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Culture

History Meets IT in New Hebrew Script Archive

In a massive multi-disciplinary undertaking, two German universities are indexing and archiving 2,700 historic books and documents in Hebrew. Some will be digitalized and put on the Internet.

Hebrew text Portae Lucis

This 500-year-old Hebrew script, "Portae Lucis," is among the texts to be indexed

The aim of the so-called Porta Hebraicorum project, jointly organized by the Jewish history department at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and the IT department at Cologne's Technical University, is to make the valuable Hebrew documents more readily available to the public.

Historians, computer scientists and book specialists are working together to index the collection in an archive that will also present historic and bibliographic information about the works.

The scripts, which stem from the Bavarian State Library in Munich, date from 1501 to 1933 -- the year Hitler came to power in Germany. They survived the Nazi purges in the 1930s and 40s.

Several priceless works that are representative of 16th and 17th century Hebrew texts are among the collection, project organizers said this week.

"There are some scripts that the world does not know about and which are unique to this collection," said Ittai Tamari, a member of the project from Ludwig Maximilian University.

Hebrew scripts were printed in German-speaking Europe continuously for 400 years, though the bookmakers moved around to dozens of different cities. Other centers of Hebrew printing, like Venice, Amsterdam and Constantinople gained significance too albeit for much shorter periods of time.

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