".... Despite the adoption of the spoken languages of their host societies in everyday life – the wide use of Greek by Hellenized Jews in late antiquity, the extensive employment of Arabic as the main written language in countries under Muslim rule, and later, to a much lesser extent, the application of European vernacular languages in their literature, the Jews have always remained loyal to their own script. Jews have adhered to their Semitic national writing, rendering in it not only epigraphic writings, literary texts and documents written in the Hebrew language, but also other borrowed languages, including the European ones, in transcription. Learned Jews in medieval Christian Europe apparently never employed the Latin script, nor did they use the Latin language in Hebrew transcription. On the other hand, since the eleventh century Jews did employ occasionally and in the late Middle Ages more extensively, the vernacular languages of their environments, transcribing them in Hebrew characters. Old French, Provençal, Catalan, Castilian, Spanish and, of course, Italian, Greek and particularly German were assimilated by the Jews and incorporated into their Hebrew written texts, but always rendered in Hebrew transcription.
"Thus, Jews in the East and the West, and since the ninth century rather exclusively, utilised the Hebrew script for written communication, documentation, legal proceedings and particularly for writing their literature and disseminating it, mainly in Hebrew, but also in other languages, especially Arabic. This remarkable phenomenon, together with the vast territorial dispersion of the Jews, turned a minor marginal script and book craft into a culturally rather major one. From the viewpoint of extent and diffusion, the Hebrew script was employed in the Middle Ages over a larger territorial range than the Greek, Latin or Arabic scripts, as Hebrew manuscripts and documents were produced within and across all these and other script zones.
"This marginal Hebrew script and book craft naturally encompassed diversified regional shapes, types and styles of the common script, book technology and the scribal practices involved in its production. Medieval Hebrew books shared the same script, but were divided by different geo-cultural traditions of fabrication, design and writing modes, strongly influenced by contacts with local non-Jewish values and practices and by the Latin and Arabic scripts. Hebrew manuscripts indeed present a solid diversity of well-differentiated script types, techniques and scribal practices, moulded by the different places where they were made.
"About 100,000 handwritten Hebrew codices and their remains have survived to this day. They are kept in some six hundred national, state, public, municipal, university and monastic libraries and private collections all over the world. Some 300,000 fragments of medieval manuscripts were preserved in the Cairo Genizah, a store room for worn-out books in a synagogue in old Cairo. In addition, numerous remains of re-used bisected medieval European Hebrew manuscripts have been and still are being recovered from the binding covers books in many European collections.
"Among the hundreds of collections of surviving Hebrew manuscripts in the world, only the collections of some dozen libraries are regarded as major collections, both in quantity, by containing at least several hundred manuscripts, and in quality, by having important and rare copies in all the areas of Jewish textual creativity and old, precious and aesthetically designed written books. Those collections are found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, the Russian State Library in Moscow, the National Library in Jerusalem, the British Library in London, the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Cambridge University Library and the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.
"It may seem rather paradoxical that the extant Hebrew manuscripts which have mostly survived from Christian countries, while escaping mass expulsions and persecutions, were saved mainly by European libraries which purchased them, preserved, conserved and kept them accessible for students and scholars. These Christian institutions became guardians of Jewish literary heritage, like the Bodleian Library and Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana" (Malachi Beit-Arié, "Hebrew Manuscripts," http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/hebrew-manuscripts, accessed 12-08-2013).