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J. Rendel Harris collection

Identifier: HC.MC-838

Original Accession

21 Hebrew Manuscripts

1 Hebraeo-Samaritanus Manuscript

6 Ethiopic Manuscripts

7 Syriac Manuscripts

5 Arabic Manuscripts

3 Armenian Manuscripts

6 Latin Manuscripts

Current Content by Language


Masoretic Bible (RH 1)

Torah scroll (RH 2)

Torah scroll (RH 3)

Lamentations scroll (RH 4)

Ruth scroll (RH 5)

Esther scroll (RH 6)

Song of Songs scroll (RH 7)

Leviticus leaf (RH 8)

Remains of Hebrew manuscript (RH 9)

Kings leaf (RH 10)

Jeremiah leaf (RH 11)

Jeremiah manuscript (RH 12)

Yemenite Taj (RH 13)

Yemenite Taj (RH 14)

Portion of prayer book (Mahzor) (RH 15)

Misneh Torah: Sefer Yad ha-Hazakah (RH 16)

Perush ha-Merkabah, Targum Ha-Merkabah, and Hekhalot (RH 17)

Sefer ha-Yashar (The Book of Jashar) (RH 18)

Isaac Alfasi commentary on Pesachim chapter III fragment (RH 19)

Rashi commentary on Bereshit fragment (RH 20)

Menorat ha-Ma'or (RH 21)

Esther scroll (RH 64)

Esther scroll (RH 72)


Pentateuch manuscript (RH 22)


Pentateuch manuscript (RH 23)

Prayers and hymns manuscript (RH 23a)

Mazgaba Haymauot manuscript (RH 24)

Andéet ("Disciples") manuscript (RH 25)

Kidan Janagh manuscript (RH 26)

Laha Maryani manuscript (RH 26a)

Vellum manuscript (RH 69)


Peshitta manuscript (RH 27)

Estrangelo manuscript (RH 28)

Late manuscript (RH 29)

Service book (RH 30)

Service book (RH 31)

Service book (RH 32)

Gospels manuscript (RH 33)

Hymn book (RH 48)

Prayer and grammar book (RH 49)

Treatise on speech manuscript (RH 50)

Syriac-Arabic lexicon (RH 51)

Dialogues manuscript (RH 52)

Hymn manuscript (RH 53)

Treatise on theology by Jacob the monastic (RH 54)

Theology manuscript (RH 55)

Treatise on grammar manuscript (RH 58)

Treatise on grammar manuscript (RH 59)

Discourses manuscript (RH 60)

Essays regarding the practice of the Christian faith (RH 63)


Sanjak Koran (RH 34)

Koran manuscript with commentary (RH 35)

New Testament manuscript (RH 36)

Prayers manuscript (RH 37)

List of words in Arabic and Syriac (RH 38)

Book of the Hajj (RH 38a)

Treatise on theology manuscript (RH 56)

Selections from the Gospels (RH 57)

Arabic manuscript (RH 61)

Pentateuch manuscript (RH 62)

al-Juzo al-Awwal min Kitab Mashariz al-Anwar (RH 73)


Hymn book (RH 39)

Phylactery scroll (RH 40)

Portion of a Phylactery scroll (RH 41)


Psalms and Song of Songs manuscript (RH 42)

Gospels manuscript with commentary (RH 43)

Vulgate concordance (RH 44)

Essay on Greek and Roman history (RH 44a)

Leonardo Aretino Bruni manuscript (RH 44b)

Thomas Aquinas manuscript (RH 45)

Peter Vicentius manuscript (RH 46)

Service book leaf (RH 47)

Gasparino Barzizza manuscript (RH 47a)

Gasparino Barzizza manuscript (RH 47b)

Treatise on the Trinity manuscript (RH 65)

Diploma of Nicolas Berolus (RH 68)

Latin manuscript (RH 71)


Poem manuscript (RH 66)

Persian manuscript (RH 67)

Translation of Arabic dictionary (RH 70)

Note from J. Rendel Harris

From the Rogers Catalogue:

The following collection is composed chiefly of Manuscripts purchased by Harris in Egypt, Palestine, and the Lebanon; and were gifted to the Library of Haverford College by Walter Wood (a personal friend of Harris) and Harris himself, in the hope that they could potentially become the basis of a more extended collection, and may stimulate the study both of ancient documents in general, and with an emphasis on Semitic languages.

