LONDON.- The exhibition will bring together a collection of 24 rare manuscripts, many exquisitely illuminated, including three from the Vatican Library, eight from the British Library, three from Lambeth Palace Library and eleven from the Bodleian Library which reveal a story of cultural exchange, practical cooperation and religious tolerance between Jews and non-Jews in the Muslim and Christian worlds during the Middle Ages and beyond.
A richly illuminated 15th century version of the Mishneh Torah, an important work of Jewish law and considered to be a Renaissance masterpiece, written in the 12th century by Maimonides, the greatest medieval rabbinical figure (on loan from the Vatican Library)
A 9th century midrash (commentary) on the book of Leviticus, thought to be the earliest Hebrew document in codex (book) form (also from the Vatican Library)
The intricately illuminated Kennicott Bible (Spain, 1476) on loan from the Bodleian Library, is the most exquisite of all Hebrew bibles and its illumination is unmistakably influenced by the stylistic traditions of Islam. The bible is named after Benjamin Kennicott, the English Hebraist (1718 1783) who continued the English tradition of studying the Hebrew bible
The Tripartite Mahzor, on loan from the Bodleian Library, is a superbly illuminated festival prayer book for the New Year and the Day of Atonement, representing the pinnacle of the art of mahzor illumination. Its northern- European style dates it to early 14th century Germany.
Renowned creative, Patrick Kinmonth, responsible for some of the most innovative design projects in architecture, fashion, theatre and opera including Missonis flagship store in the USA in collaboration with Antonio Monfreda, and Anglomania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2006, one of the most successful exhibitions ever mounted at that museum, is the exhibition designer for Illumination.
Throughout history, many Hebrew manuscripts have been destroyed because they were considered heretical and dangerous. At other times, these manuscripts were collected, treasured and adorned by fervent bibliophiles. These collectors and scholars included non-Jewish students of the Hebrew Bible who had learnt Hebrew and Aramaic for the purpose of exploring the deeper meaning of the scriptures. The Vatican Library acquired an extensive collection of Hebrew manuscripts for its own internal study and scholarship, but the documents were not displayed publicly.
The manuscripts and printed books in this exhibition date from the 9th to the 17th century and many are beautifully illuminated and decorated. The Jews who commissioned manuscripts frequently turned to highly skilled Christian artists for the illustration of the text, and the decorative styles of the works exhibited reflect local cultures and design, whether in the Moorish style of medieval Spain, the Italianate style, or the Gothic style of Northern Europe. The works attest to a shared culture and display coexistence and social interaction between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbours, as well as enhancing our understanding of the intellectual exchange and transmission of knowledge between Jews, Muslims and Christians.