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The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

Genizah Fragments

The Newsletter of Cambridge University's
Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit
at Cambridge University Library

No. 48 October 2004

joined manuscripts
'A new discovery in the great man's own hand'
A photograph showing how the upper fragment at Cambridge (University Library, Or.1081 2.44, recto) belongs together with the two lower fragments at Manchester (Rylands, Gaster Collection, B2597 and B4094, recto)

Maimonides autographs linked

It is fitting that the Genizah Research Unit should mark the 800th anniversary of the death of Moses Maimonides (1135 or 1138-1204) not only with an exhibition in the Library celebrating his life and work, but also by the discovery of a new folio in the great man's own hand.

I had the good fortune to identify a previously unknown autograph fragment of his philosophical work, Dalalat al-Ha`irin (The Guide for the Perplexed), while preparing a handlist of Hebrew letters in the Genizah collections at Cambridge University Library, in a piece of research funded partly by the Friedberg Genizah Project.

The new fragment was discovered late on a Friday afternoon while I was examining the contents of the binder Or.1081.2.

This contains a varied selection of liturgy and late documents that derive originally from the Cairo Genizah but were bought from the bookseller S. Raffalovich at around the time of Solomon Schechter's famous visit to Egypt in 1896-97.

The autograph fragment Or.1081.2.44 - of which only the top two-thirds of the leaf is preserved - is torn and stained, making the text difficult to read in places. This is probably why it has remained unnoticed by scholars until now.

There have been five previous discoveries of autograph fragments of the Guide in Genizah manuscript collections, the last being made over ten years ago. All are written in the difficult, cursive hand that Maimonides employed in his draft works, and it is likely that all stem from the same draft copy of the Guide.

The new find is no exception, being written in Maimonides's unmistakeable (and, at times, barely legible) cursive hand, and on the same type of paper.

The text is from the Guide II.30 and deals with the Genesis story, in particular the creation of Eve and the history of the serpent. There are corrections, deletions and marginal additions, which result in frequent differences from the published edition.

Exciting as the initial find was, it was even more gratifying to learn that it could be linked to a previous discovery.

In 1982, Simon Hopkins (formerly of the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library) found two small autograph fragments of the Guide in the Gaster Collection of the John Rylands University Library, Manchester - Rylands Gaster B2597 and B4094 - which he fitted together to form the lower third of a single leaf.

When I saw a photograph of them, it was immediately clear to me that this was the missing part of the new Cambridge leaf. The Rylands kindly provided us with a digital image of the two Gaster fragments which Ellis Weinberger, of the Genizah Unit, and Scott Maloney, of our Imaging Services, then combined with an image of Or.1081.2.44.

The result was a complete leaf of Maimonides's draft of the Guide, re-formed from three separate fragments, divided between two university libraries.

My colleague in the Unit, Dr Friedrich Niessen, and I have completed an article on the new autograph, with a transcription, notes and plates, which is scheduled to appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Jewish Studies.

Given that, after over 100 years of Genizah research, new Maimonidean autographs are still being discovered in the Cambridge Genizah collections, we are hopeful that yet more remain to be found.

Ben Outhwaite
Research Associate, Genizah Research Unit

Leigh Chipman describes how her work with Dr Efraim Lev on medical and pharmaceutical fragments led to a more precise identification of another Maimonides autograph.

A wonderful experience

When, during his year in the Genizah Research Unit, Dr Efraim Lev asked me [Leigh Chipman] if I would like to work with him on a project to identify fragments of medical and pharmaceutical works from the Cairo Genizah, I was thrilled.

What student of the medieval Islamic world would fail to jump at such a chance, particularly one such as I, currently engaged on writing a dissertation on the social history of medieval Egyptian pharmacy?

Our starting point was from the many Genizah fragments identified by the late Dr Haskell Isaacs as pertaining to medicine and pharmacy.

After Dr Lev divided these into prescriptions, personal notebooks and books proper, I began to work on the identification of the last-mentioned category.

''Identification'' in this context refers to two things: first, the identification of a fragment as belonging to a copy of a particular work; and second, the identification of a number of fragments (classmarks) as constituting parts of the same original manuscript.

With the kind co-operation of Dr Nikolaj Serikoff, of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, London, we have been able to make use of a database of chapter-headings found in all the Arabic medical manuscripts in the Wellcome Library collection.

This has made possible the identification of several fragments as belonging to copies of Ibn al-Jazzar's Kitab al-I`timad fi al-adwiya al-mufrada (a book that does appear in several book-lists found in the Genizah, but not identified by Isaacs), and of Ibn al-Nafis's Mujiz al-qanun.

