Sharing Cultural Treasures of Medieval Judaism

The Psalms, in Hebrew and Latin parallel versions. Image reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College of Oxford University.

Landmark Yeshiva University Museum Exhibition Showcases World’s Most Important Collection of Anglo-Jewish Manuscripts

The Yeshiva University Museum, Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College and The Center for Jewish History will present breathtaking treasures seen in America for the first time with their new exhibition, “500 Years of Treasures from Oxford.” The exhibition chronicles Corpus Christi College’s pioneering role in the study of scripture, humanities and sciences over the course of five centuries and features an array of ancient manuscripts, early-printed books and Tudor silver. The Hebrew collection has been called the most important collection of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts in the world. The College’s Special Collections are normally kept in a vault and rarely accessible, except to researchers.

The Psalms, in Hebrew and Latin parallel versions. Image reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College of Oxford University.

The Psalms, in Hebrew and Latin parallel versions. Image reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College of Oxford University.

The exhibition will be open at the YU Museum, based at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street), from May 14 through August 6, 2017. Among the 50 scintillating works are a 1,000-year old Greek manuscript, a design by Dürer and the first publications of the scientific revolution. Visitors will see a late 12th-century Ashkenazi siddur (book of daily prayers), thought to be the oldest extant anywhere. Owned by a Sephardic Jew from the Iberian Peninsula who had emigrated to England, it contains his handwritten notes in Judeo-Arabic on his business dealings. Other priceless objects include a 13th-century manuscript of Samuel and Chronicles that was used by Christians to learn Hebrew and two of the oldest manuscripts of Rashi in the world.

The show also marks the 500th anniversary of Corpus Christi College’s foundation as the first Renaissance college at Oxford and a center of cross-cultural, cross-religious study. Dazzling illuminated works of literature by Plowman and Chaucer sit alongside texts revealing Renaissance methods in the study of Greek and Latin. The display also contains early printed scientific books exploring the natural and medical worlds – including contemporary sketches of Galileo’s observations of the moon’s surface and a private letter written by Isaac Newton in which he discusses his theory about the orbits of comets.

Rashi, commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. Image reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College of Oxford University.

Rashi, commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. Image reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College of Oxford University.

A rich series of programming at the Center for Jewish History will complement the exhibition – lectures, gallery talks and docent-led tours. Dates and speakers include a talk by Brad Sabin Hill, curator of the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at George Washington University, on June 15; a talk by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen on June 20; a talk by Dr. Lenn Goodman, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, on July 12; and a talk by Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker on July 25.

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