It is the aim of the overall project to comprise, identify and codicologically and palaeografically describe the Hebrew manuscripts and fragments in Austrian Libraries; this process allows for an easier locating of sources on the history of Jewish texts and mediaeval Jewry in Austria. Currently, the project is basically restricted to the collection and the academic description of Hebrew fragments.
Primarily, the project looks at relevant mediaeval Jewish writings in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages as far as they can be found in Austrian libraries. Specifically, Hebrew fragments within the inventories of manuscripts, Incunabula and early printings are being searched for. Those Hebrew fragments that are located in the Austrian National Library will be comprised in a separate project. Relevant manuscripts and fragments that are privately owned will also be included as far as they are known to the project team. The term “Austria” refers to the current political borders of the country, inventories within manuscript collections outside of Austria can only be touched briefly.
The project was founded in 1991 by Prof. DDr. Ferdinand Dexinger in cooperation with the former chairman of the Austrian society “Freunde der hebräischen Universität in Jerusalem” (Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), Prof. Yaakob Sussmann. Publications on the foundation and the initial progress of the project can be found in two contributions by Peter Landesmann (Die 'Europäische Genisah') and Ferdinand Dexinger (Hebräische Fragmente) in Nachrichten von der Hebräischen Universität Jerusalem 1991 und 1994. Until the untimely death of the project leader in 2003, the data was primarily collected by members of the Commission for Paleography and Codicology of Mediaeval Manuscripts in Austria of the Austrian Academy of Sciences within most provinces of Austria. (So far, the inventories not or not entirely covered are those of the Austrian National Library, and the manuscript holdings in Burgenland, Upper Austria, the Tyrol and Vorarlberg). In 2004, the project was continued under the leadership of Ass.-Prof. Dr. Josef Oesch (Department for Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, University of Innsbruck) together with Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Hubmann (Department for Biblical Studies, Catholic-Theological Private University Linz). On the occasion of his retirement in November 2008, Prof. Oesch passed the project on to PD Dr. Martha Keil, director of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria. Since the beginning of this project, the Commission for Paleography and Codicology of Mediaeval Manuscripts in Austria of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has been placing its infrastructure at the disposal of the project team and has been servicing database and website. Since 2007, the project has been integrated into the pan-European project “Hebrew Fragments in European Libraries” together with nine countries in cooperation with the Jewish National and University Library Jerusalem.
The volume edited by Ch. Glassner and J.M. Oesch (eds.) Fragmenta Hebraica Austriaca. Akten der Session 'Hebrew Manuscripts and Fragments in Austrian Libraries' des International Meeting der Society of Biblical Literature in Wien am 26. Juli 2007 (= Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 783) , Wien 2009. reports on the progress of the project "Hebrew Manuscripts and Fragments in Austrian Libraries"