On the Functions of Miniaturizing Books in Jewish Religion
Keywords:Jewish, book history, miniature book, miniaturization, scripture, book format, comparative perspective, artifactual use, scroll, prayer book, Psalms, Haggadah shel Pesach, Purim Megillot, Hebrew Bibles, Torah, sensory effects
The purpose of this article is to offer a functional approach to miniaturized books as a religious phenomenon. Moving beyond mere descriptions of size and aesthetic quality, it asks about the functions of miniaturized religious books and asks how size comes to matter. To be able to treat miniaturized books as a religious phenomenon, the article wants to transcend prevailing size criteria that privilege the codex form used for religious texts in relatively young religions such as Christianity and Islam, and thus prevent a global, comparative perspective. Empirically, the article searches for answers within the context of the history of the book and in particular within Jewish religion, not only because it happens to be the field of this author’s specialization, but also because Judaism, if we include Israelite religion, covers all phases of alphabetic literate culture relevant to the phenomenon of books, and because Jewish rituals and festivals are marked by readings and the possession of small books. The article conjoins the author’s own distinction between the hermeneutical and artifactual use of scripture with theoretical reflections by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jonathan Z. Smith, Danièle Dehouve, Steven J. Gores, and Ian Reader. This platform has explanatory potential with regard to the analysis of miniaturized religious books in Jewish religion, but also to future analyses of miniaturized books in any religious context.
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