If Jews are the people of the book, what stories do the books themselves tell about the varied communities and intersecting worlds of the scholars, scribes, artists, printers, readers and worshippers who produced and used them? Anyone seeking an answer may find it at the Yeshiva University Museum’s current exhibition in New York, A Journey Through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books.
The historical saga that the objects on display recount is (quite literally) a page-turner””a complex narrative of dispersion and continuity, played out in overlapping and at times conflicting worlds both sacred and secular. (A virtual catalogue can also be viewed online at www.braginskycollection.com.)
The dates of these exceedingly rare and well-preserved illustrated scrolls, wedding contracts, Bible commentaries, prayer books and miscellanies span seven centuries. The earliest item, a copy on parchment of the legal code of rabbinic scholar Moses of Coucy, dates to 1288. They come from several continents: Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and the Middle East.