Le projet SION-Digit a pour objectif de rendre accessible une grande quantité de sources archivistiques concernant des Juifs dans le triangle géographique de Venise, Bordeaux et Amsterdam, entre c. 1500 et 1700. Les sources relèvent essentiellement des archives notariales. Le but du carnet est de publier régulièrement des annonces et articles, mettant au courant ses lecteurs de nouvelles découvertes, des ressources numériques créées par SION-Digit, des débats et rencontres autour du projet, ainsi que des publications le concernant.

About the project

The project SION-Digit consists of locating, cataloguing, digitizing and transcribing a representative corpus of notarial deeds revealing everyday-life, objects and transborder transactions of Jews, 1500-1700, within the geographical triangle Venice-Bordeaux-Amsterdam. The majority of these lives still go unnoticed due to the dispersal of notarial records absorbed within larger, Christian, administrations. SION-DIGIT aims to create the resource for tracing persons, objects and texts and reconstruct the spatial and temporal networks within which they existed. The notarial deeds from the cities’ different repositories are presently hard to find or impossible to access and online reproduction by the institutions unlikely to happen. While scholarship has acknowledged the existence of interconnected charity networks it remains uninformed of many everyday life details. SION-DIGIT will organise, reproduce and transcribe a representative set of records from different institutions. It aims at enhancing their accessibility through an Open Access searchable database and a suite of analytic and statistical tools.

Disclosing archives, specifically notarial records, from early modern Jewry’s main urban centres Venice, Amsterdam and Bordeaux, during the period 1500-1700, SION-DIGIT will address a major gap of present-day scholarship. These involve information on transborder exchanges in relation to individuals’ everyday life, from literacy and intellectual transfers to estate property. Lacking systematic analysis of notarial deeds as a major source, analysis of cultual and cultural objects’ dissemination, of wealth-distribution and inheritance is still missing important elements. Notarial deeds contain information on objects that represent any form of ‘wealth’, both intellectual and material. SION-DIGIT aims at resolving complications stemming from archival preservation and decoding (challenging accessibility and readability, dispersal and incomplete or inexistent indexing and cataloguing), affecting the exploration of notarial records.

While we are aware of the connections between Venice, Amsterdam and Bordeaux through a charity system (see for ex. Bodian 1987), we are in dire need of archival data, especially from before 1660, on other types of transactions allowing historiography to fill those gaps. Moreover, the study of records in Jewish community archives has been isolated from collections within state and town archives, thus truncating these records’ meaning. Conversely, studies isolating deeds integrated into the larger governing – Christian – system blur their meaning. This long-unperceived binary but complementary administrative presence partly reflects the double status of Jews, turned into Conversos, the first period after the expulsion of Spain and Portugal (1492, 1497). SION-DIGIT will offer an archival collection that is complementary to the Pinkasim Project. The latter harvested and prepared digitized versions of 1500-1800 communities’ minute books of Ashkenazic Europe and northern Italy for open-access publication on the National Library of Israel’s website.

SION-Digit will address the current need for data and knowledge regarding Jewish lives, counterbalancing the isolation and furthermore extremely scarce pinkasim material surviving for the cities and period here taken into consideration. SION-DIGIT’s approach will unearth new constellations of texts and people, as well as hitherto unnoticed links in European Jewry and wider European culture. Producing a large and unprecedented dataset in the field of early modern Jewish and urban network studies alike, saving these archives and data from their current dispersed character, resolving material problems of accessibility and readability, SION-DIGIT will unearth and reproduce the material in such a way that it offers a new archival repository that allows serial analysis and reconsidering main-stream narratives of the complex and nuanced role of early modern Jews.

Table-ronde : Bordeaux, 28 septembre 2022

Une histoire d’absence ou un siècle oublié ?

Témoigner des Juifs dans la France prémoderne

Biblioteca Palatina, Parm. Ms. 2895, Siddur 1450-1453 (f°. 235).

