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American Heritage Center Acquires Two Historic Jewish Scroll

September 24, 2009
People observing a scroll
University of Wyoming Religious Studies Professor Seth Ward introduces a Book of Esther scroll to staff members at the UW American Heritage Center. (AHC Photo)

Two historic Jewish scrolls have found a home in the Toppan Rare Books Library at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center.

"These acquisitions will further strengthen the Toppan Library's outstanding collection of religious texts from the 15th through the 20th centuries," says Anne Marie Lane, rare books curator. The scrolls were purchased through the AHC's Edmund I. Woodbury Fund.

One of the new acquisitions, a Jewish Torah scroll, probably from Lithuania and handwritten on parchment in Beit-Yosef script, is kosher for public reading and dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. In Hebrew, Torah means "the true teaching."

The other acquisition, a Jewish Book of Esther scroll from around 1900, is much smaller but has a beautiful handpainted image at the beginning (in a Persian style, of a man and a woman seated in a pavilion). It is from Yemen and was written on gazelle skin.

The addition of the Torah and Esther scrolls strongly symbolize a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and teaching, says Seth Ward, professor in the UW Religious Studies Program. Such pursuits are "needed to choose life, good and blessings for us and for all society," he says.

"Anne Marie Lane is widely recognized for her expertise on many aspects of rare books and particularly the use of rare books for teaching undergraduates," says Mark Greene, AHC director. "This makes the Toppan Library a vibrant part of the university's curriculum, rather than a cloistered museum with limited access."

In addition to serving undergraduates, the Toppan Library is open to the public, teachers and scholars. To make an appointment to see the scrolls at the AHC, call (307) 766-2565 or e-mail

The AHC is the University's repository of manuscript and special collections, rare books, and the university archives. Its collections focus on Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West (including but not limited to politics, settlement, and western trails), environment and conservation, the mining and petroleum industries, air and rail transportation, the performing arts (particularly radio, television, film, and popular music), journalism, U.S. military history and book history.

The AHC a wide range of scholarly and popular programs including lectures, concerts, symposia, and exhibits. Access to the AHC, housed in the Centennial Complex at 2111 Willett Drive, is free and open to the public. For more information call (307) 766-4114 or visit the Web site

Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009

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