“The Haverford Hebrew Bible” was a gift of J. Rendel Harris, 1890. Part of the J. Rendel Harris “Oriental” Manuscript Collection, the Bible is the oldest Hebrew Bible located in North America and one of the treasures of Special Collections. In addition to the standard columns of biblical text, each page of the Haverford Hebrew Bible is bordered by intricately woven lines of textual marginalia that serve as a concordance on selected passages of the main text. Side margins are decorated with colorful abstract ornaments and at the beginning and end of the volume are “carpet pages,” richly colored patterns of diamond shapes and interlocking chains that resemble the patterns of carpets.
This exceptional bible was copied in Spain in 1266 by “Solomon, son of Moses.” Remaining in Spain until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the Bible then made its way to Egypt. Three further changes of ownership are documented in the Bible itself: one in 1714-15, one in 1755-56, and the last in 1890 when it was acquired by J. Rendel Harris, professor of Ecclesiastical History at Haverford. Harris’s gift of the Bible plus 46 additional Semitic language manuscripts form the nucleus of the J. Rendel Harris “Oriental” Manuscript Collection.