Photo by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research, in collaboration with the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, courtesy Russian National Library

A Star of David surrounds a dedicatory inscription in the oldest complete Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex. The inscription reads, “Samuel son of Jacob wrote…this manuscript for the honor of our blessed teacher the priest, ben Yosef the sage, ben Azdak, may the Living One bless him.” Framing the star are passages from Deuteronomy and Psalms.

Working in Cairo in about 1010 C.E., the scribe Samuel prepared what has become the base text of the Biblia Hebraica, the critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. (see the bound codex) But until recently, scholars had limited access to the actual manuscript, owned by the Russian National Library, in St. Petersburg. Since the end of the Cold War, however, Russia’s first public library (founded by Catherine the Great in 1795) has opened its door to scholars who wish to examine what may be the largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the world and to prepare a facsimile edition of the Leningrad Codex.