Thursday, February 14, 2013

"This Was Corrected Against My Own Books."

In the name of public outreach, I have made Moses Maimonides' signature glow red.

I am preparing to give a talk to a general audience next week, and I find that lay people are usually suitably impressed when they are shown the actual handwriting of the actual Rav. To be fair, the first (and only) time I was taken by a friend to the Genizah Research Unit at the Cambridge University Library, I was pretty bowled over, too, when one of the researchers brought out a letter written in Maimonides' own hand.

This may not have been exactly what the folks at the Bodley had in mind when they digitized their copy of the Mishneh Torah, the one that Maimonides himself authorized as having been corrected against his own books (as the little portion of the colophon shown above attests). But the digitization project happened exactly so that a wide range of people, and only scholars, could have access to the book — the same outreach-y type goal, something I'm sure to be thinking about more in this space over the course of the next few days.

The rationale is based in a sort of forerunner to the famous will of Albert Barnes, which stipulated that his collection be forever displayed exactly as it was upon his death. With perhaps a similar educational mission in mind, an owner of the codex stipulated in his will that it be made available to anyone who wanted to correct his own copy against it. And, as you'll see on their web site, it's something that the library has taken seriously, with digitization being the next logical step.

I do think it says something amazing about the collective collecting and archival ethic at the Bodley that they would take so seriously the will of someone who could easily have been written off.

No comments:

Post a Comment