Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dead Sea Scrolls...made in St John’s Wood
16/11/2007 (Jewish Chronicle, UK)
By Simon Rocker
The thrill of recognition is instant. You need not be a Hebrew scholar to make out a few familiar words among the clear black letters first formed by a scribe more than 2,000 years ago.

Unwound before me is a 23ft-long scroll of the Book of Isaiah. It could be the one that was found 60 years ago in a cave in Qumran by the Dead Sea.

But this scroll is different: it originates in St John’s Wood, North-West London, is bound for Korea and was conceived by a man who runs a salmon-fishing business in Alaska.

Enter Weston Fields, executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. His organisation funds publication of the 900 or so documents and fragments that comprise the Dead Sea Scrolls and also helps with preservation and exhibitions.


“I had the idea of making facsimiles of the three scrolls that were originally found — they are the best preserved,” he said. “The Koreans were willing to underwrite the cost — it’s terribly expensive.”

To help, he turned to some old friends, Linda and Michael Falter of St John’s Wood. As Facsimile Editions, the couple have a worldwide reputation for producing high-class replicas of illustrated religious manuscripts, so meticulously executed that they are hard to tell from the original. “When Weston rang and said could you advise me how to make a copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Michael Falter said, “I replied, ‘I’d rather not advise you, I’d rather do it’.”


Three copies each have been created of the original three scrolls: Isaiah, a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk, and the Manual of Discipline. “We wanted to produce them exactly as they are, we didn’t want to enhance or prettify them,” Michael said. “When we showed them to Weston, he said they were as legible as the original. The only thing we haven’t got is the clay pots in which they were found.”