Bifolium from a Children's Alphabet Primer

11th-12th century
Made in Egypt, from the Cairo Genizah
Blue, red, and yellow ink on parchment; bifolium
6 9/16 x 9 3/16 in. (16.7 x 23.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Cambridge University Library, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, Cambridge (T-S K5.13)
Not on view
Documents preserved in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, Egypt (882), provide a rich account of Jewish life, liturgy, and religion in the early Islamic world. The Genizah testifies to the shift from Greek to Arabic, the adoption of the codex form, and the development of new forms of calligraphy and textual/critical apparatus by Jews during this period. The Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter discovered the documents in 1896.
This Hebrew alphabet primer for children from the Cairo Genizah opens with a depiction of the menorah encased in an arch and flanked by two six-pointed stars, a symbol seen in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic arts of the period. Schoolchildren learning to write filled in the outlines of the Hebrew letters with colored inks.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.