Some defer to others: they are commenting on sacred texts. Some supplant others: sacred texts of one faith argue against those of another. But, as presented here, many also engage in unexpected dialogues, emulations, even dissections. Scripts imitate one another, even if they are in different languages; images and designs recur in manuscripts from different conceptual worlds. Some texts remain unflustered while everything changes around them. And all of this takes place among just 52 works, some of which are astonishingly ancient, many of which are beautifully illuminated, and most of which are written in Hebrew.
It would be a challenge just to give individual items the attention they demand, let alone attend to their interactions: a third-century fragment of papyrus with Philo of Alexandria’s interpretation of scripture; a fifth-century codex of the Four Gospels written in the ancient Aramaic dialect Syriac; a 12th-century autograph manuscript of legal commentary written in Arabic by the Jewish scholar Maimonides using Hebrew letters; a 16th-century Persian Koran with exquisite decoration; a 16th-century Hebrew poem written for Queen Elizabeth I, urging her to support Hebrew scholarship at the University of Oxford, as had her father, King Henry VIII.