The Jewish Book: Material Texts and Comparative Contexts
Over the last half-century, the critical study of the history of material texts in all its forms—from orality to the hypertext—has entered the academic mainstream. In Jewish studies there have been few opportunities to consolidate the various advances made in the study of the Jewish book, and even fewer to contextualize the Jewish book fully within the history of the book at large. During the 2005–2006 year, fellows from around the world studied all facets of the Jewish book—treating it as a historical agent in Jewish culture and as a medium of exchange within the larger cultures in which Jews have lived. Developing a close partnership with Penn’s well-known Workshop in the History of Material Texts, the fellows integrated Jewish data with the history of technology, distribution, reading practices, censorship, trade networks, and more. Treating the book as a commodity permitted a deeply complex account of the entanglement of Jewish and non-Jewish life throughout the past two millennia. The volume that emerged from this year focused on one segment of this history, The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy (2011), edited by Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear.