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The Parkes Institute

Ian and Mildred Karten Memorial Lecture 2021

Published: 25 February 2021
Ian and Mildred Karten
Ian and Mildred Karten

On Tuesday, the Ian and Mildred Karten Memorial Lecture was delivered by Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Professor of Hebrew Manuscript Studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris. The event was chaired by Sarah Pearce, Head of the School of Humanities and Ian Karten Professor of History.

Judith’s lecture on ‘Jewish scribes at work in medieval Egypt: glimpses from the Cairo Geniza’ gave us a deep insight into medieval scribal culture. In her richly illustrated presentation displaying many examples of manuscripts from the Cairo Geniza, she introduced us to the complicated and wonderful world of book production for Jews beginning with the 9-10th centuries. We learned who the scribes were, where, how and for whom they worked and what they did. It was particularly captivating to see handwritten autographs from Maimonides and to learn that he copied manuscripts and corrected his book himself. This splendid lecture demonstrated the linguistic variety of this world, with manuscripts written in Hebrew or Arabic scripts, as well as the multiplicity of talents deployed by scribes who were often at the same time copiers, proof-readers, calligraphers and bookbinders, and ultimately the centrality of the book for Jews and Muslims at this period. Many thanks to Judith on behalf of the Parkes Institute and a delighted audience.

This annual lecture is an opportunity to remember Ian and Mildred Karten’s generous support to the Parkes Institute since 1995.  Ian would have turned 100 in December, and we will not forget that his generosity allowed the creation of a number of lectureships and supported the expansion of our outreach programme. I would like to thank the Ian Karten Charitable Trust for the ongoing financial support it has provided to the Parkes Institute. Thank you to the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture for partnering with us for this event, and to Helen Spurling for her support in the organisation.

The lecture is available to watch on the Parkes Institute Youtube channel .

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