News from the 12th century

News from the 12th century

“A Jewish tax farmer, a Muslim judge, and a Coptic tax collector walk into a bar…”

So began the latest burst of micro-scholarship from the Twitter account of the Princeton Geniza Lab, reporting an excerpt of a never-before-studied letter from the Cairo Geniza that reads (in translation):

“By the covenant! I had no resort but to go drinking with some qadi named Abu Abdallah and some uncircumcised tax collector. The drinking was on account of a profitable thing they had proposed, not on account of my idleness.”

This latest update from the library of materials brought back from Egypt by Solomon Schechter more than a century ago is courtesy of Geniza researcher Alan Elbaum and is part of a project of cataloging all the “documentary” (rather than literary) fragments of the Geniza — that’s letters, legal deeds, accounts, and any scrap of everyday life.

You can follow the Geniza Lab on Twitter at @GenizaLab. Highly recommended!

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