CLST Colloquium: Peter Pormann, Manchester, "The Hebrew Manuscripts at Corpus Christi College, Oxford: A Mirror Reflecting the Early History of Jews in England"

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Annenberg 111


Corpus Christi College, Oxford, has the most important collection of medieval Anglo-Jewish manuscript in the world; it reflects the early history of the Jews in England maybe better than any other collection. Its core are seven Biblical manuscripts (MSS 5–11), given to the College by John Claymund, the College’s first president. They all share one characteristic: in a collaborative effort, Jewish and Christian scribes produced them in the mid-thirteenth century in to provide tools for non-Jews to learn Hebrew. One technique used in these manuscript to facilitate the study of Hebrew is to provide a literal ‘superscript’ (interlineary) translation. The ‘Claymund’ collection—apart from containing the finest examples of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts—is remarkable for at least two reasons. One manuscript, a psalter (CCC 10), contains an epistle by Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, in which he sets out the rationale for providing Latin-Hebrew manuscripts with a superscript translation. Because of this letter, these interlineary translations have become known in modern scholarship as ‘Lincoln superscript’. Another manuscript with parts of Rashi’s commentary to the Bible (CCC 6) has an idiosyncratic vocalisation of the Hebrew. Through it we can, so to speak, take a look into the thirteenth-century classroom and listen to how exactly Christian students pronounced the Hebrew.