The Bible, State Library of Berlin, Berlin, Germany Ms. Or. fol. 1212, f.381
Significant collection items include: the Leningrad Codex, writings from Maimonides, the Aleppo Codex, some of the oldest extant Talmudic manuscripts.
• Millions of extremely high resolution images freely accessible for first time ever
• Dozens of leading collections across the globe partnering in initiative
• Digital manuscripts preserved long-term using state-of-the-art technologies
Scholars estimate that approximately 90,000 Hebrew manuscripts written from the middle ages until today exist, spread throughout collections across the globe. These manuscripts include millions of pages, ancient and significant texts, many of them including exquisite illustrations and illuminations.
The Bible, The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel Ms. Heb. 4°790, f.349
In 1950, the young State of Israel faced enormous existential threats, yet Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared "it is our first duty to save Hebrew literature." Experts were sent across the world to find and reproduce with permission Hebrew manuscripts that could not be physically brought to Israel. Ultimately, an estimated 90% of all Hebrew manuscripts existing in the world were collected and held in original or microfilm form at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.
Ben-Gurion's vision is now moving into the digital age with “Ktiv: The International Collection of Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts”, a ground-breaking initiative to enable global centralized digital access to all existing Hebrew manuscripts. Ktiv is a joint venture of Albert D. and Nancy Friedberg through FJMS and the National Library of Israel, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage's Landmarks project. The site is the largest of its kind, one of the largest digital collections of manuscripts in existence.
Millions of images from dozens of leading collections across the globe are already available on the Ktiv website. Images are preserved long-term using state-of-the-art technology, and the catalogue including some 85,000 Hebrew manuscripts is accessible using innovative search and discovery tools.
Highlights of the digital collection include the Leningrad Codex, writings from Maimonides, the Aleppo Codex, some of the oldest extant Talmudic manuscripts, documents from the 13th century detailing struggles within the Yemenite Jewish community, commercial and personal records chronicling Jewish life in Afghanistan in the 11th century.
The collection of digitized manuscripts and community of partners are constantly being expanded, as the catalogue is enriched, linked to other digital initiatives and innovative research tools are added to enhance the user experience for researchers and the general public.
According to National Library of Israel Chairman David Blumberg, "Over the course of thousands of years, the Jewish people used the written word to express their religious beliefs and their scientific knowledge. They meticulously copied Torah scrolls, books of religious laws and customs, and essays on different topics related to religion and science. Hebrew manuscripts, reflecting the knowledge and culture of the Jewish people, traversed countries and continents before finding refuge in large libraries and the vaults of private collections. Today, these manuscripts present a rich resource for learning about the spiritual and material cultures of Jewish communities across the globe and we are now enabling free access to all Hebrew manuscripts from any computer or mobile device."
Leading partner collections span the globe, including the Vatican, the British Library, the National Library of Russia, the National Library of Germany, the National Library of France, the Palatina Library in Parma, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Ets Haim Library in Amsterdam, the National Library of Austria, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest and many more.
Ktiv will be launched this Sunday, August 6, at the opening of the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.