Saturday, June 11, 2016

"European Genizah" and X-Ray Technology

This week I spent a good amount of time with several medievalists in Aix-en-Provence discussing Hebrew Bible manuscripts, which I will write about in more detail in the near future. Many were studying the so-called "European Genizah," which is actually an ironic name for collections of fragments found in the bindings of books from the printing era. Old manuscripts were frequently divided up and their material reused to strengthen and support the covers and bindings of printed books, and there are a number of projects going on nowadays to recover these fragments from their bindings and gain insight into European Bible manuscripts in the late medieval and Renaissance periods. So far, there have been about 900 Hebrew biblical fragments from the 12th-15th centuries recorded in the project Books Within Books, which is a vast treasure trove of material evidence. I always like to point out such numbers to New Testament colleagues who generally seem to be under the illusion that the massive amount of data in NTTC is somehow unique... :)

On a related note, I would also like to point out an article cited by Peter Gurry on ETC that reports the use of macro x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (MA-XRF) to read metallic inks without having to disassemble the book bindings in which the fragments have been placed. It's always nice to have your cake and eat it too, so if we can study the fragments and preserve the bindings, that is quite an important development.

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