Over the last half-century, the critical study of the history of material texts in a variety of forms, from wax tablets and parchment scrolls to flat screen laptops and DVDs, has entered the academic mainstream. During the past year (2005-06), the Fellows at CAJS explored the Jewish book as an historical agent in Jewish culture and as a medium of exchange within the larger cultures in which Jews have lived. Their work drew upon a variety of inter-disciplinary perspectives with the aim of uniting scholars working in the traditional fields of Jewish studies with scholars of the history of the book.
Among the questions these scholars grappled with were: How have the materiality and formatting of texts from antiquity to the present shaped authorship, reception, interpretation, and transmission? How have the business of Jewish book production and the market forces of book consumption affected Jewish life and culture? How have the visual art and design of Jewish books shaped reading habits, legibility, recollection, and signification? How have cultures of Jewish reading changed over time, creating new forms of social experience while testing communal authority as well as gender boundaries? What has been the fate of Jewish books, libraries, book producers, publishers, and readers, under conditions of censorship and persecution? We hope you enjoy this exhibition which offers you some choice selections of the first fruits of their ground-breaking research.