The MOBIA staff took a trip across town to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibition Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Library. On view until February 3 – two short days away – the exhibition showcases over fifty Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic manuscripts from the Bodleian Library at Oxford in a way that highlights the exchange of culture and information between Jews, Christians, and Muslims during the medieval age. Here’s what our staff had to say:
A beautiful, splendid, exhibition, I was thrilled to see the famous Kennicott Bible (and its unusual binding). What caught my eye initially and which was also a thrill to see up close was an example of 13th century paper in an Islamic manuscript. Also amazing was the fragment of a 4th century Greek manuscript of the Book of Ezra. 4th century! That is so incredibly old, a thousand years older than the calendar that dates it.
As with any exhibition that is centered on paper, the first thing I was struck by was the fragility of everything; and, in relation to that, how lucky we are to have educational institutions such as libraries that have over time preserved these stunning works and histories. The exhibition was fantastically put together and showed one of the few downsides to the invention of the printing press! What with the odd little creatures dancing around the manuscript borders and illuminating pages radiating more than the accompanying educational iPads.
Amidst an outstanding exhibition, the late 15th century Hebrew Psalter from Spain stood out to me because of its micrography. It’s amazing that the human hand can create text that minute and detailed, and even more, that it can be manipulated into symmetrical designs that are so highly decorative.
Since a child, I’ve always been enamored with old objects, from heirlooms to prints, to manuscripts. The exhibition “Crossing Borders” was a real treat, bringing together centuries-old manuscripts from all parts of the world. Rather than looking at them as mere books, they truly are works of art. The Portalan Map of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Barolomeo Olives of Majora, 1575 was also a sight to behold. It is quite similar to the portalan map MOBIA had on display during Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain. If you look closely, you can see animals that flock from Africa, and you can also find a rendering of the Virgin and Child on the left side next to a compass rose.
The “Crossing Borders” exhibition at the Jewish Museum was so interesting. I loved seeing how three different faiths were all intertwined in the production of the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Qur’an. My favorite was the Holkham Hebrew Bible, 1491 or 1492, which has borrowed woodcut borders from a Christian printer.
It was great to see such beautiful manuscripts and an old friend: the Giustiniani Polyglot Psalter that includes a biography of Columbus as part of its comment to Psalm 19, verse 4. I am proud to announce that our collection has two copies of this book.
Hats off to The Jewish Museum on an exhibition that seamlessly integrated centuries-old manuscripts and recent technology. I’ve never seen (very well utilized) iPads so outshone as they were by the brilliantly colored and wonderfully preserved manuscripts (my personal favorite was an edition of the Gospels written in Syriac).
Catch this show this weekend before it closes! The Jewish Museum is located on 5th Avenue at 92nd Street.