Friday, October 10, 2014

Taj Torah

A full-page labyrinthine figure, accompanied by Hebrew text.We just acquired a truly amazing manuscript that has us all a twitter (though we don't Tweet, just blog!). The manuscript is a copy of the Taj Torah produced in Yemen c. 1400-1450. This is one of only three known Hebrew manuscripts with illustrated carpet pages. The Torah is prefaced with a copy of the Tajim, a Yemenite grammar and guide to reading the Torah, so the manuscript is both a sacred text and a pedagogical device for its reading.

The manuscript has many possible uses in the classroom at a time when medieval and early modern Jewish texts are growing in interest and importance in academia. The specific aspects of it that most excite us are the carpet pages that can be compared and contrasted with Western illuminations and elucidate children's education in the middle ages, and the potential for discussion of the manuscript as an object (i.e., its construction, material components). Among the nice carpet pages are  a drawing of the labyrinth of Jericho and a "Magical Square" of letters in a pattern.

A full-page grid filled with Hebrew characters.
Two years ago we worked with a class on medieval Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions. We were able to lay out excellent medieval representations of the Koran and the Vulgate Bible but we lacked a comparative example of the Torah or similar Jewish text. That gap is now filled. We are able to lay, side by side, representative texts from all three monotheistic faiths, and all from roughly the same time period.

To take a look, come to Special Collections and ask to see Codex 003265.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Size Matters

Two catalogues of officers and students.In 1804 John Wheelock, the son of the founder of Dartmouth College, Eleazar Wheelock, and the second President of the College, got into a snit over control of the local Congregational Church. While the details of this disagreement are important, they are far too complex to cover here. Suffice to say that after ten years of wrangling, Wheelock attempted to enlist the Trustees of the College in this fight. The Trustees, suspecting that they were being asked to act beyond their authority, declined. The resulting battle between Wheelock and the Trustees ended with John Wheelock, a Whig, asking William Plumber, the Federalist Governor of New Hampshire, to remove the College from the control of the Trustees and make it a State institution. The Trustees, and most of the faculty, refused to recognize the State’s authority and took the issue to court. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where Daniel Webster famously argued for the College and won, setting an important and enduring legal precedent.

In the mean time, two institutions of higher education existed side-by-side on the Hanover Plain. On one side was Dartmouth College and on the other was the state run Dartmouth University. Here are the catalogs for the two institutions and the difference between them needs no further comment.

Ask for Mss 817509 and Mss 817509.1 to see the two catalogs. For more information on the Dartmouth College case, see: Will to Resist; the Dartmouth College Case, by Richard Morin (DC History KF 4258 .D3 M65 c.2).