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Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word showcases rarely-seen treasures from as far back as the 10th century, spanning a diverse geography from Europe and North Africa, through to the Middle East and China to explore the interactions, exchanges of knowledge and influences between Jewish people and their neighbours in the communities they lived in.
The exhibition showcases around 40 significant manuscripts, featuring beautifully illuminated texts, intricately detailed illustrations, scientific diagrams and fascinating personal stories revealed through the writing people have left behind.
Spanning science, religion, law, music, philosophy, magic, alchemy and Kabbalah, highlights include one of the first Jewish scientific works written in the Hebrew language, a manuscript containing instructions for mystical meditation, the autograph responsum of Moses Maimonides, the reply of Jacob Rafael of Modena regarding the law of levirate in relation to King Henri VIII’s marriage annulment and the First Gaster Bible, the earliest object in the exhibition dating from the 10th century. A fair number of manuscripts are on public view for the first time. The exhibition provides a snapshot of the range and richness of Hebrew Manuscripts in the British Library’s collection, and reveals the power of the written word to bring people together.
About the Curator
Ilana Antoinette Tahan, M.Phil. OBE has been educated at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, and at the Aston University in Birmingham, UK where she was awarded a Master of Philosophy degree. Ilana joined the British Library as Hebraica Curator in 1989. In 2002, she became Head of the Hebrew Section in charge of one of the finest Hebraic collections in the UK, comprising some 3,000 Hebrew manuscripts, c. 7,000 Genizah fragments and ca 75,000 printed books.
Since 2010, Ilana has been Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies. In addition to being responsible for the significant British Library’s Hebraic collections, she also manages the Library’s Christian Orient collections, which include the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Georgian and Syriac holdings.
Ilana has been the Lead Curator responsible for the smooth running and delivery of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project, a major, externally funded project undertaken by the British Library, 2013-2020. In 2009, Ilana was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to scholarship.
About The British Library:
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and gives access to the world’s most comprehensive research collection. They provide information services to academic, business, research and scientific communities.
The Library has a collection of over 170 million items includes artefacts from every age of written civilisation. They keep the nation’s archive of printed and digital publications, adding around three million new items to their collection every year.
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