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Groups of thirteenth and early fourteenth-century Ashkenazi Bibles with micrographic ornaments

Fronda, R; (2015) Groups of thirteenth and early fourteenth-century Ashkenazi Bibles with micrographic ornaments. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis involves several disciplines, combining art history with codicology and palaeography; Old Testament theology and linguistics with the intellectual and social history of Ashkenazi Jewish communities in the Middle Ages. I examine the production of thirteenth and early fourteenth-century micrographed Hebrew manuscripts from Ashkenaz. The thirteenth century is a crucial period in the history of Ashkenazi codicology, with the appearance of the first illuminated manuscripts. Micrography is a scribal art that is unique to the Jewish culture. In this art form, the text flow determines the contour of an image, forming the shapes of animals, vegetal motifs, hybrid beings or geometric and abstract objects. I will discuss the role of different micrographic decorations, in various degrees of elaboration, sometimes comprising full pages. Although a calligraphic art by itself, micrography is more than mere beautiful script. I introduce micrography as an additional tool for dating and localising medieval Hebrew manuscripts. As a result of regular contact with their non-Jewish neighbours, Hebrew scribes learned to use new writing materials, while they also acquired the local taste in decorating their books. Thirteenth-century German Hebrew manuscripts innovate an important device to improve the layout of manuscript pages so that individual biblical books are separated by decorative panels. Apart from its aesthetics, such a division of text facilitates reading. Similarly to Latin scribal ateliers, Hebrew scribes were sometimes likely to run their own professional workshops. While there is evidence of collaboration between Jewish scribes and non-Jewish illuminators, micrographic decoration gives rise to the new profession of Jewish scribes-artists. I explore not only who the producers of these codices were but also who they were produced for. The spread of the unique artistic phenomenon of micrography and its classical period attest to the emergence of relatively well-established Ashkenazi Jewish communities.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Groups of thirteenth and early fourteenth-century Ashkenazi Bibles with micrographic ornaments
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472640
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