There is a rule, in Jewish temples, that any writing containing God’s name cannot be thrown away. So, rabbis have – for a very long time – done what many of us do with stuff that we can’t bring ourselves to thrown away: shove it in the attic. The attic in a temple is called a genizah. The rabbis are supposed to clean out the genizah every so often and ritually bury the manuscripts stored there. But cleaning out attics is a task we all tend to put off.
The only 2 images of genizahs that I could find.
In Cairo, there is a temple that’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. At some point, someone finally took a look in the genizah and realized that it hadn’t been cleaned for centuries. In fact, not for about a thousand years. This was a seriously stuffed genizah. There were manuscripts from the middle ages – the largest collection of medieval manuscripts ever found.
Fortunately, a man named Solomon Schechter learned about it, came running and then devoted his life to preserving, translating and dealing with this treasure.
That, in a small nutshell, is the story of the Cairo Genizah.
Naturally, the manuscripts were not in pristine condition. They had been protectively stored, but the materials were falling apart:
Some, like this page from a child's book, are fairly whole:
For this tablet, I took the photo of Solomon Schechter with the manuscripts* and reworked it. I cropped, turned, changed the color tones, increased contrast, and then enlarged the figure of Solomon Schechter. The original is on the left.
*Although I found other photos of the man, this seems to be the only one with the manuscripts.
This is a photo of a temple in Cairo. I think it's the same one where the manuscripts were found, but I'm not completely sure. Sometimes, when researching online, certainty isn't possible.
At any rate, I took the columns and balconies from this photo, and combined them with the Solomon Schechter photo and the manuscript images:
I took some of the text from various photos, reduced it in size, and copied it to make textural patterns. You can see these patterns used to fill in the shadows.
Next post, the dyeing and stitching.