Twins: Westminster College, Cambridge University. Postcards of manuscript: Syndics of Cambridge University Library, OR. 1102. Schechter: Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

“In haste and great excitement,” talmudic scholar Solomon Schechter (center) scribbled this note to twin Scottish sisters Margaret Gibson (upper left) and Agnes Lewis (lower right), announcing that they had discovered a fragment of the original Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Ben Sira. Although considered canonical by Catholics, Ben Sira was excluded from the Hebrew canon and the Hebrew text was lost. Until Schechter identified the twins’ fragment 100 years ago, only Greek, Syriac and Latin translations used by the Christian church, and stray Hebrew quotations in rabbinic writings, were thought to have survived.

The twins’ discovery led Schechter to a spectacular stash of manuscripts in Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, where he discovered seven more leaves of the original text of Ben Sira and a text that later came to be known as the first Dead Sea Scroll.