Jewish Book Culture in the Islamicate World is an international collaborative project. Its aim is to study Jewish books, their makers and their readers in the medieval eastern Mediterranean. JBC draws on a large corpus of manuscripts produced in Egypt and the Near East in the ninth to thirteenth centuries and on the wealth of information about books, their production, trade, collecting and reading found in literary texts, documents and letters from the Cairo Geniza. The project enrols multidisciplinary methods of codicology, palaeography and general book history to study books as objects and as essential actors in the transmission of texts, practices and ideas.

The medieval Islamicate world encompassed the world's most bookish societies. Hand-copied books were produced in unprecedented numbers, new book materials and techniques emerged, calligraphy and collecting became marks of intellectual refinement not only among Muslims, but also among religious minorities. The Jews, for whom books and the Book, the Bible, had been central in religious and intellectual life for centuries, partook fully in the bookish revolution by adopting new book forms, literary genres, modes of production and diffusion and new attitudes to books and readership.

Our project explores these transformations, and investigates to what extent Muslim book production affected the book culture of the Jews, making it depart drastically from antique and late-antique models. We will analyse the impact both on the materiality and aesthetics of Jewish books, as well as on connected intellectual and social aspects, such as the spread of literacy, changing modes of interaction between oral and written transmission, the growth of professional book production, its economic basis and the foundation of Jewish libraries and institutions of learning.

JBC undertakes for the first time a comprehensive and multifaceted study of Jewish books of the Islamicate world. It draws on a large corpus of carefully selected dated and datable manuscripts produced in Egypt and the Near East mostly in the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods: codices, scrolls and rotuli kept in major world libraries, as well as fragments from the Cairo Genizah and the Firkovitch collections. JBC examines these manuscripts in terms of their making: their structure, materials, scripts and handwriting; their context of production; as well as in term of their reception: practices of reading and the impact of the books' materiality on the transmission of knowledge.

The large corpus of Jewish Book Culture has been processed by our project members and collaborators to extract all relevant information and make it available in the two databases built for that purpose: the JBC database and the Hebrew Palaeography Digital Album. Furthermore, the website of the JBC offers access to the project's collective monograph Handbook of the Jewish Book Culture in the Islamicate World, a glossary that describes every feature of the research, benefiting from its results.


The Jewish Book Culture in the Islamicate World project has been funded by the DFG/ Arts and Humanities Research Council bilateral English-German research programme, a grant of the Association Française pour la Promotion des Études Juives and the support of SAPRAT-EPHE.

Our Database Collection

Jewish Book Culture in the Islamicate World is a partner of the HebrewPal project, which is an international collaborative project.

The HebrewPal and Jewish Book Culture projects have together produced a collection of three thematically related databases:

JBC icon

Jewish Book Culture offers a comprehensive searchable corpus of sources for the history of the Hebrew book in the Islamicate world. It consists of three parts: descriptions of manuscripts, editions and translations of documents concerning books and quotations about books in literature.

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JBC Handbook icon

This is an alphabetic encyclopaedic glossary of Jewish Book Culture in the medieval Islamicate World.

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HebrewPal icon

HebrewPal is a pioneering Hebrew script database. It follows an original palaeographical approach. The analysis of the script is carried out from the global view of the script sample, through the study of individual words and letters to the details of the components of every letter.

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