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Cambridge University Library

Palimpsests, recycled manuscripts, are the focus of ‘Ghost Words: Reading the Past’, Cambridge University Library’s current major exhibition

Ghost Words
Ghost Words: A new exhibition from Cambridge University Library
Ben Outhwaite
Wed 12 May 2021

With the relaxing of Covid restrictions on museums and galleries from the middle of May, I’m pleased to report that ‘Ghost Words’ will finally be open to visitors, six days a week from 24th May. Booking is essential, however, as restrictions have been relaxed but not entirely removed. For more information on what to expect and how to book go to:

‘Ghost Words’ brings together a plethora of CUL’s most important palimpsest manuscripts, and, as you might expect, this includes a fair number from the Genizah Collection. For the first time we are exhibiting the separate leaves of the ‘Yannai Quire’ alongside one another. These are the five surviving leaves from a single gathering of a manuscript containing a copy of Yannai’s poetry. What is extraordinary about this quire, however, is that each leaf is a palimpsest, from several different late antique Christian manuscripts. Foremost among them is a single leaf of the Hexapla, the colossal and ambitious work on the Bible by the Church Father Origen. This is only one of two surviving manuscript witnesses of the Hexapla, and is the earliest, dating to probably the 7th c. It may even have been copied from the original, which was held in the Library of Caesarea.

It’s time to start visiting museums and galleries again, and this exhibition on the history and science of palimpsests is a great opportunity to get close to some of Cambridge’s greatest manuscript treasures.

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