Conference Proceeding: It All Adds Up: Chronograms in Hebrew Books

Chronograms are often used as a dating method for classical Hebrew books. They are constructed from a phrase or biblical verse which yields a numerical value when the letters are added up. They are meant to yield a year, but often, also give another message. They often reveal the author’s name, messianic hope, or a quotation from the Bible that is relevant to the topic of the book. The mathematics are not always so easy to compute: sometimes the cataloger has to count only certain letters, and sometimes s/he has to know which ones to subtract. We come across these every day in our cataloging, in both rare books and in recent publications. This paper will discuss the way in which chronograms are presented and how they can be useful to catalogers.

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