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Searching for the Last Genizah Fragment in Late Ottoman Cairo: A Material Survey of Egyptian Jewish Literary Culture

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Posegay, Nicholas 


The Cairo Genizah is well known as a repository for hundreds of thousands of manuscripts that the Jewish residents of Fustat (Old Cairo) produced and consumed in the premodern period. Foreign “collectors” acquired most of these manuscripts for European libraries in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the majority arriving at the Cambridge University Library in 1897 under the auspices of Solomon Schechter. Less well known is the fact that hundreds of Genizah fragments were produced in the late nineteenth century, even as European collectors were scouring Cairo for ancient texts. This later corpus includes witnesses to the social and economic history of late Ottoman Cairo and provides copious evidence for the material history of Egyptian Jewish literary activity at that time. Despite this, it remains understudied for both Ottoman and Jewish history. Late Genizah material also raises questions about the integrity of “Cairo Genizah” manuscript collections around the world, as some fragments postdate Schechter’s Genizah “discovery,” and others were never in Egypt at all.



Cairo Genizah, Ottoman history, Jewish history, manuscripts, archives

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International Journal of Middle East Studies

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Cambridge University Press
Isaac Newton Trust (21.08(c))
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2021-080)
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation