World’s Oldest Bibles, Prayer Books Go Digital

August 6, 2015

2 min read

A Bible dating back over 1,000 years is about to get a modern makeover as it is digitized and uploaded to the Internet, the National Library of Israel announced Monday. The joint project with the British Library in London was reported by Israel Hayom.

According to Aviad Stollman, the library’s chief of collections, the Bible, known as the Gaster Bible, is one of 3,200 rare Hebrew manuscripts in the British Library’s possession, all of which are being digitized. The British collection is considered one of the largest and most significant in the world.

Most of the manuscripts being converted in the joint effort date back to the Middle Ages or Renaissance, and include selections of Hebrew literature, prayer books, Bibles, Talmud or biblical commentary, and Hebrew mystical texts.

The British Library is one of several national libraries with which the National Library of Israel has partnered in a million-dollar global initiative to digitize tens of thousands of rare Hebrew manuscripts found worldwide and disseminate them online. Other countries involved include Germany and Russia.

“The main textual treasures of the Jewish people are not found in Israel,” said Stollman. “They are scattered all over the world.” With this current effort, as well as similar projects, “all the known textual treasures of the Jewish people will be available at your fingertips,” he added.

This project complements another, funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which is already digitizing 1,250 Hebrew manuscripts from the British Library collection.

The images from both projects will be catalogued and made available online through both the British Library’s website and the National Library of Israel’s International Digital Library of Hebrew manuscripts within a few years.

Researchers, students and other curious members of the public will be able to study these important manuscripts and enjoy their rich content,” said Oren Weinberg, the director of the National Library of Israel.


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