Prof William Manson (1882-1958). (ref. MS MAN)
Contained within the Manson papers are two notebooks entitled ‘Jewish Origin’ and ‘Jewish People’, while many of his sermons incorporated information on the history of the Jews as found in the Old Testament.

Manuscript copy of Sepher Bechinath Olam by Jedaja ha-Penini, called Bedarshi [Bedersi] with commentaries, 1782. (ref. MS5002)
Bound manuscript copy of Sepher Bachinath Olam (The Book of the Examination of the World), written in Krakow, Poland. It contains notes by Rev Prof Oliver Shaw Rankin, Chair of Old Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the University of Edinburgh.

Other items listed at

Most of the catalogues to the abovementioned archives are now available online as PDFs, through the University of Edinburgh ‘Archives Online’ website:

Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator

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