28 septembre 2022

Bordeaux, Musée d’Aquitaine

Oppression, persécutions, conversions marquèrent la vie des Juifs en France à l’époque de Michel de Montaigne. L’absence de traces émergentes de la culture juive a transformé cette tranche de l’histoire des Juifs, en particulier en Aquitaine, en une « histoire d’absence » ou de perte d’identité. Ou bien serait-ce une question de sources abandonnées ? Cette rencontre vous ramènera à ce siècle oublié mais autant étonnant que passionnant.

Avec Emma Abate (professeur, Università di Bologna/ CNRS), Géraldine Cazals (professeur, Université Bordeaux), Evelien Chayes (chercheur, IRHT-CNRS), Hélène Jawhara-Piñer (chercheur, Université de Tours), Davide Mano (chercheur, IRHT-CNRS), Paul Salmona (directeur, Musée de l’Art et de l’Histoire du Judaïsme) et Pierre Savy (directeur d’études, École française de Rome).

SION-Digit at the RSA 2022 meeting

At the Renaissance Society of America 2022 meeting in Dublin, we presented the SION-Digit project.

With prof. Emma Abate (Università di Bologna/ IRHT-CNRS) we set up the panel The Itinerary of Jewish Witnesses. From Repository to Diaspora — From Diaspora to Repository.

ex Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, ms. hébr. 374.

Evelien Chayes’s paper Signifying Letizia Nahmias’s papers. Reconstructing travels and meanings of Jewish matters in the digital age contained an analysis of the pilot-dataset gathered around the Venetian Nahmias-family. It showed how SION-Digit intends to offer material in such a form that it correlates micro-histories and metanarratives with geographical spaces, from cross-border urban networks to private dwellings.

Confronting the dispersal of notarial records absorbed within larger, Christian, administrations, Chayes’s paper presented the fruits of aggregating, with the help of digital tools, archives of different localities over a longer period. Recently uncovered archival material pertaining to Letizia Nahmias (d. 1669, Venice) and her family, helped her to retrace several generations of tradership between the Levant and the West. Through an initially micro-historical approach, data were extracted from notarial deeds in repositories of Venice, Bordeaux and Amsterdam. The Nahmias papers witness the agency of objects within this geographical triangle of longue durée. The paper ultimately raised questions regarding old and novel archival practices as well as enduring narratives of religion, gender-roles and group identification or oppositions.

Prof. Emma Abate’s paper, Kabbalistic readings: A glance into Renaissance libraries of Jewish Communities in Central Italy, analysed Hebrew book lists dating from the end of the fourteenth century to the first half of the sixteenth century, drawn up by members of Central Italian Jewish communities. Inventories that often are informal writings enclosed in the guard or back flyleaves of medieval and early modern manuscripts: they recorded items from private library collections, or held by schools and synagogues. Focusing on lists referencing Kabbalistic works, with varying quantitative and qualitative information regarding texts and specific copies, Abate compared these documents with the inventory of Kabbalistic fragments brought to light in the context of the Books within Books. Hebrew Fragments in European Libraries project ( She thus recovered itineraries and features of the Kabbalistic manuscripts circulating among the Jewish communities of Central Italy before the institution of ghettos and the spread of censorship.

The third discussant was prof. Pierre Savy (École française de Rome), whose contribution gave a close look into North-Italian sources from the thriteenth to the seventeenth century, testifying to the Jews’ capacity both to foster political action (Jewish political agency) and to develop political thought. A high level of pragmatism, the care for the interests of the group, the frequent recourse to intercession and alliance are among the particularities of this agency. Those themes will be studied mainly through archival sources produced by the majority society, records from community archives, Jewish literary works and rabbinical responsa. This paper explained the rationale behind the projet JPOL, which will aggregate a number of primary sources pertaining to Jewish political agency.

The panel was chaired by prof. Guido Bartolucci (Università della Calabria).

Prof. Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh; co-director of the Footprints-project) acted as respondent.

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