Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Damascus Geniza

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (JUNE 2018): A Muslim Genizah in Damascus (Ronny Vollandt). A small fraction of the Qubbat al-Khazna manuscript hoard was catalogued by a Prussian scholar named Bruno Violet at the turn of the twentieth century. He had access only to the non-Islamic fragments, but these were of varied background and of considerable interest:
Another irāda of Abdul Hamid II gave permission for the collection to be sent to Berlin on loan. Before the fragments were dispatched, however, the whole batch was inventoried and photographed by the Ottoman authorities. The number of fragments at this time was given as 1558. The collection arrived in Berlin on June 17, 1902, and was deposited at the Royal Museums; in 1904, it was moved to the State Library. It consisted mainly of Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan texts, in a variety of scripts and languages: Greek, Hebrew, Samaritan, Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and even Armenian. Among the fragments, many were palimpsests or had been re-used as the bindings of books. Unexpectedly after six years, in December 1908, the Ottomans demanded the return of the fragments. A prioritized list of 54 fragments, prepared by von Soden, and an almost complete Syriac codex was all that could be photographed before the collection was sent back in its entirety.[2] The Ottomans confirmed that the collection reached Istanbul; however, its current whereabouts remain a matter of conjecture since then.

Violet’s collection consists of a small though significant fraction of the Damascus Genizah. The larger part, which amounted to perhaps 99.5% of the Qubba’s contents, was transferred to Istanbul. The majority of the fragments were housed eventually at the Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, where the collection was called şâm evrakları “Damascus papers”. An inventory made in 1955 numbers 13,882 items, with a total of 211,603 pieces.

The surviving photographs contain Jewish fragments. Among these are a ketubba, a Judaeo-Arabic glossary of the Mishna and a commentary on Leviticus. A number of folios contain the Hebrew Bible, Job 31, with full Tiberian vocalization and accents, overwritten with an unidentified Syriac text.
Also an Aramaic magical handbook.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here links.

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