The most efficient database of all, of course, is that carried in the researcher's head. I have been fortunate enough to identify several separate manuscripts, in both Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic, of the two pharmaceutical works that I am most familiar with: Ibn Abu al-Bayan's al-Dustur al-bimaristani (eleven copies), and Abu al-Muna al-Kuhin al-`Attar's Minhaj al-dukkan (five).

These works - the first intended for the hospital pharmacist, and the other aimed at the private pharmacist in his shop - are both known to have been extremely popular, and both were written by Cairene Jews. Until now, neither has been identified in the Genizah collections.

The most exciting finds, however, were an autograph fragment of Maimonides's epitome of Galen's On Affections, and a page in Judaeo-Arabic from Sabur ibn Sahl's pharmacopoeia, the oldest known dispensatory in Arabic, which survives in very few manuscripts and quotations in other works. Both are currently being prepared for publication.

The Maimonides autograph had been the subject of earlier research by S. M. Stern, Paul Fenton and H. D. Isaacs and will now be more closely studied in the context of a complete edition and translation.

As new books are identified, we are obtaining a better idea of what to look for, and are constantly returning to previously-examined fragments to check whether they are copies of a new work.

In several cases, all that remain of the original writing are the rubrics listing the names of the various recipes.

The thrill of being able to make a positive identification of a book hitherto unknown in the Genizah must be one of the most wonderful experiences academic work can provide.

Leigh Chipman
Goitein Memorial Prize (2004), Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Part-time Research Assistant, Genizah Research Unit

The staff of the Genizah Research Unit (in Dr Avihai Shivtiel's absence abroad) at a dinner in honour of Dr Efraim Lev and Mrs Michal Lev (front row, right), before their return to Israel after his sabbatical year in the Unit and as overseas scholar at St John's College

Why T-S research has flourished

In an earlier article in Genizah Fragments (No. 47, April 2004), I offered my assessment of the degree to which the Genizah Research Unit has made Cambridge's great Genizah resource accessible to the world of scholarship and has succeeded in spreading knowledge about the collection.

While such achievements relate to the immediate aims of collection management, another matter now to be considered is how the Cambridge Genizah texts function within wider academic activities, both at the University of Cambridge and beyond it.

In the context of providing a library service, the Unit has developed along special lines, in the direction of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research on Genizah topics, and has turned what might have been a limitation into a distinct advantage.

However large a proportion of Genizah material is found in Cambridge, the fact is that such a source is only part of a collection that originated in one place, itself limited to the first few centuries of the second millennium. This invites the suggestion that there lies here the danger of a restricted dimension.

Treatment of all the Genizah material as a total entity, however, is a different matter. Given that it sheds light on daily life during those centuries and, to a lesser degree, on some subsequent centuries, it becomes a multi-disciplinary test-case that provides a wealth of information not only about Jewish life, but also about numerous aspects of the whole medieval Mediterranean experience.

This ranges from children's doodling and magical amulets to folios of draft copies personally penned by leading scholars and thinkers.

What is remarkable - although it is now becoming virtually self-evident at the end of the first generation of Genizah Unit activity - is that, despite the potential obstacles to developing a centre for academic Jewish studies in Cambridge, Genizah research has flourished, and has done so where the collection is housed, in a university library, and in a unit that might have been seen merely as part of a library service.

The reason for this lies in the appointment, as director of the Unit, of an academic researcher with administrative talent and orientation who saw as his mission not only the creation of research tools, but also the practice of research itself.

Academic research centres are assessed (and indeed today financed) in accordance with their achievements in the areas of innovation, the creation of new methodologies, the publication of books and articles in competitive contexts, and the wide dissemination of such information in the universal community of scholars.

While the Unit took its first steps with the support of an international group of senior scholars who headed their respective fields of Genizah research, it also appointed promising young men and women to full-time and part-time posts.

The tasks that faced them were, in a sense, library tasks, but the degree of expertise and competence required for a successful completion gradually ensured their training and emergence as scholars at the forefront of their fields. Almost all of those young people who occupied posts of limited tenure created in the Unit have ultimately become senior scholars.

The earliest recognition of the Unit's research direction, together with a high academic evaluation of its efforts, appears to have come from outside of Cambridge.

International scholarly societies sought to hold their academic conferences specifically in Cambridge so that they could benefit from closeness to the Genizah collection and to the Unit.

Researchers in the Unit were invited to universities that led the way in related fields and to research projects at institutes of advanced study in Europe and beyond.

Their articles were accepted for publication by the most prestigious journals, and their books appeared under the imprint of fastidious publishing-houses. And the world's finest scholars made links with the Unit and had their descriptions of Genizah material appear in the Genizah Series published by Cambridge University Press.

