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Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo

Cambridge University Event

University of Cambridge
West Road

Tel: 01223 764982

Add Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo to your Itinerary

Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo

Treasures from the world’s largest and most important collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts – chronicling 1,000 years of history in Old Cairo – will go on display in Cambridge this week for a six-month-long exhibition at Cambridge University Library.

Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo opens to the public on April 27 and provides a unique and unparalleled window into the daily life of men, women and children at the centre of a thriving city over the course of a millennium.

From the 9th to the 19th century, the Jewish community of Fustat (Old Cairo) deposited more than 200,000 unwanted writings in a purpose-built storeroom in the Ben Ezra synagogue. But when the room was opened in the late 19th century, alongside the expected Bibles, prayer books and works of Jewish law – scholars discovered the documents and detritus of everyday life: shopping lists, marriage contracts, divorce deeds, a 1,000-year-old page of child’s doodles and alphabets, Arabic fables, works of Muslim philosophy, medical books, magical amulets, business letters and accounts.


About Cambridge University Library

1. For 600 years, the University Library has been central to the support of teaching and research at Cambridge. More than eight million books and periodicals, one million maps and many thousands of manuscripts occupy more than 125 miles of shelving, which extends by a further two miles every year. The Library collections vary hugely in age and content. Chinese oracle bones from the second millennium BC can be found alongside the latest online scientific journals; illuminated decorations in medieval manuscripts can be studied as originals and as digitised images delivered over the Internet.

2. Highlights of the University Library’s special collections include the papers of Isaac Newton, an archive of Charles Darwin’s correspondence, archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society and the 5th century Codex Bezae. The latter is one of the most important New Testament manuscripts, containing many unique forms of the text, including a saying attributed to Jesus found in no other sources.

3. As a legal deposit library since 1710, the Library is entitled to acquire a copy of each book and journal published in the UK and Ireland, which results in a rich and diverse collection providing future scholars with the raw materials for research in many fields.


Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo opens to the public on April 27, 2017 and runs until October 28, 2017. Entry is free.

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