Let me tell you the story of a book. Akedat Yitzhak was written by Isaac ben Moses Arama, who died in 1494. He lived in various places in Spain until the Jews were expelled in 1492, at which point he fled to Naples.
Naples is not far from Salonika, where the first edition of his commentary on the Bible was printed in 1522.

The call number for the copy @columbialib is B893.1 Ar12

It is a worn copy, showing many signs of use (binding both volumes in one made it solid)
The opening flyleaf looks like it was owned by lots of people, but that's a bit misleading. All but the top and bottom inscriptions were written by Shelomoh (bar?) Shim'on, who bought it from Moshe (can't decipher the surname).

Note the phrase "lest someone come from the shuk"
This was a fairly standard way to excuse writing one's name in a book (which you're not *really* supposed to do). But if you're worried about a random dude coming from the market and saying "that's my book," you're allowed to do it as a precaution.
Next up we have the two inscriptions in a Sephardic hand - I'm having trouble deciphering these, though.

And who's the one who put a cup of liquid on the sefer? (See previous pic of the full page.)
The next thing I do when looking for clues about the story of a book is too turn to the back to see if it was reviewed by censors. Sure enough...

1623 (I can't quite make him out, but I think that's Domenico Irosolomitano above) and (I think) Hippolite of Ferrara, 1618 or 28.
Well, once I see censors, I have to check if they did anything. Sure enough...and unlike many, their ink didn't fade to highlight the text. In fact, it looks like it burned THROUGH the text.

(More on that note later; it happened to be tucked in on the same page.)
Censors tell me the book was in Italy, probably somewhere in the North, in the 17th century.
Not a lot of annotations, but the free that are there tell us that our Sephardic friend went through the book very carefully.

As you can see throughout, the book got very wet at some point. I blame the guy with the cup on the opening flyleaf.
A few last stops that we can identify. The bookplate and accession number tell me that it was given to Columbia by Temple Emanuel in 1892, part of a collection that TE acquired from the Amsterdam bookseller Frederik Müller in 1872. Müller's catalog of the coll came out in 1868.
Who wrote the note? Maybe M. Roest, who cataloged the collection for Müller (the paper is older than it looks, and includes info about other books as well). Who wrote the title on the spine? Maybe Giuseppe Almanzi (d. 1860) who owned part of the collection and wrote on spines.
There are more questions than answers here, but the key here is that all books tell stories. You just have to know how to look! /End
My thanks to Fabrizio Quaglia, who corrected me and read “Visto per me Gio. dominico carretto 1618” for the second one. (Hippolite was in my imagination here..although he was a real censor.)

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More from @hchesner

4 Oct
.@gerbenzaagsma speaking at the @polinmuseum conference “What’s New, What’s Next” on “Exploring Jewish History in the Digital Age.”
Shoutout to Judaica Librarianship articles (@JewishLibraries) from the early ‘90s that were already dealing w/#dhjewish, in this case regarding a database by @lbinyc of Jewish Archives in Germany.
And librarian Heidi Lerner’s Perspectives in Technology for @jewish_studies
And also, thinking about the cjh-a2i conference (Access to Integration), kernels of which still remain on this platform via a search of the words above. (Worth a look!)
Read 5 tweets
21 Jul
I mean, the @CULHebrewMss bot basically does this, but with less context.

Should I tweet an ms a (work)day from the @columbialib collection?
N.B. A lot of it may be RTs of things I’ve said over the past ten years or so, since apparently I talk a lot about the mss here :)
Read 4 tweets
20 Jul
A lot of really good nuance here.

“If the drive to tell stories comes from defending rather than celebrating, the stories will not be compelling.”
As someone who celebrates my own Orthodoxy, I think it’s critical to listen to those who left (that doesn’t mean accept every word uncritically when there is clear sensationalism and lying, as with JH, but allow yourself to hear and learn when it’s sincere, as this piece is).
There are so many factors that impact people’s lives - I’ve experienced some of the dark side, but I am grateful to have mostly had incredible people in my life, which makes a huge difference in how I live and practice.
Read 6 tweets
8 Apr 20
Haggadot from the 10th-18th centuries:
First, a disclaimer - there is no way to do a comprehensive overview of haggadot. They were probably the most reproduced Jewish text. Some are super simple, meant to last for a day or two, while others are incredibly lavish.
The earliest haggadot were found in the Cairo Geniza. This one is known as Halper 211, and is @upennlib @katzcenterupenn. It's interesting for many because of the third question: "...on this night, we eat only roasted," following the Palestinian Talmud rather than Babylonian Image
I personally think it's interesting because it was owned by David Amram, of history of the printed book fame (his book, though well out of date over 100 years later, is still the only text on some aspects of the history of the printed Jewish book).
Read 50 tweets
31 Dec 19
To celebrate the completion of the Shas cycle, I’m going to (mostly re)tweet the many examples of Talmudim @Columbialib.

I’ll start with one of my favorites, which doesn’t include Rashi and Tosafot because... 🥁 ...they weren't born yet. (Dated to roughly 10th century)
@columbialib This one doesn't have commentaries either, and is known as the "Columbia Talmud" to Talmud scholars. It is an early Yemenite version, with significant differences from the printed text. We have Betsah, Pesahim, Megillah, Moe'd Katan, and Zevahim in 2 v.

A quick note on this: I had a BY high school come to visit a couple of years ago, & showed them this manuscript. A girl came over afterward, and thanked me for showing her this volume: "I'm Yemenite, and I've never heard my background being described as important in this way."😭
Read 22 tweets
7 Oct 19
Sometimes you see an acquisition that stops you in your tracks.

In this case, my colleague Jane Siegel, who acquires artists' books for the collection, told me about a new book she just bought for @Columbialib #rbml
The book is made of glass, and housed in a soft, protective case. It is called "they did not know that the books were already in our head," by Becky Slemmens.
I can say nothing more than to quote the artist's statement: "I created a book of glass pages. I chose to make a book that cannot be burned and demands respect in handling. The material also references Kristallnacht, "the night of broken glass," occurring on September 9-10, 1938.
Read 6 tweets

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