Enfilade

Reviewed | Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on November 27, 2013

While the manuscripts included in this exhibition date from the Middle Ages, there is material pertinent to eighteenth-century collectors, as noted below. And to everyone celebrating Hanukkah (which, of course, most unusually coincides this year with the American Thanksgiving), a very happy holiday! -CH

From caa.reviews:

Piet van Boxel and Sabine Arndt, eds. Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting-place of Cultures, exhibition catalogue (Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2010), 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1851243136, £25.

Exhibition schedule: Jewish Museum, New York, 14 September 2012 — 3 February 2013

Reviewed by Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb; posted 20 November 2013.

9781851243136_p0_v1_s600Illuminated manuscripts offer the best-surviving evidence of Jewish artistic production in the Middle Ages, bearing witness to the tastes of their Jewish patrons, the skills of Jewish scribes, and the aesthetic acuity of Jewish readers and viewers. Jews did not live in isolation, and the artists responsible for the decoration of their books—who were not necessarily Jewish but may have been—both drew from and contributed to the artistic conventions of the dominant culture. ‘Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries’, an exhibition held at the Jewish Museum in New York in 2012–13 and online via the Jewish museum website, provided an opportunity not only to see important, often beautiful examples of rarely shown Hebrew manuscripts, but also to explore the fascinating, complex intellectual and cultural relations between Jews and non-Jews of medieval Europe.

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

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From the exhibition website:

Jan Jiri Baltzer (1738–99), Posthumous Portrait of David Ben Abraham Oppenheimer, Chief Rabbi of Prague, 1773
Engraving after Johann Kleinhard, 7 3/4 x 4 3/8 in. (19.5 x 11.1 cm), The Jewish Museum, New York Gift of Dr. Harry G. Friedman, F 4143

FULL-bodleian_62-000_rabbi-oppenheimer_F4143The collection of Rabbi David Oppenheimer (1664–1736) is his most significant legacy. His more than 780 manuscripts and 4,200 printed books in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic form perhaps the most important private Jewish library ever assembled. For most of his life he was unable to enjoy this treasure, keeping the works at his father-in-law’s home in Hanover to avoid the censorship imposed on Hebrew texts in Prague. After his death, the collection was inherited by a succession of relatives. It was appraised by the Jewish luminary Moses Mendelssohn and ultimately acquired by the Bodleian in 1829.

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A recently discovered Passover Haggadah commissioned in 1726 by one of David Oppenheimer’s relatives sold, incidentally, last week (22 November 2013) for £210,000.

One Response

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  1. Editor said, on November 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Oh, the risks of updating a posting too late in the evening! The original version of this posting offered Passover greetings five months early. I’m afraid I was just gobsmacked by the story of that manuscript found in the garage. My sincere apologies. -Craig


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