Manuscripts are handwritten items, regardless of date, which may be entire books or only scraps of paper. Some manuscripts are unadorned, others are richly illuminated and illustrated. Micrography, very small writing used to form elaborate floral or geometric patters, is a primarily Jewish means of manuscript decoration.
The Library has an outstanding collection of over 2,000 manuscript volumes including the famous fifteenth century Cincinnati Haggadah, an eleventh century Near Eastern illuminated Bible, the Kaifeng Memorial Book in Chinese and Hebrew as well as countless records from European Jewish communities.
This late 11th century Bible manuscript on parchment has illuminations in the Byzantine and Persian style. In the margins surrounding the biblical text is masorah, scribal notes intended to preserve unchanged the traditional wording and spelling of the text, which is open here to the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-19).
This work is based on a statement ascribed to Rabbi Eliezer: "Everyone who recites the praise for creation in this life merits being among those who repeat it in the world to come." The praises of God are recited by various flora and fauna. These are depicted in beautiful miniature illuminations on parchment done in the late 18th or early 19th century.