Regarding provenance and accession, Harris stated upon gifting: “I have not thought it worthwhile to go into a detailed account of the methods by which this little handful of books was acquired, though there is no doubt that such a record would illuminate many passages in the Hebrew Scripture and the Oriental literature, from the time when Abraham purchased the field of Mamre onwards. Moreover, [I] have a high example for the less detailed description of the local origins of books in the writing of the late Dr. Tischendorf, whose prizes were usually found 'in the dust of an Eastern Monastery'; so I will simply say that these Manuscripts, trifling collection though they be, have had their share of the dust of Holy Lands and Holy Cities, but that their sanctity is locally anonymous; and I will only ask that those who may examine them will have the grace to believe that they were all acquired by the lawful, though sometimes, tedious, processes of Oriental commerce. The Catalogue is due to the energy of my colleague, Professor Rogers (1890).”

Summary from Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

According to The Quaker Collection [A Catalogue of Manuscripts (Chiefly Oriental [Eastern]) in the Library of Haverford College by Robert W Rodgers], the original collection contained 47 Manuscripts. The current, supplemented collection is composed of 72 Manuscripts in Hebrew, Samaritan, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Latin. Included amongst the Hebrew manuscripts are three Yemenite manuscripts, several scrolls and an especially valuable, illuminated Tanakh from Spain, dated 1266. The Syriac manuscripts are mostly from the late nineteenth century, from the Western Maronite Church, although we saw at least two eastern Karshuni manuscripts."


  • Creation: 1200 - 1890


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

The collection is open for research use.

Copyright and Rights Information

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S Title 17)

J. Rendel Harris

James Rendel Harris was born in Plymouth, England on January 27, 1852 to Elisabeth Corker and Henry Marmaduke Harris, and he married Helen Balkwill in 1880. Harris became a Quaker in 1885 after a ten year journey towards the faith. After graduating as a Wrangler in Mathematics from Cambridge he went on to lecture in mathematics in Clare College at Cambridge before becoming Professor of New Testament Greek at Johns Hopkins from 1882 to 1885. Isaac Sharpless recruited Harris to come to Haverford, where he remained from 1886 to 1891 serving as Professor of Ecclesiastical History. Harris was reportedly known for his intelligence and sense of humor, often demonstrated in his twice-weekly sermons. Supposedly he could also quote Shakespeare from memory. He was instrumental to the creation of the Haverford College Studies which began publication in 1889, and he contributed to the Haverford College libraries with the donation of the Gustav Baur collection in 1889. Harris took a leave of absence from Haverford during the 1889 school year during which time he gathered the manuscript collection described in this finding aid. In 1892 Harris began teaching again at Cambridge, however, he soon left this position to become the head of Woodbrooke, an education settlement started by George Cadbury to train young Quakers. Harris became curator of manuscripts at the John Rylands Library in Manchester beginning in 1918. While affected by a progressively impairing blindness starting in the 1920s, Harris continued his research until his death in 1941.

A regular traveler to the Middle East in search of manuscripts, Harris also participated in humanitarian work, supporting the Armenians during the Ottoman campaign of genocide. His largest scholarly contributions include beginning the study of testimonia, where he proposed that early Christian writers drew from one book of Biblical quotations. While working at the John Rylands Library he discovered among the manuscripts in his collection a copy of the Odes of Solomon which had been thought to be lost. Later in life he worked on issues of population migration particularly regarding Egypt.

(Information culled from local sources. Some information was taken from James Rendel Harris: New Testament Autographs and Other Essays edited by Alessandro Falcetta.)

