Important Judaic manuscripts found in Afghanistan

27 01 2012

An article detailing a recent discovery of Judaic Manuscripts considers the find to be of ‘ groundbreaking scholarly and historic significance, comparable in importance to the 19th-century discovery of the Cairo Geniza and rivaling the Dead Sea Scrolls for sheer drama.’ Read more here:


Oxford publish Maimonides Manuscript

23 09 2011

A project funded by businessman and actor George Blumenthal has seen more than 350 pages of handwritten text, signed by Maimonides, digitised and made available online. See this article for more info:

Rare Jewish-Indian Haggadah….

25 06 2011

…has been found at a garage sale in Salford by a University of Manchester historian, Dr. Yaakov Wise. The rare text, a 137-year ol Poona Haggadah, was used by the by the Bene Israel community at Passover. Wise believes that it may be the only copy of it in Britain. Please click here to read the BBC article.

Consolidating the Rylands Haggadah

24 05 2011

The Rylands Haggadah (Hebrew MS 6) is one of the Library’s most precious treasures. The manuscript is filled with colourful illuminations, many of which contain gold leaf. Over time the pigment used on the illumination of the manuscript has deteriorated in places and has started to crack or flake. Following the successful funding bid, Steve Mooney has begun the work to consolidate the pigments on the Rylands Haggadah in earnest. More information about this project can be found Haggadah Consolidation Project.

Rylands Hebrew MS 6 folio 31 recto
Looking down a microscope at Hebrew MS 6, it is possible to see the cracked pigments

Ben Ezra synagogue

23 02 2011

My sister went on holiday to Egypt recently & very kindly took a picture of the Ben Ezra synagogue, where the Rylands Genizah collection originates from.

Sisters of Sinai

3 01 2011

I read an interesting book over the Christmas holidays – Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice.  It is a biography of Agnes & Margaret Smith, twin sisters from Scotland who became acclaimed Semitic scholars and travelled extensively throughout the Holy Land.  Although their most famous discovery was at St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai desert – one of the earliest New Testament manuscripts (its text dating to the 2nd century) – they are also famed for pointing Solomon Schechter in the direction of the Ben Esra synagogue in Cairo.  Inside the Ben Esra geniza was of course the collection that would would end up divided between the University of Manchester, the University of Cambridge and the British Library.

The twins were also pioneers of digitisation as, having an idea of the importance of their discovery, they photographed the remainder of the manuscript so that scholars back in the UK could decipher it. The actual transcription of the MS was done from the item itself, with the help of a reagent to help reveal the underwriting, and a monk who held down the pages during windy weather.


Farewell to Professor Philip Alexander

14 12 2010

Professor Philip Alexander, the inspirational Director of the AHRC Rylands Cairo Genizah Project (2003-2009), will retire at the beginning of 2011.

As Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature and Co-director of the Centre for Jewish Studies here at the University of Manchester, he has expressed his satisfaction about the effective collaboration with the Special Collections department of the John Rylands University Library on more than one occasion, and we know that he’s very proud of the achievements of the Project.  The recently awarded ‘outstanding’ grade is a fitting farewell.

Enjoy your thoroughly deserved freedom, Philip – we miss our cheerful weekly meetings during the Project, but know we’ll stay in touch!