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Presented by the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvani

2013 Penn Lectures in Judaic Studies: What Matters About the Jewish Middle Ages?


Hebrew Treasures in the Spanish Collections: The Lives and Afterlives of Books from Medieval Spain 

Join Esperanza Alfonso, Research Fellow at the Center for Social and Human Sciences, Spanish National Research Council, as she walks us through the rooms of a virtual exhibition of Hebrew medieval manuscripts from Spain.

This virtual exhibition—based on one held in 2012 at the Spanish National Library—includes luxurious biblical codices beautifully produced and lavishly illuminated; books of grammar; liturgical texts used in both private and community services; commentaries on the Bible; and polemic works. Of all these manuscripts only a few remained in the Iberian Peninsula after the expulsion of 1492 and, in some cases, Hebrew manuscripts were torn apart and used as filling material in the carpet pages of other books.

The vast majority of the texts, however, left the Peninsula with their expelled owners sometime before 1498 only to return to Spain after years of “exile.” In walking these virtual rooms the audience will see that the fate of books was closely tied with the lives of those who produced, illuminated, and owned them. Esperanza Alfonso authored Islamic Culture through Jewish Eyes: Al-Andalus from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century (2007) and coedited Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond (2010).

Event type:Lectures & Discussions