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Cambridge University Library

Book and Article: Literary Snippets

T-S Misc. 17.5
T-S Misc.17.5. Hebrew title page of Pitron Ḥalomot, the first book ever printed in Egypt.
Author: 
Ben Outhwaite
Fri 27 Oct 2023

Today we are announcing a new piece of Genizah research and a new book in the field of book history from our friends over at Gorgias Press. This book, titled Literary Snippets: Colophons Across Space and Time, is a collection of essays examining the widespread phenomenon of ‘colophons’ in manuscript culture. From Gorgias Press:

The colophon, the ultimate or “crowing touch” paragraphs of a manuscript or a book, provides readers with a the historical context in which the scribe produced the manuscript (or the publisher, a book). At its most fundamental level, the colophon gives us the “metadata” of the manuscript: who was the scribe? When and where was the manuscript produced? For whom was it produced and who paid for it? But colophons are far more rich. They are literary works in their own right, having a style and rhetoric independent of the main literary text of the manuscript. Some are assertive, providing contextual data about the scribe/publisher and manuscript/book; others are expressive, demonstrating the scribe’s feelings and wishes. Some are directive, asking the reader for an action; others declarative, providing all sorts of statements about the scribe/publisher or even the reader. The latter sometimes provide historical facts otherwise lost to histories: wars, earthquakes, religious events, legal agreements, etc. This edited volume brings together scholars from various disciplines to study colophons in various languages and traditions across space and time.

One of the chapters in this book comes from the GRU’s own Dr. Nick Posegay, titled “Hebrew Printing and Printers’ Colophons in the Cairo Genizah: Networking Book Trade in Europe and the Ottoman Empire.” While we mostly talk about handwritten manuscripts in the Genizah, Nick’s article looks at the understudied portion of the collection that consists of books made with European printing presses. It is the first wide survey of printed material in the Cairo Genizah, identifying Hebrew books printed in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, Germany, Poland, Austria, and Anatolia between 1500 and 1900.

You can read Dr. Posegay’s Genizah article here or download the entire Literary Snippets book for free from this link.

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