Gradually, the Unit was also recognized within the University of Cambridge itself, and its researchers came to participate prominently in seminars; to surpervise students for higher degrees; to engage actively in faculties and committees; and to win recognition by way of academic appointments and senior promotions.

An interesting question is whether such developments amount to a recognition of the talents of specific individuals or an appreciation of the Genizah's importance as one of the most distinguished areas of research in the humanities and social sciences.

The answer to this question lies with the relevant authorities in the University of Cambridge. The manner in which they choose to look upon this subject in the next generation may well be based on the outstanding success of the Unit as a library service and as a productive centre of academic research.

Menahem Ben-Sasson
Director of the Ben-Zvi Institute, Professor of Jewish History and former Rector, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Lauffer Family Charitable Trust has kindly followed its practice of earlier years and provided a grant to the T-S Genizah Research Unit to help meet the costs of producing this issue of Genizah Fragments. Its generous assistance comes in memory of David Lauffer, who consistently recognized the Genizah's importance for the study of Jewish history, and was a regular supporter of the T-S Unit.

From the Editor's desk
Lo and behold!

There are times these days when I think that Rabbenu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam, or Maimonides) is looking down at us from his research unit on high and doing all in his power to encourage us to commemorate that day, in December 1204, when he was summoned to take his place in the heavenly academy.

In addition to the various conferences, seminars and lectures that have been held around the academic world, we in the T-S Genizah Unit have also been playing our part in ensuring that the 800th anniversary of the death of the great Cordovan sage receives due attention in a place he would probably have regarded as belonging to the ''far isles of the sea''.

Some two years ago, this newsletter treated its readers to an interesting scholarly exchange between Genizah researchers on the subject of the possible attribution of a Cambridge Genizah fragment to Maimonides himself.

Then, in the early summer of this year, we arranged an exhibition of a number of Genizah fragments, most of them in the handwriting of the rabbi who led Cairene Jewry for some forty years in the twelfth century, and others closely related to his life and work.

Lo and behold, what should happen almost immediately afterwards but that two of the Unit's researchers should come across previously unknown or unedited fragments of his halakhic, philosophical and medical works written in Judaeo-Arabic - and, this time, undoubtedly in his own cursive hand. (Detailed descriptions of these will soon appear in scholarly periodicals.)

And there suddenly appears to be a real possibility that some of Cambridge University Library's most precious Maimonidean items may make an appearance on exhibition in one or two North American cities early next year.

Maimonides was a scholar who deeply respected the past, involved himself enthusiastically in the present, took full advantage of contemporary developments, and thought very carefully about what the future had to hold.

Perhaps we in Genizah research can offer him the ultimate accolade of attempting assiduously to follow his example.

We can continue to value highly these precious manuscript testimonies to the past, utilize the finest technology in describing and disseminating them, and make thoughtful plans about how best to continue the work in the coming generation.

Stefan C. Reif
Director, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

person and display case
Research Associate Dr Ben Outhwaite arranging the University Library's exhibition of fragments relating to Maimonides

Exhibition finds a permanent home

The Genizah Research Unit recently arranged an exhibition at Cambridge University Library of Maimonidean autographs and other manuscripts relating to his life.

Since the available show-cases were not considered to have a high enough security level for such valuable manuscripts, superbly detailed digital images were printed of each fragment by Scott Maloney, of the Library's Imaging Services, and Jim Bloxon, of the Conservation Department. Once the facsimiles were in the cases, it was virtually impossible to distinguish them from the originals.

Most of the fourteen fragments were written in Maimonides's hand and featured letters and responsa. The latter included a fragment discussing the permissibility of a man marrying his nephew's widow. Maimonides's reply, scrawled at the end of the folio, reads, in his customarily pithy style: ''The answer: he is permitted to marry her. Written by Moses.''

Other responsa dealt with the dangers of oaths made in anger, and allegations of sexual shenanigans against a well-respected teacher. Additional autographs on display included drafts of such well-known works as the Mishneh Torah, Guide for the Perplexed and Commentary on the Mishnah.

Among lesser-known items were a draft in Judaeo-Arabic of his Arabic-language treatise on sex and aphrodisiacs (the pages on display dealt with the efficacy of drinking ''iron water'' and the dangers to the libido of cucumbers), and a chapter from a lost work on the laws of the Jerusalem Talmud.

Following the exhibition, it was felt that such an interesting display of material should have a more permanent home. To that end, Ellis Weinberger and Ben Outhwaite have re-created the exhibition on the Genizah Unit's web site.

It can be found at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Taylor-Schechter/maimonides-exhibition.html, where there are detailed images of all the fragments, together with extensive descriptions and new translations.

