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Jewish Museum in Prague

The Binder Collection

The Museum of the Memorial Scrolls Trust houses more than 400 Torah binders – probably the largest such collection in Great Britain. These binders have been created from many different fabrics, making them of great interest as reflections of the contemporary social environment. They date predominantly from the 19th Century but a few are from the 18th century and some from the early 20th century. Because they arrived still wound around Torah scrolls which were nearly all accurately catalogued in the 1940s, we know their provenance right down to the town or village of origin.

The Binders are of three basic types. The first being the traditional wimpel made from the cloth used at a boy’s circumcision. These came predominantly from Ashkenaz, the lands of German-speaking Jews; Southern Germany, Alsace, Switzerland, Bohemia and Moravia. There are many other names and spellings for this type of binder, such as mappa, mappe, mappah, wrapper, thorahwickelband etc. These names depended upon the customs of the various communities.

The second type is a “short” binder, made to wrap once around the Torah Scroll and fasten quickly with a hook, a button or a tie. Once again, the various styles and techniques employed reflect the local and prevalent folk art of Bohemia and Moravia.

The third example has no obvious Jewish connection apart from its usage, but is derived from a miscellaneous selection of whatever material was available.