Relevance and Status of Jewish Magical Manuscripts in the Age of Printing
From the early modern era onwards, Jewish manuscript culture has been subject to transformations, which took place under the impact of general social changes and technical innovations, like print. Yet, as this project assumes, Jewish magical manuscript culture apparently has resisted such impact and continues well into the 19th and 20th centuries. The project will critically examine this hypothesis of persistence.
Based on a selected corpus of multiple-text manuscripts with recipes and instructions for magical practices from the modern era, mainly of Italian and Western Ashkenazic origin, the project investigates the status of handwriting and handwritten artefacts in the sphere of magic. Special attention will be payed to the roles of scribes, owners, readers, collectors, and other parties involved in the production and the use of these manuscripts. The project also explores possible influences of new materials and commodities as writing instruments and writing supports. Moreover, we will examine to what extent the individual and personal character of manuscripts has contributed to the persistence of handwriting in magical practice and thus stabilized these practices despite the options offered by printing.
With a diachronic perspective, the project asks about the continuities and transformations in the manuscript culture of Jewish magic. It also considers the status of Jewish magical manuscript practice in the context of Jewish manuscript culture in general.