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Common heritage

By Mary Morris

The exhibit “Sacred Hands” opens Friday, Jan. 13 in the Audubon Room of the University of Michigan’s Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library and will remain on display through March 4.

It seems appropriate to use the term “sacred” to describe the hands that wrote the manuscripts containing the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But the meaning of this word travels beyond the traditional limits of the religious sphere. “Sacred” designates whatever is unique, exclusive, and venerable.

The manuscripts on display are unique witnesses not only of how a text was transmitted in a particular language (Greek, Hebrew, Coptic, Armenian, Latin, and Arabic) and at a particular time (second -nineteenth century C.E.), but also of how texts were presented to readers. We hope that visitors to this exhibit will appreciate the beauty and the history behind these artifacts. Even the early bare fragments written on papyrus or animal skin will reveal the subtle elegance of the scribe.

“Visitors to our traditional Bible Exhibit will be delighted to encounter manuscripts containing the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — three monotheistic faiths of common heritage, said Pablo Alvarez, exhibit curator. “This is a unique opportunity to learn more about the transmission and appreciation of these texts through their respective scribal traditions.”

All of the materials displayed in the exhibit are from the U-M Library’s Special Collections Library and the Papyrus Collection Library. Both the exhibit and the talk are free and open to the public.

Presented By:  Pablo Alvarez, U-M Special Collections Outreach Librarian and Curator; Evyn Kropf, U-M Library Islamic Manuscripts Project Cataloguer; and Arthur Verhoogt, U-M Associate Professor of Papyrology and Greek and Acting Archivist, U-M Papyrus Collection.

The Audubon Room provides an accessible, secure, dedicated space for the permanent display, on a rotating basis, of some of the greatest treasures found in the University of Michigan Library. The atmospherically-controlled room allows us to display unique and beautiful items that are part of the record of human history and culture, thus supporting the Library’s goal to share all of our collections with the widest possible audience.
Audubon Room Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1-7pm

IMAGES: Top — Latin Bible; middle — Torah; and, bottom — al – Qur’an.