October 2016 | Nate Pedersen

National Library of Israel Acquires Rare Silk Road Collection

silkroadledgernli.JPGLast month, the National Library of Israel acquired an extremely rare collection of manuscripts related to the once thriving Jewish community along the Silk Road. The library has begun digitizing the manuscripts, and has just published a first glimpse of them online.

The unique collection consists of 250 pages of manuscripts from the 11th through the 13th centuries and comprises some of the only material about the Jewish Silk Road culture to survive in the historical record. The newly acquired material will significantly expand the NLI's existing holdings from the Afghan Genizha discovery of 2013, when thousands of Jewish manuscript fragments were found hidden in caves in Afghanistan.

Part of the newly found material survived from a Jewish merchant family, the Abu Netzers, who lived and traded in the city of Bamiyan, a former commercial center on the Silk Road in Afghanistan. Twenty-seven pages of a merchant's account book survive, along with legal documents, liturgy, poetry, an historical chronicle, and Biblical passages.

Another part of the new collection relates to the early 13th century, providing insight into the Islamic culture in the remote region before the arrival of the Mongol hordes in 1221.

The collection, written in Persian, Arabic, Aramaic, and Judeo-Persian, will continue to be digitized and made freely available online.

Image Courtesy of the National Library of Israel