More Medieval Rebindings - Hebrew Manuscript Institute

On the heels of a previous post, Dr. Ezra Chwat passed along a photo from a Latin manuscript at an Innsbruck monastery (I am assuming the Wilton Basilica based on the file name). It is a rather pretty Latin text, you can see the column rules really well even from this picture (16th? 17th?). It has been rebound relatively recently in red cloth with some nice looking page repair. But whoever rebound it included the Hebrew folios that I am guessing lined the interior of the boards. You can see how intact and useful they are. In his email, Dr. Chwat made the point that if such folios had not been reclaimed and used as material in re-bindings, then they would have simply been read and handled until no longer viable and then buried according to custom. Such is the great blessing of bookbinding, which often recycles important literary artifacts simply because they were handy at the time.

Thanks for the helpful photo!


Speaking of Virtual Geographies - Manufacturing Rome

Crossley recently blogged about the interesting SBL section on "Reading, Theory and the Bible on Reading, Space and Imagined Geographies." And then Google Earth announces the unveiling of a GE reconstruction of ancient Rome:

"Soaring above a virtual reconstruction of the Forum and the Palatine Hill or zooming into the Colosseum to get a lion’s-eye view of the stands, Google Earth’s 400 million users will be able to explore the ancient capital as easily “as any city can be explored today,” Michael T. Jones, chief technology officer of Google Earth, said Wednesday at a news conference at Rome’s city hall."

Talk about your killer apps. Are they going to resurrect Jerusalem as well? Rebuild the temple? Answer some lingering questions about Galilean urban planning? Despite the potential this tech has for the classroom, what an invigorating collaboration between printed and digital scholarship. It is like a virtual incarnation of all the recent movements in New Testament Studies towards social-scientific reconstructions of early Mediterranean culture. Think of it as Manufacturing Rome.


Jewish Book Materials at Modena

Something similar to the project at Perugia I recently blogged about is occurring at the Hebrew Manuscript Institute with volumes from the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena. There are some extensive notes at the above link on the contents of these reclaimed folios, as well as a few descriptions of the actual bindings. I emailed Dr. Chwat for links to or attachments of some more helpful images, as it is still tough from the descriptions alone to determine how these folios were used in the rebinding of 16th century volumes. He responded with the link to the photo at the top of the IMHM.

Though I would love a few dozen more, including shots of some heads and tails, corner folds, pastedowns, etc... this shot is actually pretty helpful. In Dr. Chwat's original blog post, he notes a few somewhat difficult to decipher things. If by "plates" he means "boards," the bindings are fairly regular in that they consist of three bifolia - two for each board (interior?), and one used as a cover material. In the photo you can see that at some point labels in Italian were pasted on each spine. The organic pastes undoubtedly used on these labels are easy to remove. Seeing this photos, I can understand the impulse some bookbinder had - that stack of fine Jewish vellum in the corner of the shop would make excellent cover material. He also notes that there has been some text transfer and imprinting due to the proximity of each folio to another. And then:

"All but two (or possibly three) of the original Hebrew manuscripts are unique (that is- the sole remnant of this particular copy). This is highly unusual, as we are used to finding circulation of folios from particular manuscripts among many locations in Northern Italy and beyond."

Which is pretty nifty for Hebrew scholars. Without more images, I can't think of much else to say about this fascinating collection from a binding standpoint.