Robert W. Rogers

Robert William Rogers was born on February 14, 1864 to Samuel Rogers and Mary Osborne. He married Ida Virginia Ziegler on June 3, 1891 and they had two children Elizabeth Frances (b. 1892) and Robert Samuel (b. 1900). His interest in Hebrew began at an early age while trying to understand the Book of Job. After graduating from The University of Pennsylvania and then Johns Hopkins in 1887, he came to Haverford as a graduate student in Semitics during which time he was an instructor in Greek and Hebrew. Rogers next became a professor at Dickinson College until 1893 when he moved to Drew Theological Seminary becoming Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis. He held this position until 1929 when he was granted Professor Emeritus and Lecturer on History of the “Ancient Orient” until he died in 1930 after a long illness. Rogers was a scholar of the Ancient Middle East with many publications on the subject including the original catalog for the manuscript collection described by this finding aid. As a well-known scholar in his field, Rogers was a member of several professional societies including the Royal Geographical Society and was presented with several honorary degrees including a Litt.D from Dickinson College and the University of Dublin.

(Information culled from local sources. Some information was taken from the Robert William Rogers page on the Drew University History site, which can be found at Accessed 4/18/12)

Walter Wood

Walter Wood was born in 1849 to Richard Davis Wood and Juliana Randolph. He graduated from Haverford College in 1867 and served as Secretary of his class and a member of the Loganian and Everett Societies. Wood continued his education at Harvard from 1867 to 1868 but kept ties with Haverford by becoming Secretary of the Alumni Association from 1873 to 1878 and later serving on the Board of Managers of Haverford starting in 1890. Wood was an industrialist who was president of the Florence and Camden Iron Works and Director of R.D. Wood Company. He also was treasurer of between thirteen and sixteen utilities and a civil service examiner from 1887 on. Wood was involved in professional organizations related to engineering and manufacturing as well as civic organizations like the Philadelphia Art Club and the Philadelphia Union League.

(Information culled from local sources.)


20 Linear Feet (49 original manuscripts. 31 additional manuscripts added later. )


Multiple languages


The collection is composed chiefly of manuscripts purchased by J. Rendel Harris (Haverford faculty member, 1886-1891) in Egypt, Palestine, and Lebanon. Manuscripts are written in Hebrew, Ethiopic, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Latin and other languages.


Materials are arranged alphabetically by correspondence.

Existence and Location of Microfilm Copies

Haverford College

[J. Rendel Harris Collection of manuscripts: (chiefly [Eastern] oriental) in the Library of Haverford College]. Philadelphia, Pa.: Microsurance; Presbyterian Historical Society; Presbyterian Historical Association, 1979-1989. 8 microfilm reels: negative; 35 mm.

Reel 1. Hebrew and Hebraeo-Samaritanus ms.: records of The Jewish National and University Library (Jerusalem). (3 parts)

Reel 2. Armenian Ms. #39: records of Professor Avedis K. Sanjian

Reel 3. Bible-Octateuch, in an Ethiopic dialect ... 18th century, Hav. #23

Reel 4. #54. Catalogs of early heretics. Astronomical discourse, Geography, etc.

Reel 5. Syriac Ms. Hav. #55. Cantilena. Hymns.

Reel 6. Judeao [Judaeo]-Spanish Ms., J. Rendel Harris Coll. #18.

Duke University

Octateuch is an Ethiopic dialect. Haverford College Library, J. Rendel Harris Collection of manuscripts in biblical literature, no. 23. Collegeville, MN: Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, 1992. 1 microfilm reel; 35 mm.

National Library of Israel; The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts (IMHM)

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20067 [RH 1]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20068 [RH 9]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20069 [RH 10]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20070 [RH 12, RH 13]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20071 [RH 14]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20072 [RH 15]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20073 [RH 16]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20074 [RH 17]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20075 [RH 18]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20076 [RH 19, RH 20, RH 21]

Mss. R.R. Film No. F 20066 [RH 22]

Related Collections

Syriac manuscripts at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. Includes those collected by J. Rendel Harris. (See

The papers of J. Rendel Harris at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham. (See

The papers of James Rendel Harris and Helen Balkwill Harris at the University of Birmingham. (See

Rendel Harris Papyri at the University of Birmingham. (Referenced in Rendel Harris Papyri of Woodbrooke College, Birmingham by Enoch Powell, Cambridge University Press, 1936).

The Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts at the University of Birmingham. (See

J. Rendel Harris collection of Syriac manuscripts, formerly of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, now in Houghton Library, Harvard University. (Referenced in Syriac Manuscripts in the Harvard College Library: A Catalogue by Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein, Harvard Semitic Studies, no. 23, Montana: Scholars Press, 1979).

J. Rendel Harris lecture notes (HCS.001.011) Quaker and Special Collections, Haverford College, Haverford, PA.

Scholarly Appraisals of the Collection

Robert W. Rogers. "A Catalogue of Manuscripts (Chiefly [Eastern]) in the Library of Haverford College." In Haverford College Studies, no. 4. Haverford, PA: Published by the Faculty of Haverford College, 1890. Pages 22-51.

This catalog includes an introductory note by J. Rendel Harris, an inventory of the original 49 manuscripts, as well as analyses and transcriptions of select manuscripts. Many of the transcriptions of the Hebrew were later deemed inaccurate.

James Oscar Boyd. The Text of the Ethiopic Version of the Octateuch: With Special Reference to the Age and Value of the Haverford Manuscript. Leyden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Library, 1905.

In 1972, Mordechai Glatzer of the Comité de Paléographie Hebraique surveyed the collection as part of the Hebrew Paleography Project (number D185). Glatzer contributed additional descriptive notes which were added to the Rogers catalog.

In 1988, conservator Nicholas Pickwoad rebound the Masoretic Bible (Rendel Harris 1) and wrote a comprehensive report located with the Bible in Special Collections.

In 1991, Arthur Kiron and Uri Melammed from the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies surveyed the collection. Melammed added further descriptive notes and corrected, in the margins, many of the transliterations in the Rogers catalog. Around this time, portions of the collection were microfilmed and the microfilm is in the National Library of Israel’s catalog.

Rachel Beckwith. "Haverford College's Thirteenth-Century Hebrew Bible: A Case Study in Manuscript Attribution." In Manuscripts 42, no. 1 (March 1998): 30-52.

Additionally, in 1996, B. Rachel Beckwith wrote the paper "Haverford College's Thirteenth-Century Hebrew Bible: A Case Study in Manuscript Attribution" which attempts to determine where the Masoretic Bible (RH 1) was written. The paper is kept with the Masoretic Bible.

Moshe Lazar and Robert Dilligan. Seferha-yasar, First Ladino Translation (Haverford College, Ms. Hebr. 18): A Critical Edition. Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, 1998.

David Stern. Chosen: Philadelphia's Great Hebraica. Philadelphia, PA: Rosenbach Museum & Library, 2007.

The Masoretic Bible (RH 1) is analyzed briefly on pp. 18-19.

In 2009, Dr. David Cook worked on translations of portions of some of the Hebrew manuscripts in the collection.

In 2012, Steve Delamarter and Jeremy Brown, Fox University, digitized and analyzed the Ethiopic texts for the Textual History of the Ethiopic Old Testament (THEOT) project. Digital images and quire maps available upon request at Haverford.

Halperin, Dalia-Ruth. Decorated Masorah on the openings between quires in Masoretic Bible manuscripts.

Processing Information

Processed by David Conners Isaak and John Anderies, with assistance from Bridget Gibbons '13 and Thomas Littrell '15 in August 2012.

February 2022: Finding Aids edited for Harmful/Biased Language Removal project. Completed by Caitlin Peraria (graduate intern)

J. Rendel Harris collection, 1200-1890
David Conners Isaak & John Anderies, with assistance from Bridget Gibbons '13 & Thomas Littrell '15 Edited by Caitlin Peraria (MLIS intern) in February 2022 while working on a project to remove harmful and biased language from finding aids
August, 2012
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US