Detail of a Geniza folio fragment

The Princeton Geniza Project of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University seeks to extend the methodologies available to Hebrew and Arabic scholars working with the documents found in the Geniza chamber of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in the late 19th century. The project is dedicated to transcribing documents from film copies to computer files, creating a full text retrieval text-base of transcribed documents, developing new tools such as dictionaries, semantic categories and morphological aids to further the study of Geniza texts. The project is committed to disseminating its materials as widely as possible to the international community of scholars with an interest in the life of the medieval Middle East, as well as to all with an interest in Judaica. It is our hope that by making materials from this very esoteric field widely available that new insights can be gained into the interaction of the peoples of the Middle East in past time. Since inception in 1986, funding has been provided by Princeton University, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, and from 2000 to 2005 by the Friedberg Genizah Project.


This project is dedicated to the memory of Shelomo Dov Goitein (1900-1985). Goitein - educator, Arabist, historian, Jewish ethnographer, master of the thousands of documents from the Cairo Geniza, and greatest expositor of Jewish life in the Islamic Middle Ages - died in Princeton on February 6, 1985. The many tributes published since then attest to the impact he had on his own and on the current generation of scholars. At the time of his death, Professor Goitein had just completed and sent to the publisher the manuscript of the fifth volume of his magnum opus, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. With some six hundred publications to his credit, this great scholar nevertheless took special pleasure in knowing that the major work, which had taken much longer than originally planned, was behind him. In 1967, upon the appearance of the first volume, he had announced his intention to produce a total of three. Over the years, three had grown into six; the sixth, entirely devoted to indices, was in an advanced state of preparation at the time of his death and will be published in due course. [more]

About the database

This edition of the Geniza database, and the TextGarden web application that hosts it, was developed by Rafael Alvarado, Manager of Humanities Computing Research Applications at Princeton, in 2005. It replaces and incorporates the original browser developed by Peter Batke in the late 1990s. Currently the browser is managed by Ben Johnston, Manager of the Humanities Resource Center of the Educational Technologies Center.

Note on the transcriptions

Transcriptions have been taken from two sources, mainly: (1) volumes and articles containing edited documents, the latter including all the articles published by S.D. Goitein, "updated" according to handwritten corrections in his personal offprints; and (2) texts typed by Goitein ("typed texts") but mostly never published. In all cases, but especially the latter, users are strongly urged to inspect the manuscripts or copies of the manuscripts. Goitein considered his typed texts "drafts" and always restudied the manuscripts and made revisions to his transcriptions before publishing them. Some mistakes represent errors that occurred during our transcription process. Users are encouraged to notify us of errors they find so they can be corrected. Some transcriptions are now linked to digitized images of the manuscripts, so that it is possible easily to check the transcriptions. We plan to add more images as they become available.

The vast majority of the documentary texts in the Geniza are written in Judaeo-Arabic, but many are in Hebrew or Hebrew/Aramaic, or Arabic. Users can search all these languages in the Browser.

Users unfamiliar with the nature of Judaeo-Arabic or the Hebrew consonantal equivalents of Arabic may consult Joshua Blau, The Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judaeo-Arabic.

For published texts, brief bibliographical data are given in the headers. At a later date, a comprehensive list of bibliography will be added to the Browser and users will be able to "click" to find full information. For the time being, we believe that most users will successfully identify the sourcees. Anyone wishing help should write to us at providing the shelfmark.

The actual descriptions of the contents of documents are necessarily brief. Information has been taken either from the published editions, from Goitein's Mediterranean Society, or from Goitein's unpublished index cards

Some but not all of the documents belonging to Goitein's "India Book," being edited for publication by Professor Mordechai A. Friedman of Tel Aviv University, are available in the Geniza Browser. Others will be added when they are available. Some other documents relating to family life that were edited by one of Friedman's students, Dr. Amir Ashur, have been incorporated with the editor's permission.

As of August 2009, the database contains just over 4000 documents, between 25% and 40% of the "documentary Geniza" (depending on varying estimates of the total). The Project continues to add documents as they are completed.