Sonderforschungsbereich 950

Manuscript Cultures in Asia, Africa and Europe

manuscript of the month

Or.8210/S.6878: Diagram and text for
‘divination of the golden turtle’

Stars and Turtles:
A Buddhist Divination Scroll

One of the great things about manuscripts is the way that they can reveal what was going on 'on the ground' in a religious tradition. When we think of Buddhist monks and nuns, meditation is the first thing that might come to mind; but they have always engaged in other activities as well. These include regular prayer and the day-to-day routine of the monastery, as well as services to the lay community outside of the monastery. To carry out these activities, some Buddhist monks and nuns became experts in medicine, divination, and magical practices to bring prosperity and ward against misfortune. Manuscripts such as the scroll that I am introducing here, show the kinds of services that they offered.


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BMBF supports research association

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports the three-year joint project ‘Coloured Maps’ (‘Kolorierte Landkarten’), beginning on 1 August 2018. The project involves the CSMC (Prof. Dr. Oliver Hahn) and the Mineralogical Museum, CeNak, (Prof. Dr. Jochen Schlüter), University of Hamburg, the Stiftung Hanseatisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (Kathrin Enzel) and the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg (Dr. Susanne Knödel). Applying methods from the material sciences and with art- and cultural-historical approaches, the group analyses hand-drawn and hand-coloured maps from European and East Asian areas, produced between the 15th and the 20th centuries.

New volume of the journal manuscripts cultures published

The tenth volume of CSMC’s journal investigates amongst others manuscripts from Mesoamerica, birch-bark manuscripts from Mediaeval Russia and modern literary manuscripts.

New research on organic writing supports at CSMC

Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer, member of CSMC, and colleagues published a new study on materials science research on paper and palm leafs. The study is part of the network ‘Artefact Profiling’ for enhancing research on written artefacts. The network comprises the Hamburg School of Food Science (HSFS), the Institute of Wood Science, the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), the Institute for Mineralogy and Petrography and the Institute of Advanced Ceramics at the Hamburg University of Technology.

New Petra Kappert Fellow

Marilena Maniaci is full professor of Paleography at the Università degli studi di Cassino e del Lazio meridionale since 2008. Her research interests focus on the history of Greek and Latin handwritten book materials and techniques and the development of appropriate methods of analysis and description of medieval manuscripts.She will stay at CSMC until the end of July 2018.

Honorary doctorate for Professor Malachi Beit-Arié

The Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) celebrates the award of an honorary doctorate to Professor Malachi Beit-Arié by the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Hamburg.
The Israeli scholar has fundamentally influenced the codicology and palaeography of Hebrew manuscripts and made it his life's work to build up the SfarData database, in which thousands of Hebrew manuscripts from all over the world are catalogued in an informastion density that is otherwise non-existent. He received several fellowships from the CSMC and has been a CSMC member since 2017.
The certificate will be presented by Dean Professor Oliver Huck at CSMC on 1 June 2018, 1.30pm.

New Fellows

Prof. Dr. Malachi Beit-Arié is professor emeritus of codicology and paleography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His fields of expertise include medieval Hebrew codicology, palaeography and the medieval transmission of Hebrew texts. Professor Beit-Arié is also the founder and director of SfarData, a codicological database for medieval Hebrew manuscripts.
Dr. Nurit Pasternak is a researcher in the Hebrew Palaeography Project at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research areas include, among others, hebrew codicology, Judaism during the Italian renaissance and book censorship.
Prof. Dr. Scott Reese is a historian of Islam whose work focuses on the societies of East Africa and the Indian Ocean in a trans-regional context. His current research focuses on the development of Islamic-Arabic print in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Professor Reese will be in residence at CSMC until the end of June 2018.
Dr. Marco Heiles is a philologist and a specialist in medieval German manuscripts and early printing. His current research is focused on sexually explicit writing and censorship in medieval German manuscipts. Marco Heiles will stay at CSMC until the end of September.

Handwriting Analysis Tool published

The “Handwriting Analysis Tool (HAT 2)” is a software tool to analyse handwriting styles. Known and unknown hands can be analysed by automatically comparing digital images of manuscripts. The software, developed at CSMC by Hussein Mohammed, can be downloaded and used for free under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC).

A manuscript researcher is the new fellow at the Maimonides Centre in Hamburg

Ronny Vollandt, Professor of Jewish Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, is currently a fellow at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies at Universität Hamburg. His research focuses on the Arabic versions of the Bible and biblical exegesis in the Arabic language, more broadly, medieval Christian- and Judaeo-Arabic literature. Professor Vollandt is a renowned expert for manuscript studies and will stay in Hamburg until August 2018.

New volume of the series Studies in Manuscript Cultures (SMC)

The contributions to the volume Manuscripts and Archives — Comparative Views on Record-Keeping (SMC 11), edited by von Alessandro Bausi, Christian Brockmann, Michael Friedrich and Sabine Kienitz, explore the complex topic of the archive in a historical, systematic and comparative context and view it in the broader context of manuscript cultures by addressing questions like how, by whom and for which purpose archival records were produced, and if they differ from literary manuscripts regarding materials, formats, and producers (scribes).


2 - 3 August 2018 | Workshop
Hidden from the World, Preserved for Eternity? – Manuscripts’ Ends of Life

Details and Registration
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

7 - 8 August 2018 | Workshop
Consultation on the Preservation of Palm-leaf Manuscripts

Details and Registration
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

21 - 22 August 2018 | Conference
Varieties and Patterns of Manuscripts in Medieval Japan
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

11 - 12 September 2018 | Workshop
Non-Literary Manuscripts from the Qin and Early Han Times
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

17 - 21 September 2018 | Summer School
Summer School in Coptic Literature and Manuscript Tradition

Details and Registration
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

24 - 29 September 2018 | 3rd Hiob Ludolf Centre Summer School
The Manuscript Heritage of Ehtiopia - Theory and Practice

Details and Registration
Mekelle, Ehtiopia

11 - 13 October 2018 | Workshop
Indic Colophons
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

19 - 20 October 2018 | Workshop
“Early Modern Cultural Encyclopaedias”: Defining a Genre and its Agency from a Transcultural Perspective

Details and Registration
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

30 November - 1 December 2018 | Workshop
Titles, Labels, and Names of Multiple Text Manuscripts
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26