Marks of Time

Like people, manuscripts have their own biographies. These are always mingled with stories of the people and communities who created and used them. An important part of manuscript research is looking for the marks these people left behind. Such marks tell us about the making of the manuscript or its ownership, like colophons, ownership inscriptions, purchase notes, and censors’ marks.  

Manuscripts sometimes also served as notebooks. They preserve all sorts of notes about the lives of their owners, from birth to death records, IOUs to ink recipes, even reports of earthquakes. These marks of time tell us a great deal about Jewish book culture. They also open a window on to the everyday lives of the people who created and used them.