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Scribal Repertoires in Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Early Islamic Period$
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Jennifer Cromwell and Eitan Grossman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768104

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198768104.001.0001

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‘These Two Lines …’

‘These Two Lines …’

Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic Letter Writing in the Classical Genizah Period

(p.314) 15 ‘These Two Lines …’
Scribal Repertoires in Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Early Islamic Period

Esther-Miriam Wagner

Ben Outhwaite

Oxford University Press

Letters were an essential means of communication for the Jews living under Islam in the Middle Ages. The traditional seats of Jewish learning were in Baghdad and Jerusalem, but their constituencies were scattered across the world. Letters frequently passed between Egypt and Palestine and Egypt and Iraq, as Jews sought halakhic knowledge, rulings, influence, and political advantage from their leaders, and dignitaries sought to govern their distant communities and ensure the continued flow of funding. At a lower level, letters passed between communal officials and prominent citizens, between petitioners and public servants. Jews were heavily involved in trade; a network of traders relied upon the written letter to organize cargoes, settle debts, or discuss political rumours. This chapter outlines the distinct medieval epistolary styles used in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic correspondence. The internal development of these letters, choices of language, layout, and style are discussed within their historical and sociolinguistic framework.

Keywords:   Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, letters, Genizah, medieval, Egypt, Babylonia, Maghreb, Palestine, basmala

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