The British Library has launched its first ever fully bilingual web resource, providing free access to its spectacular collection of Hebrew manuscripts to researchers worldwide.
The Polonsky Foundation Catalogue of Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts presents scrolls, codices and charters digitised in full, along with explanatory articles, videos and digital tools, offering scholars and the wider public alike the opportunity to explore this world-class collection as never before.
Generously funded by The Polonsky Foundation, the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project involves the photography, description and where necessary preservation of 1,300 items in the British Librarys collection of Hebrew manuscripts, ranging from illuminated service books to Torah scrolls, from scientific and anatomical treatises to great works of theology and philosophy.
The projects website acts as a showcase for the collection, with images of highlight items and interpretive and contextual articles on subjects including Kaballah and mysticism, Hebrew bibles, Jewish communities in the Middle Ages and the process of conserving embroidered Torah mantles.
Video clips include time-lapse footage showing the meticulous work involved in digitising fragile scrolls, as well as presentations from the November 2016 conference on Hebrew manuscript digitisation by experts from the British Library, the John Rylands Library and the National Library of Israel.
The site has also been developed to support translations between different languages, via a drop-down button on the page. This includes languages that read right-to-left, including Arabic and Hebrew.
The British Library holds one of the worlds greatest collections of Hebrew manuscripts, said Ilana Tahan, the Librarys Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. Digitising and making these beautiful and very important items available online is a huge step forward in opening them up to international scholars and a wider public audience. We hope that, by providing access to the articles and collection highlights in Hebrew as well as English, we will make them accessible to even more people, allowing them to learn more about our incredible collection of Hebrew manuscripts.
She added: The Polonsky Foundation Catalogue of Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts is the first British Library website to offer this function, and the British Library is hugely grateful to The Polonsky Foundation for their generous support throughout this project.
Dr Leonard Polonsky, Chairman of The Polonsky Foundation, said, We are very pleased to support the excellent work of the British Library in expanding the audience for this important cultural heritage.