Noam Sienna is a graduate student in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota. He also is a henna artist, studying its history and traditions. He is interested in Jewish history in the Mediterranean world, Jewish-Muslim relations, and Mediterranean culture in the early modern period, including the history of the book and the transmission of knowledge.
His prize-winning paper, “The Ways of the World: Thomas Hyde’s 1691 Printing of Farissol’s Iggeret Orḥot ‘Olam,” discusses how this important 16th-century Hebrew manuscript came to be published by Oxford University in Latin translation. Iggeret Orḥot ‘Olam (The Ways of the World, 1534) is a geographic compilation, and includes discussions of the seven climatic zones and the continents, speculations on the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden and of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and descriptions of Italian and Portuguese explorations in the Indian Ocean, as well as the information about the new discoveries in the Atlantic and sailing directions for traveling from Italy to Egypt and also to northern Europe. Avraham Farissol was a rabbi and philosopher; Sienna sees this work as an attempt to open the new developments of secular Renaissance science and geography to a Jewish reading public.