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The Manuscripts Collection
Photo: Denis Shor

The Manuscripts Collection

The manuscript collection at the National Library of Israel encompasses many different fields, including Jewish, Islamic and Christian manuscripts, as well as manuscripts dealing with non-religious subjects.

The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts collects copies of all Hebrew manuscripts which exist in public and private collections in Israel and around the world. In addition, the Library collection includes a wide variety of non-Hebrew manuscripts, primarily of European origin, dating from the 9th century onwards.

The "Maktub" project will provide access to around 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts.

About the ​​​​​​Hebrew Manuscripts Collection

The search for Hebrew manuscripts continues. While most of the large collections have been traced and microfilmed, hundreds of individual manuscripts or small collections are hidden away in remote libraries or repose almost forgotten in attics together with other family heirlooms.

Thousands of pages from ancient Hebrew books were used to bind other volumes or archival records in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Europe, unrecorded in any catalogue. The Department of Manuscripts and the IMHM is making efforts to uncover these precious writings and make them available for study. Each year, hundreds of letters and questionnaires are sent out to libraries, museums and private collectors all over the world. Newspapers, journals and scholarly publications are carefully scrutinized for any information relating to Hebrew manuscripts. Though these methods do yield results, they have severe limitations. Not all the sources holding manuscripts are reached and many of those to whom we apply are unaware of the cultural value of the treasures they possess or for various reasons decline to cooperate. It would be of utmost importance to launch a wide ranging and well-publicized search for these manuscripts but at this point budgetary restraints prevent the Institute from carrying out such a program.


The Institute serves as a laboratory or workshop for a number of prestigious projects of Jewish scholarship. The Mishna Project, the Piyyut Project and the Hebrew Palaeography Project, all under the auspices of the Israel Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Friedberg Genizah Project, each draw upon the resources of the Department of Manuscripts and the IMHM, and none of them could have been initiated had the Institute not been in existence.

The Firkovich Manuscripts Cataloging Project, under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Judeo Arabic Culture and Literature in the Ben-Zvi Institute, is now complete thanks to the resources of the IMHM. Together with the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the IMHM has prepared a supplementary volume of addenda and corrigenda to the Neubauer Catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian (Oxford, 1994). Catalogues in English describing the 1600 Hebrew manuscripts in the Palatina Library in Parma (Jerusalem, 2000) and the 800 Hebrew manuscripts in the Vatican Library (Vatican, 2008) have been published as well.

The IMHM offers its readers a number of additional services. In addition to the catalogues described above, the Institute has prepared a card-index to manuscripts mentioned or published in scholarly journals, festschriften and elsewhere. The S.D. Goitein Genizah Laboratory, which houses the card-indexes compiled by the late Prof. Goitein (d. 1985) while preparing his Genizah studies, is found on the premises. Also, photographic reproductions of Genizah fragments relating to all matter of Masorah and biblical vocalization is available as part of the Israel Yeivin collection.

The Institute is willing and eager to cooperate with other institutions contemplating projects involving Hebrew manuscript material.