Moreh Nevukhim by Maimonides in the Hebrew manuscript collection of the University of Leiden (Cod. Or. 4723, fol 16a)
The strict interpretation of the Old Testament prohibition against graven images precluded the use of illustration in many Hebrew and Islamic religious texts, but commentaries, secular and mystical texts,(such as Q'abalah) were often illustrated with pictures or diagrams.
A full historiated page of this book (fol. 133a), with an interlaced pattern such as is found in many levantine cultures.
Return to the Essay
Look at Arabic illuminated manuscripts
Look at Twentieth Century examples of text as image
See more pages of this manuscript at the Leiden University Library
Go to the National Library of Canada Jacob M. Lowy Collection. Here are some gifs of Hebrew Incunabula with technical diagrams.
Copyight 1996 Text by Richard Minsky, images used with permission of Leiden University Library Oriental Department