This is Rylands Gaster Hebrew MS 2116, we have limited information regarding this manuscript. The content is the “Zohar on Leviticus” with the commentary “Perishat Aharon” by Isaac Aharon ben Meir of Mezhirichi. Produced in Lithuania in the Nineteenth Century and is compiled of different types of paper and written in Ashkenazi cursive script.
When this manuscript was presented for digitisation we knew it would be a challenge.
As you can see, this is an unusually bound manuscript, its greatest dimension is its depth. We are unsure why Moses Gaster bound it in such a way, it wouldn’t make for the easiest of reading.
Our usual approach would be to firstly photograph all the rectos, turn the item, photograph all the versos and then bring them into correct order on completion of digitisation.
After consultation with the Collection Care team regarding the structure of the manuscript we decided on a two camera technique that we haven’t used before, this way we could shoot both recto and versos at the same time.
This is something that although proved very useful for this particular manuscript and its binding, it would not be suitable for other bound works in our collections.
Here you can see one camera in its usual position mounted on the copystand above the manuscript to shoot the versos. We also have another camera, tripod mounted, at 90 degrees to shoot the rectos.
Whilst Gwen controlled the handling of the manusctipt between captures I could check the images in regards to quality control.
Here you can see how multiple size foams were used to support and follow the spine and text block as we progressed through the manuscript.
Towards the end of the manuscript a slightly different technique was used to support the final remaining pages and board.
Digitisation required a number of sessions.
On completion there were 2356 images, this is the largest manuscript (in pages) that we have digitised to date.
The digitised manuscript has now been added to the Hebraica Collection in the John Rylands Library Image Collections, LUNA. It was so large it has had to be uploaded in three parts as a “Bookreader object”.
With a little reorganisation and technical adjustment it would be possible for one photographer to digitise the manuscript rather than two.
Next in line is Rylands Gaster Hebrew MS 2117, copied and authored by the same scribe as MS 2116, but a slightly smaller manuscript bound in a similar manner.