Attributed to the medieval copyist and artist al-Wasiti, “The Library of Basra” [detail], completed in 1237 AD, illustration on paper, probably made in Baghdad, Iraq. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, manuscript Arabe, 5847, fol 5 verso.

Join us this spring for the Leon Levy Foundation Lectures in Jewish Material Culture. Miriam Frenkel will deliver three lectures in a series entitled “The Matter of Things: Material Culture in the Medieval Islamicate World.” Lecture 2, “‘Making Many Books’: Books as Artefacts in the Medieval Islamicate World,” will take place on Wednesday, February 12, at 6 pm.

Lecture 1, Wednesday, February 5
Lecture 2, Wednesday, February 12
Lecture 3, Wednesday, February 19

Additional support provided by The David Berg Foundation.


The high middle ages from the 9th century onwards were actually the era of the book itself. Books spread in the world of Islam among Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike, bringing about a profound revolution. This process, with its far reaching social and even mental implications, is reflected in Muslim normative literature and in the Geniza finds themselves, which contain scores of books composed, produced, and consumed in the lands of Islam during this period. This lecture discusses the material aspect of the production and consumption of books as manifested mainly in book lists from the Geniza.


Miriam Frenkel is Associate Professor in the Department of Jewish History and the School of History at the Hebrew University. She is also the Menahem Ben Sasson Chair in Judaism and Islam through the Ages and vice president of the Society for Judeo-Arabic Studies [SJAS.]

Her main fields of research are: Geniza studies, cultural and social history of Medieval Judaism in the lands of Islam, and medieval cultural encounters between Judaism and Islam.

Her book “The Compassionate and Benevolent”: The Leading Elite in the Jewish Community of Alexandria in the Middle Ages (2006) was awarded the Shazzar Prize in 2007.

Frenkel has also published several articles on various aspects of medieval Jewish life under Islam including literacy, poverty, charity, pilgrimage, slavery, and material culture.