Page 83 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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LOVE OF BOOKS AS REVEALED IN
JEWISH BOOKPLATES
By
P
h i l i p
G
oodman
L
ONG before man invented the printing press, the hand-
produced book had been a cherished possession of Jews.
The well-known exhortation of the famous translator of philo-
sophical and ethical works, Judah ibn Tibbon, found in his
ethical will (circa 1190) testifies to this: “Books shall be thy
companions; bookcases and shelves, thy pleasure-nooks and gar-
dens.” It is understandable, therefore, why this exhortation,
which appeared as a legend for several years on the official Jewish
Book Month poster distributed by the Jewish Book Council of
America, has found a place on modern bookplates, notably, on
the one of Ann and Julian Jablin. The attachment to books
expressed by ibn Tibbon is more vigorously phrased in this short
poem of a Karaite, Moses ben Abraham Dari:
To One Who Askedfo r the Loan of a Book
Cease thine asking, thou borrower of books,
Since a request for the loan of books is an abomination to me.
My book is ever like my beloved.
Does a man lend his beloved to others?1
ON LENDING BOOKS
The viewpoint of the Karaite is not entirely consistent with
the traditional Jewish attitude which considered the lending of
books a meritorious act, a religious obligation. As much as the
Jew loved his books, he was nevertheless ready to share his
beloved volumes with those who did not have them. Thus, ibn
Tibbon goes on in his will to admonish his son about the love
and care that is due to books and the desirability of loaning them.
“Never refuse to lend books to anyone who has not the means to
purchase books for himself, but only lend to those who can be
trusted to return the volumes . . . When thou lendest a volume,
make a memorandum before it leaves thy house, and when it
1
Karaite Anthology
, trans. by Leon Nemoy (New Haven, 1952), p. 139.