Month: September 2019

Footprints updates 2018-2019

We are pleased to report on the progress of Footprints over the last year.  The past year has been full of scholarly, professional, and technical activity that has continued to propel Footprints forward. Here are some highlights:

First and foremost, the scholarly agenda of Footprints is proceeding apace.  The number of footprints in the database continues to grow, furnishing students and scholars with a larger source for inquiry and analysis. The ongoing growth of the database is due in large part to the partnerships with libraries in North America, Europe, and Israel and their staffs, as well as the work of individual researchers at different stages of their academic trajectories who continue to engage with the project. Beginning this fall, Dr. Lucia Raspe is bringing her expertise in early modern book culture to the University of Frankfurt Library to collect footprints from the world-renowned collection.

You may recall that in a  previous letter we announced that we would be directing our energies toward capturing as much information as possible about a finite set of books: incunabula. Our Footprint count for incunabula alone comprises 20% of the total dataset, (interestingly, the same percentage as last year, which means that the entries for other publications continue to grow steadily as well). We are working with the dataset compiled by our partners in the MEI project and should be able to ingest that data soon.  There are still fascinating incunabula held in small numbers in collections across the US, Israel, and Europe, and we are continuously working to make sure our dataset is as comprehensive as possible.

Engagement of students and wider audiences remains a priority for us.  We are looking forward to bringing together a select group of applicants for training in paleographical skills to work both on their own projects and to contribute to Footprints. In February 2020 we will be conducting a three-day workshop on early modern Ashkenazic paleography that will be led by Dr. Edward Fram from Ben Gurion University.  Following the workshop in February 2020, we plan a series of webinars, bringing in additional experts to train people in other scripts from different regions of the world. The call for applications is already up and we are starting to hear from interested applicants.

Our programming and growth are supported in part by external funding measures and in-kind donations. The American Academy of Jewish Research,  the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, The Jewish Theological Seminary, CUNY Graduate School, Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies, and additional Jewish Studies programs are supporting our paleography workshop.

Our programmers are hard at work at making the site more efficient and user-friendly.  A partnership with DICTA at Bar-Ilan University is working to enhance our search capabilities to allow for results in multiple character sets and languages, and will go a long way toward making our search interface accessible to international audiences.  Additionally, the staff at Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning are preparing a new visualization interface which will depict the riches of the database on maps that can be used in classrooms and for individual research projects.  We look forward to its unveiling in the coming months!


Call for Applications: 


Footprints: Jewish Books through Time and Place, in conjunction with the Jewish Theological Seminary, invites applicants to participate in a three-day workshop in New York City devoted to the study of early modern Hebrew paleography . 

This three-day intensive workshop in New York (February 9-11, 2020) will train students as well as early career scholars of early modern Jewish history in paleography and the analysis of manuscript annotations in printed books. 

During this workshop, participants will engage in an intensive study of early modern Ashkenazic Hebrew hands. They will also be introduced to Footprints provenance project. The first workshop will be led by Dr. Edward Fram (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and will take place in the newly re-opened rare book room at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Fram is a specialist in early modern European Jewish history and focuses on Eastern and Central Europe.  

This workshop is the first of a series of sessions for training in reading handwriting in Hebrew characters from the early modern period.  We are hoping to build a cohort that will participate in webinars and a second follow-up workshop covering additional scripts in 2020. There is no charge for the workshop for those accepted to the program. Those accepted should commit to full attendance for the three days. Participants must also be willing to become (if they are not already) participants in the Footprints project as contributors of incidental findings to the database as they do their own research (trusted scholar-sourcers). For more information on the Footprints project, see here:

Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging, but subsidies are available for students and early-career scholars as funds allow. Kosher meals will be provided during the workshop. Space is limited.

Support for this workshop and training program has been provided by the American Academy of Jewish Research, Rare Book School, Columbia University Libraries, the Center for Jewish Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies, the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University,  the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Program in Jewish Studies at Princeton University, and the Ben Zion and Baruch Michah Bokser Memorial Fund.

To apply, please send a brief letter of interest including current and future research projects; and a current CV.  Those requesting subsidies should also send an itemized budget for travel and lodging, including other funds available and applied for. Graduate students, please list the name and e-mail for one reference. Send material (and questions about the program) to:

Deadline for applications:  Friday October 11.   

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