At the center of this exhibition was the museum's most recent manuscript acquisition, a 17th-century Hebrew Torah scroll.
The contents of the Torah (translated as “doctrine” or “instruction”) are the core of Jewish scripture, comprising the first five books of the Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — which Jews believe were dictated to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. Since that time, the pious tradition of copying the Torah on parchment scrolls and checking each new copy meticulously to prevent mistakes has preserved the ancient text almost entirely unchanged.
Also on display was an 18th-century Hebrew Esther scroll, the beautiful illustrations of which contrast with the austerity of the Torah and provide insight into how the Jewish prohibition against images affected scribal and artistic practice. A copy of the Biblia Pauperum, a collection of block-print illustrations from the 15th century, illustrated how late medieval Christians pictorially reshaped the Old Testament to prefigure the New. Bibles on display from the early age of printing included a page from the Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of Martin Luther’s New Testament.