skip to content

Cambridge University Library


By Melonie Schmierer-Lee and Nick Posegay on Wed 19 Jun 2024

Nick, you’ve recently published an article about a Bible fragment.

That’s right. Two fragments in fact: T-S NS 305.198 and T-S NS 305.210. They join together to make a single bifolium from an Arabic psalter manuscript. So, a book of Psalms and other liturgical songs that would’ve been sung in Arabic church services. This page is the beginning of the ‘canticles’, a selection of songs from other parts of the Bible that Orthodox churches included at the end of their psalters. The first canticle here is from Exodus 15:1–120. It’s known as the ‘Song of the Sea’, the song... Read More

Has tags: Arabic, Bible, Genizah Fragments, Q&A


By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Fri 7 Jun 2024

Cairo Genizah manuscripts are usually torn or damaged in some way. There are often pieces missing or words that are hard to read where the ink has rubbed or flaked away. But what happened to the missing pieces? Some of the scraps are kept in a crate in our manuscript storage area – blank or believed to be too damaged or fragmentary to be worth conserving, and picked several times over for anything worth assigning a class mark. Towards the bottom of the crate, the fragments become smaller and smaller, until they are just ink crumbs and dust: 'the dust of centuries' as Schechter once... Read More

Has tags: conservation, Genizah Fragments, printed


By Marc Michaels on Fri 7 Jun 2024

My colleague, Estara Arrant posted an image on social media of one of the nine fragments that constitutes T-S K22.16, jokingly remarking that the streaky brown mess resembled a slice of toast.

As one might expect the catalogue entry on these fragments is short. Very short. It consists of one word - ‘illegible’. This of course piqued my interest. What was the ‘toast’ hiding? Also, I love a challenge. Thus, the day after the 2024 Ullendorff lecture, Estara brought the manuscript into the Genizah Unit and we set to work to solve the puzzle.

Whilst we refer to this as toast,... Read More

Has tags: Genizah Fragments, Targum


By Nick Posegay and Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Fri 24 May 2024

We are very excited to announce that our new book, The Illustrated Cairo Genizah, is now available for pre-order! See to order.

2024 marks 50 years since the founding of the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library. To celebrate our 50th birthday, we are publishing a large coffee-table style book to share the highlights of the Cambridge Genizah Collections. 320+ manuscript images are presented over 12 thematic chapters, accompanied by facts, background, and answers to... Read More

Has tags: Book, Genizah Fragments


By Melonie Schmierer-Lee on Mon 20 May 2024

From 15 September 2023 to 31 March 2024, the Centro Sefarad-Israel in Madrid hosted a new bilingual Spanish-English exhibition ‘La Edad de Oro de los Judíos de Alandalús’ (The Golden Age of the Jews of Al-Andalus). In its 6-month run in the atmospheric brick-lined basement of the Centre, the exhibition received 15,000 visitors. For those who were not able to visit, a video tour (in Spanish) of the exhibition is... Read More

Has tags: al-Andalus, exhibition, Genizah Fragments, Moses Maimonides


By Marc Michaels on Tue 30 Apr 2024

As a Sofer STa”M (scribe) one of the tasks I undertake is to write giṭṭin – Jewish divorce documents – sadly, usually one or two a month for the last 25 years.

There are many giṭṭin in the Genizah and, as dated documents,1  with mention of the husband and wife and the ʿedim (witnesses) they provide a window into the society, bringing real people to the fore. However, whilst looking through these, one fragment caught my attention as it was not about the individuals,... Read More

Has tags: divorce, Genizah Fragments, get, marriage, scribe


By Ben Outhwaite on Sun 31 Mar 2024

The Genizah has preserved only a few glimpses of the life of the influential qabbalist Isaac Luria Ashkenazi, the Ari – הארי ז׳׳ל, 1534–72 CE.1 Similarly sparsely attested in the documentary record of the Genizah is his contemporary Joseph Karo, compiler of the Beṯ Yosef and the Šulḥan Aruḵ. Karo spent most of his later career in Safed – about forty years in fact – and was not therefore a firsthand participant in the Egyptian communities preserved in the Cairo Genizah. Luria, on the other... Read More

Has tags: Genizah Fragments, Hebrew, Isaac Luria, Safed


By Sacha Stern on Sat 2 Mar 2024

The Jewish calendar that is in almost universal use today, and in the Middle Ages was associated with the Rabbanites, was instituted at some point in the ninth century (its attribution to a Hillel in the mid-fourth century is a medieval tradition that has long been disproved in modern scholarship).1  It is a fixed calendar, based on a calculation. Its origins are yet to be fully understood, although some of its elements can be traced back to Talmudic sources. The fragment I present here reveals new ‘missing... Read More

Has tags: calendar, Genizah Fragments, Russian National Library


By Catherine Ansorge on Mon 26 Feb 2024

The discovery of the Cairo Genizah manuscript fragments in the synagogue in Al-Fustat, Old Cairo, has already been well documented. In January 1897, Solomon Schechter, the Cambridge rabbinical scholar, made his first visit to the synagogue subsequent to information given to him by the twin sisters Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson that these texts, stored there over centuries, could be of unexpected interest. The twins had visited Cairo briefly the previous year prior to the start of an expedition to look for manuscripts in Cairo and Jerusalem. On their return to Cambridge, they had, with... Read More

Has tags: Agnes Lewis, Genizah Fragments, Margaret Gibson, Solomon Schechter


By Kim Phillips on Thu 8 Feb 2024

Among the most charming of the dozens of thousands of Bible fragments found in the Cairo Genizah,1 are the hundred or so in which the biblical text is written in some sort of shorthand, or abbreviated, manner.2 At least three different methods of abbreviation are found among these manuscripts. Sometimes, only the opening few words of each verse are written (the ‘Lemma Method’). The great pronouncement of comfort in the opening... Read More

Has tags: Bible, FOTM, Genizah Fragments, serugin, Targum, vocalisation