A comprehensive cataloguing and an historical recherche of the collection of Hebrew manuscripts held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) still remains a desideratum. The collaborative project Bibliothèque Nationale “Hebraica”: Hebrew Manuscripts in Paris (BiNaH), aims at filling this gap. The project's objective is on the one hand, to prepare the first complete and updated catalogue of the BNF Hebrew manuscripts, on the other to write the history of the collection, through an in-depth research of the different components, legacies and intellectual endeavours behind the acquisition and assembling of the BNF’s Hebrew collection. The BNF collection is one of the richest worldwide including almost 1500 Hebrew manuscripts. Assembled through the centuries from various important legacies, these manuscripts date from the middle ages to the modern era and originate from all over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This remarkable corpus includes manuscripts on different topics: Biblical codices and Torah scrolls, Biblical commentaries, Talmudic and rabbinic texts, theological treatises, prayer books, and historical works. It also includes documents from everyday life, philosophical, scientific, medical, lexicographical, magical and mystical treatises. Some manuscripts are splendidly illuminated, others are kabbalistic parchments that once belonged to humanists and Hebraists. The unique stories and intellectual endeavours behind the acquisition and assembling of the Hebrew collection of the BNF still remain to be explored. Its history is intimately linked not only to Jewish cultural history but to the inner development of French history and European civilization. The duty of preserving and enhancing these invaluable treasures is at the heart of BiNaH project. The project will be hosted at IRHT (IRHT, irht.cnrs.fr/, CNRS UPR 841, Paris) and coordinated by Dr. Emma ABATE (researcher at IRHT) in collaboration with the BNF, in the person of Dr. Laurent HÉRICHER (chief curator of the Department of Oriental manuscripts). The codicological, palaeographical and historical investigation of the manuscripts will be carried out by an international team of scholars in the field of Hebrew codicology and palaeography, iconography, Jewish Studies, and with the technical support of the IRHT Digital humanities pole. The principal aims of the project BiNaH are the following: (1) To publish a complete fully updated catalogue, in print and online, of the Hebrew manuscripts collection held at the BNF. (2) To create a database, serving the specific purpose of cataloguing Hebrew manuscripts and structuring catalogue records, and an open-access and collaborative web platform enabling users to access the in-depth descriptions in the database and all existing information about each manuscript. The database and the web platform will be completely interoperable with other existing systems, granting exchange with major digital images repositories and open-source projects, such as Gallica (gallica.bnf.fr/), and Ktiv (web.nli.org.il/). (3) To publish a collective volume highlighting the history and the treasures of the BNF Hebrew collection. This historical investigation will be conducted on the basis of in-depth research into the available archival and by following the intellectual paths of scribes, owners and collectors who moulded the private collections behind the BNF Hebrew collection. This project will considerably improve our knowledge in the domains of Hebrew manuscripts and of Hebrew book culture and literacy from the middle ages through the early modern period. Its final goal is to enhance the knowledge of an invaluable cultural heritage and to facilitate its preservation.
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