JHOM - Bookshelf - Italian Genizah

by Prof. Mauro Perani
Part 2:  Background information

Where did the bookbinders find so many Hebrew manuscripts to re-employ in this way? If we analyze the period in which the phenomenon of re-employment is most wide-spread, that is the 16th and 17th centuries, we realize it is linked to the spread of printing. Indeed, print determined the slump in the price of manuscripts, which quickly became obsolete. Manuscripts were often difficult to read and required much time and money to produce; on the other hand, the clear and finely printed à la mode editions were more economical and more easily accessible.

On the basis of the chronological connection between the confiscation of Hebrew books made by the ecclesiastical authorities and the time of their re-employment, there is a tendency to assume the Inquisitorial origin of part of the Hebrew manuscripts dismembered; the books, confiscated by the Inquisition's authorities, were then bought by bookbinders at a low price instead of being burnt.

Contrary to what was commonly assumed, the single archivists or local notaries did not themselves dismember the manuscripts to bind their own registers with the parchment folia obtained. From the research it is clear that the registers were packaged and bound in bookbinder's establishments in the main towns. They were later sold by the cartularii to the notaries and to various institutions in the region. This is proved by the fact that sheets belonging to the same manuscript have been found in places quite distant from each other but in the same region.[1]

Part 1:  The discovery  |  Part 2  Background information  |  
Part 3:  Research methodology  |  Part 4:  Content of findings


[1] The most significant sample is the finding of two sheets from the same manuscript containing the Sefer Mordekay with commentaries, one of them was found in Modena, while the other one in the Archives of the Curia in Mantua.



Subscribe to the JHOM mailing list for updates.

Contact us

Tell a friend


tJHOM - Tishrei menu