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Prof. Emile Schrijver examining an Esther Scroll, Rylands Hebrew MS 22.

Prof. Emile G. L. Schrijver examining an Esther Scroll, Rylands Hebrew MS 22.

On 30 April Professor Emile G. L. Schrijver, Professor of Jewish Book History at the University of Amsterdam and curator of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana there, delivered the Second Annual John Rylands Research Institute Lecture. Professor Schrijver spoke about Jewish book culture since the invention of printing, focusing on the Library’s remarkable collections of Jewish manuscripts and printed books. He told his audience: “The name and fame of this great library, its building and its holdings, are legendary among researchers in my own field and beyond and it is an humbling experience to represent the scholarship on Jewish books in this imposing temple of learning.”

Thanks to digitisation efforts around the world, our understanding of the richness of Jewish book culture is rapidly evolving. Important discoveries are continually being made and the history of this subject must be rewritten. Schrijver commented on his own experiences during two preparatory visits to the Library, “I kept on finding new material that is of relevance to the study of Jewish books since the invention of printing.” Picking up on a theme of Ann Blair’s lecture in 2014, Schrijver discussed the continuities between manuscripts and printed books in the early modern period, as well as relationships between Jewish scribes and printers and their non-Jewish contemporaries.

The earliest known example of an Italian illustrated Magillah, or Esther scroll, 1618. Hebrew MS 22.

The earliest known example of an Italian illustrated Magillah, or Esther scroll, 1618. Hebrew MS 22.

You can watch a video of Professor Schrijver discussing the vital work of research institutes such as the JRRI, the importance of making primary sources accessible to students and scholars, and the need for libraries to be at the forefront of digital humanities initiatives, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRzozahgtss.