Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Hebrew Exodus Manuscript in Arabic Script (BM Or 2540)

Browsing the digitized manuscripts of the British Library today, I happened across a wonderful manuscript that I had never seen before, and I thought it might be worth highlighting. BM Or 2540 is the remnants of a Karaite codex containing the Hebrew text of Exodus 1:1-8:5 in Arabic script. The Karaites are well-known for their intense interest in the text, and it is possible that some--or even many--important Masoretes were Karaites. Dated roughly to around the 10th century, this manuscript is a rather early example of a Masoretic codex, probably earlier than the famous Leningrad Codex. The Hebrew text is written in Arabic letters in black ink (with differences in orthography), with Tiberian vowels added in red and accents in green. It is quite a beautiful and interesting example of the flexibility of Jewish scribes with unique combinations of scripts and languages. Not only were many different languages written in Jewish/Hebrew square scripts, but also Hebrew language text could be written in other types of scripts.