Talking the Talk: Manicules

In this series we honor the contributions made on the Zooniverse Talk boards for our project, Scribes of the Cairo Geniza. Talk is a way for citizen scientists on Zooniverse to converse with one another and experts on the different material they are working on, ask questions, and explore new insights. Each week we will feature a talk conversation that we love. Thanks for the participation #genizascribes!

A manicule (👉) is often found in the margin of a text, drawn to bring a reader’s attention to a significant line or paragraph of text. Typically, a reader would draw a manicule, although occasionally a scribe would add one to indicate a new section. In addition to being called a manicule (Latin for little hand), the mark has been referred to as a pointing finger, bishop’s fist, or hand.

Left to right: Penn Libraries call number: Inc C-204 Folio; Penn Libraries call number: Inc C-910

(You can see some great examples of manicules curated by Atlas Obscura .)

According to Keith Houston, the earliest recorded manicule appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. While the history of these marks is still unclear, scholars notice them surfacing in 12th-century European texts and was a staple feature in Renaissance era texts. While their popularity faded, we still see examples of manicules today in the emoji dictionary.

Only 1 manicule was tagged in the sorting phase, found on a fragment containing commentary on Mishneh Torah.

Subject 12508683: ENA 3353, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

But this month during one weekend, volunteers identified two manicules in two different Geniza collections: Columbia University Libraries and The University of Manchester Library.

This one is a copy of Moreh Nevukhim (“The Guide for the Perplexed”), one of the three major works by Maimonides.

Subject 32843450: MS X893.15 M282, Columbia University Libraries

@Pipergirl17: #marginalia #drawing of a pointing hand

@judaicadh: That hand looks like a #manicule — we’ve only seen one other one in the project so far, but they originated in the medieval period!

@Pipergirl17: It does look like armour, doesn’t it?

The third manicule appears on the top fragment in this scrapbook collection.

Subject 30297109: Archive GN 2110d/15, The University of Manchester Library

@Pipergirl17: The page on the left has the best #drawing I’ve seen yet (pointing finger). Pity about the #tape on these pages, though.

@Chavi-NY: Do I count six fingers?

@citsci-rancho: Nice counting, @Chavi-NY! This is probably the only 6-fingered #manicule ever found in the Cairo Genizah.

@Chavi-NY: Or seven fingers, because the thumb is hiding! Someone got carried away when they started to add fingers :)

👉 Read more Talk conversations or start your own by participating in Scribes of the Cairo Geniza on Zooniverse!



We are the Judaica #DH at the Penn Libraries. Follow us for news and updates on our projects. #judaicadh

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Judaica DH at the Penn Libraries

We are the Judaica #DH at the Penn Libraries. Follow us for news and updates on our projects. #judaicadh