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University of Pennsylvania buys medieval Hebrew manuscript collection

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The works, which are fragments and date from the 10th to 12th centuries, will be housed at the university’s Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.


A leaf (folio) from a Hebrew manuscript of Psalms, which dates to early 10th-century Syria, or maybe Israel. An Esther scroll written on deerskin, likely from 18th-century Iran. A fragment from a 14th-century Spanish Bible that includes the unusual addition of the Apocryphal Scroll of Antiochus where one would expect Masoretic comments.

These and other items are part of a collection recently purchased and announced by the University of Pennsylvania.

The collection had belonged to former University of Virginia classics professor Marvin Colker, who was the Trinity College, Dublin manuscript cataloger.

Christie’s put the collection—161 lots, largely Christian manuscripts and fragments—up for sale last December. Lot 140 was titled “A Judaica group,” or “A collection of leaves and fragments, in Hebrew (Mid-East and Europe, 10th to 18th centuries).” The group sold on Dec. 12, 2022, for about $21,250 above the estimated range.

According to Christie’s, the group consisted of scrolls and scroll fragments, manuscript leaves and manuscript fragments, complete and partial books, birth records from a Yemenite family and tefillin.

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