Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project

Watch this introduction to the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project

The Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project has been digitising items from the British Library's significant collection of Hebrew hand-written books, charters and scrolls, in order to make them available online.

Published date:

Aim of the project

The core aim of the three-year Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project (HMDP) was to provide free online access to Hebrew manuscripts from the Library’s collection, through manuscript conservation and imaging, catalogue creation and online presentation. The outputs are detailed and searchable catalogue records and fully digitised manuscripts. This project also included a digital scholarship component, aiming to encourage and facilitate research using the new digital collection.

The British Library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts includes items manifesting Jewish cultural, religious and social lives between the 10th century and the beginning of the 20th century, covering a vast geographical space from Europe and North Africa in the west, through the Middle East to China in the east. In order to make the collection of Hebrew manuscripts available digitally, the Library had received a major grant from The Polonsky Foundation.

What we have achieved so far 

By the end of the first phase of this project (June 2016), we have finalised the digitisation of 1,300 manuscripts selected for this phase, capturing approximately 435,000 digitised images. These were mainly manuscripts catalogued by George Margoliouth at the end of the 19th century. In addition, four of our Torah scrolls had textile covers (mantles), made of silk brocade and linen. These have undergone conservation treatment by a textile conservator and have been digitised as well.

Our digitised manuscripts have been uploaded and can be viewed on the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts site.

Some of the highlights of digitised manuscripts include:

What happens next

Arising out of the success of the project so far, a second digitisation phase has started in April 2016. This new project, aimed at digitising 860-1,250 Hebrew manuscripts, is an international collaboration with the National Library of Israel (NLI). This new phase of digitisation will focus mainly on our significant Gaster and Samaritan collections. The NLI plans on creating a new ‘hub’ for Hebrew manuscripts, to consolidate and facilitate their viewing. Our digitised images from both phase 1 and phase 2 will be included in this new resource.

Through both The Polonsky Foundation sponsored HMDP (phase 1) and the new NLI collaborative project (phase 2), most of the Library’s 3,000 Hebrew manuscripts will be fully digitised and available online by 2019, and all of them will be fully catalogued.

Our project is supported by

The Polonsky Foundation

Find out more

Contact and feedback

Please feel free to contact ilana.tahan@bl.uk if you would like further information, or to give feedback on using our digital collection.

See also


Middle East

Manuscripts, printed books, newspapers and journals from the Middle East, Iran and Central Asia