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Welcome to the 50 Jewish Objects blog

The 50 Jewish Object project is now well under way, so it is time for the official introductions. My name is Stefania Silvestri, and I am the researcher-educator appointed to work in this fascinating 34-months project.

I completed my studies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. There I was a student in the department of Languages and Cultures and throughout my BA and MA I focused on Hebrew and Arabic (for two years), while also undertaking training in the cultural, social and historical aspects of the cultures using these languages. In 2009 I submitted an MA dissertation on several examples of ketubbot, handwritten Jewish marriage contracts, from 18th-century Venice, held at institutions around Venice.

In the same year I moved to Madrid and began my PhD research in Hebrew manuscript production and reception at the Spanish National Research Centre. My thesis, which I submitted and defended in 2013 in Venice, dealt with the production, patronage and distribution of Hebrew Biblical manuscripts from the Iberian Peninsula. I addressed the important roles of the scribe, the illuminator/decorator, the patron and the reader and the interaction of these with the manuscripts, if considered as objects with sacral, liturgical, economical and social dimensions.

After the award of my PhD, I worked as post-doctoral researcher on two cataloguing projects. The first one, Nuova Biblioteca Manoscritta, is based in Veneto, Italy, and is producing an online catalogue and digital library of the manuscripts conserved in the libraries of this region. Within the framework of this project I catalogued the Jewish marriage contract held at the Biblioteca del Museo Correr of Venice.

As research associate of the second project, Catalogue of Codices, Scrolls, and Other Texts in Hebrew Script in the University of Manchester (John Rylands) Library, led by Dr. Renate Smithuis, I was responsible for the day to day cataloguing of the Hebrew manuscripts.

As will be clear from my previous studies and research, I have so far mostly been concerned with manuscripts, and in particular with their codicological and palaeographical aspects, thus considered as complex objects rather than (or more than) solely as conveyors of the written word. In my new role, in the 50 Jewish Objects project, I will use my background in and knowledge of Hebrew manuscripts as objects to continue to work on handwritten books and scrolls, but also to expand my research also to other types of items: printed books, letters, photographs, recordings, and other objects related to Jewish culture, society and life.

I have started the process of selecting the project’s 50 objects, beginning with the very rich Judaica holdings of the University of Manchester collections, in particular those at the John Rylands Library. The Library certainly has some well know Hebrew items, such as the Rylands Haggadah, the Deuteronomy papyrus fragment and a Bomberg Rabbinic Bible. But it also holds other fascinating and lesser known gems that will form part of the corpus of 50 Jewish Objects project.

Being an aspect of the Jewish Studies Partnership of institutions in the North of the British Isles, the project will also include Judaica artefacts from other institutions from Edinburgh to Chester, from Dublin to Leeds. With the specialist help and assistance of academics at these partner institutions, I will complement and complete the selection of 50 Objects with items from these other collections.

I will be writing regularly about the research and activities of the #50jewishobjects here, so I hope you will keep reading, and you can also follow me on twitter @stef_books.



Image: Gaster Hebrew MS 246; Gaster Hebrew MS 2110a; Gaster Amulet 81 - John Rylands University Library Manchester CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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