Written in Images

Manuscripts are much more than their words. They are complex physical objects, and they cannot be fully understood without studying their visual elements.  

Decorations such as initial-word panels not only added to the beauty of a manuscript, but helped readers find their way around the text. Narrative scenes do not simply illustrate a story but could function as visual commentaries providing added layers of meaning. Diagrams and charts make clear complex scientific or philosophical ideas, aid memory and sometimes work as “calculators”. Magical signs convey meaning indescribable with human languages. Studying these visual elements can contribute to our understanding of the intricate relationships between Jews and their neighbours.