The written word holds sacred value to Jewish people and this means that books have always played a central role in the development and transmission of their religion and culture. During the Middle Ages, the art of the book became the chief medium of artistic creativity for Jewish communities in Europe and the Near East. Today we have striking evidence of their belief in the power of the written word in the beautifully decorated Bibles, liturgies, and legal codes that have survived and been preserved by the British Library.
In Hebrew Manuscripts, Ilana Tahan explores the fascinating milieu that Jewish scribes and artists worked in during the medieval period. With Judaism widely suppressed, these bookmakers were heavily influenced by the artistic trends of the majority cultures that surrounded them. This isolation from other Jewish communities led to two dominant traditions within Hebrew illumination styles: those that drew from Islamic art for inspiration and those that exhibited an affinity with Christian methods. Nonetheless, the exquisitely crafted images reproduced here are a vivid testimony to a distinctly Jewish creativity and passion for books and an enthralling look into the world of Jewish rituals and customs.
About the Author
Ilana Tahan is curator of Hebrew texts at the British Library and the author of "Memorial Volumes to Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust: A Bibliography of British Library Holdings," also published by the British Library.
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