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CCAHA in the News: The Jewish Exponent's "Rosenbach Celebrates Restored 15th-Century Chumash"

The Jewish Exponent, a publication covering the Jewish experience in Philadelphia, recently published an article about our treatment of the Rosenbach Museum & Library's 1482 Bologna Pentateuch. 

In the article, Curator and Director of Collections Judy Guston discusses the book's significance:

“These books are typically called, in the world of printing, ‘incunabula,’ which means ‘from the cradle,’ and they are the earliest printed books in general,” Guston explained. The Gutenberg Bible, which is what most people know of as the earliest book, was printed around 1450. “Gutenberg was printing around Germany, or what were the German states then. Jews in that area couldn’t join guilds, they couldn’t go into business, they couldn’t borrow or lend money, so it made it really hard to have a business or become a printer. You don’t find Jewish printing until about the 1470s, and that happens in Northern Italy.”

As Guston turned the gilded, vellum pages of the Bologna Pentateuch, a printing of the five Books of Moses known collectively in Hebrew as a chumash, she further explained the significance of the volume, whose recently completed conservation will be unveiled and documented at a special event at the Rosenbach next month.
“It’s the first time the Bible is printed along with the scholarly apparatus, with Rashi and with thetargum onkelos next to it,” she said. “Previously people would have a manuscript Bible — there were plenty of those around — and then the commentaries were separate.”

She also discussed the conservation process: 

“I found in the Library of Congress another sort of high-end prayer book that was used at that time in Northern Italy not too far from Bologna,” she said. “We looked at all the details — what kind of leather, what kind of end bands, and how was it configured.
 
“We knew we weren’t going to fool anyone — it doesn’t look like an old original binding, and it’s always going to have this gilding — but we’re a teaching institution, and we want to teach people what books looked like. We looked at the decoration, and we looked at how the leather was dyed. We looked at the colors that would have been present in the original end bands.”  

Read the article here.