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Discarded History Exhibition - coming to Cambridge in 2017

Genizah manuscripts will be displayed in a special, five-month, public exhibition at Cambridge University Library opening at the end of April 2017.

The exhibition, ‘Discarded History’, will tell the dramatic story of the discovery of the manuscripts 120 years ago, and peer into the medieval society that emerges from their pages. From the first documents recording the discovery of the manuscripts to the nitty, gritty of everyday life: amulets, a child's doodle, letters galore about subjects from ransoming a captive woman to being lost at sea and what we might presume is the most modern of legal agreements - pre-nups! Life laid bare.

You may have visited Cambridge and viewed the Genizah manuscripts before, and this exhibition will be an opportunity to come again, learn something new not only about the manuscripts themselves but also about how we restore and conserve them. Usually kept in our closed stacks, this is a rare opportunity to see manuscripts not normally accessible to the public. 

The 2017 exhibition ‘Discarded History’ is a chance to share the Cairo Genizah with audiences who’ve never heard of it - there’s something to interest everyone! Do you know of a school or educational institution that would be interested in visiting Cambridge to learn about life in medieval Egypt? Please spread the word! Bring your friends! Come and see Maimonides' autograph, Saladin's petition, the Bible in Arabic script and much more.

To celebrate each month of the exhibition, there will be a programme of public lectures and activities. Full details of the exhibition programme will be given on this page and on social media closer to the time.




The Total Archive

A new article by Ben Outhwaite in the journal Limn examines the Cairo Genizah and its effect on scholarship:

A Hoard of Hebrew MSS

On Jewish Prayer

The Genizah Unit is delighted to report that the latest volume in Brill’s Cambridge Genizah Studies series will shortly appear. Stefan Reif, former and founding director of the Unit, Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and expert on the history of Jewish liturgy, has produced an in-depth analysis of some of the most important manuscripts of Jewish prayer to emerge from the Cairo Genizah – our most important source for the analysis of the evolution of the Jewish liturgical traditions. Treating twenty-five fragments in depth, with transcription, translation, and historical and textual commentary, the book offers an erudite and thought-provoking look at a range of liturgical texts, covering everything from the Passover Haggada to an unusual grace after meals. The book will offer a fresh understanding of the historical, theological, linguistic and social factors that have shaped Jewish prayer.


Jewish Prayer Texts from the Cairo Genizah, by Stefan C. Reif (Brill, 2016)

For more information, see:




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