Goitein's Index Cards

Before digital databases, researchers used index cards. 

Over 35 years of geniza research, S. D. Goitein created more than 27,000 index cards related to geniza documents. Goitein’s published and unpublished scholarship are equally worth consulting; the index cards have served as an indispensable resource for researchers over the past fifty years.

Goitein’s index cards come in two groups.

  • More than seven thousand of Goitein’s cards contain descriptions of a single geniza fragment. Each of these cards is also linked to its corresponding shelfmark in the PGP database, so you can see what interested Goitein about a fragment as you're exploring the database. 
  • The remainderof Goitein’s cards cover a topic. Topic cards generally contain more than one shelfmark. They are arranged according to Goitein's original sequence in his card files, for which the PGL team has developed an index. Topic cards overlap with the documentary infrastructure of A Mediterranean Society, but extend beyond it.

Goitein wrote the cards in some combination of English, Hebrew and Arabic, with occasional German words. Be warned that in some places, his handwriting is as challenging to decipher as the medieval documents themselves.

We are grateful to our partners at the National LIbrary of Israel and the kind permission of Goitein’s children Elon Goitein and Ayala Gordon for permission to reproduce the cards.

A more detailed guide to using the index cards