Pittsburgh grant boosts projects

Important contributions to the Unit's funds over recent weeks have ensured that the usual rate of progress will not be hampered in the new financial year for lack of support.

The Sansom-Eligator Foundation in Pittsburgh made a generous grant of $20,000, through Cambridge in America, for the specific needs of the Genizah material and the work being done on it at Cambridge University Library.

Following a day spent in the Unit hearing about recent research on medical and pharmacological fragments - in which they have special interests - long-time supporters Dr Ralph and Mrs Zahava Kohn kindly arranged, in addition to their regular donation of £500, for a special award of £5,000 in the current year from the Kohn Foundation.

Welcome news also came from the Friedberg Genizah Project and the John S. Cohen Foundation, confirming that both will again be supporting the Unit's efforts in the coming months. The total support in this connection will exceed £76,000.

Helpful assistance also came from the Samuel Sebba Charitable Trust (£2,500) and from the R. M. Burton 1998 Charitable Trust (£1,000), with renewals of support gratefully received from the Goldberg Family Charitable Trust (£400) and the Louis and Mrs M. Shenkin Charities Fund (£300).

Many gifts reached us via Cambridge in America, including important help from Julie and Roger Baskes ($1,000), the Golden Family Foundation ($1,000), and Ms J. Cynthia Weber ($200).

The Unit acknowledges with thanks the contributions of the Benjamin Leighton Charitable Trust (£250), the Ruth and Jack Lunzer Charitable Trust (£250), the R & M Phillips Charitable Trust (£250), and the Sternberg Foundation (£250).

It was also encouraging to have the support of the Harbour Charitable Trust (£150), the Harry and Gertrude Landy Charitable Trust (£100), Mr Elliot Phillip (£150), the Rofeh Trust (£100), and the Rubin Foundation Charitable Trust (£150).

Unit researchers are also grateful for many other smaller and anonymous gifts amounting to over £1,500.

three people
Research Assistant Leigh Chipman (right) explaining to Manchester visitors Professor Philip Alexander and Dr Renate Smithuis how descriptions of the Judaeo-Arabic material in the Taylor-Schechter Collection are prepared with the help of the computer

Saudi guest at Library

As has become customary in recent years, a large variety of individuals and groups with particular interests in Genizah documents has visited the University Library over the past few months and seen some especially striking examples of the genre.

His Royal Highness Prince Turki al-Faisal, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Court of St James's, was shown petitions to the twelfth-century Fatimid caliphs and Arabic translations of Greek medical tracts.

A number of early Judaeo-Arabic cheques, and letters from a Jewish trader in India, were displayed and explained for the benefit of visiting banker, Mr Hyder M. Habib, and his wife, Zubeida.

Other distinguished visitors included Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Communal Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London, and his wife, Estelle; the well-known authority on Jewish cuisine, Claudia Roden; and the Israeli novelist, Abraham Balaban.

Philip Alexander, Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature at the University of Manchester, and Renate Smithuis, Genizah researcher at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, spent a day at the Unit acquainting themselves with its methods with a view to improving progress with their own Genizah project.

Among Cambridge organizations that arranged for their members to view fragments, and to hear about their significance, were the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, the Hebrew Ulpan at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, and the University Jewish Society.

Other visitors came from Edgware Reform Synagogue and the Hujjat Islamic Centre in Stanmore (jointly), Finchley United Synagogue, the Jewish Agency, the Jüdische Schule Knaben in Zürich, the National Art Collections Fund, and the Modern Hebrew class at the University of Manchester.

Generous supporters of the Unit and numerous professors from various universities around the world were also invited to see some of the Genizah collection during their visits to Cambridge.

How you can help the T-S Unit

If you would like to receive Genizah Fragments regularly, to enquire about the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, or to know how you may assist with its preservation and study, please write to: Professor S. C. Reif, Director of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DR, England.

The Library may also be reached by fax (01223) 333160, or by telephone (01223) 333000. The Internet access is at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Taylor-Schechter. Enquiries by e-mail should be addressed to genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk.

All contributions to the Unit, whether for research or other activities, are made to the ''University of Cambridge'', which enjoys charitable status for tax and similar purposes.

In the USA ''Cambridge in America'' supports the Taylor-Schechter Collection with its unfunded grant number 7/78. Please contact the Director of the Annual Appeal at: 309 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10019-7399 (tel: 212-984-0960).

''Cambridge in America'' is recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization, and contributions for the benefit of the Genizah Research Unit are legally deductible for USA income tax purposes. Contributions are similarly deductible in Canada even if made directly to the Development Office at the University of Cambridge.

Edited by Stefan C. Reif and printed by Cambridge Printing, the printing business of Cambridge University Press
If you have any questions, please e-mail genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk
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