Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
78
is returned, draw thy pen over the entry.” Laudable as it is to
lend books, it was deemed equally important to keep account of
books on loan to assure their return. The bookplate, a device
which was developed with mass production of books following
the invention of printing, serves as a mark of ownership and as a
gentle reminder to the borrower.
The sages applied the verse, “He who does righteousness at
all times” (Psalms 106.3), to the one who writes books and loans
them to others. This quotation with its commentary is found in
Hebrew on the bookplate of the collection of Samson Toeplitz
of Posen bearing the added warning that the book “is given on
loan to everyone who desires to study in it but he should not
consider it as his own for then he will violate the commandment
*Thou shalt not steal’ [Exodus 20.15]; and *the remnant of Israel
shall not do iniquity’ [Zephania 3.13].”
In the
Book of the Pious
, a Hebrew work published about the
end of the twelfth century by Judah ben Samuel surnamed the
Pious, there are found a number of references to the great virtue
of lending books. For example: a pious man, who possessed
books and loaned them to others so that they might study them,
ordered his sons thus: “ . . . be careful when you have a quarrel
with people that you do not restrain yourselves from loaning
books to them. If you suspect that they will not return the books,
take security from them.”
To remove an obstacle from the practice of loaning books and
to assure the safe return of borrowed books, as early as the
eleventh century a ban was issued prohibiting the withholding
of borrowed books for any claim that the borrower may have
against the lender, even if he owe him money.
Judah the Pious also urged that books should be loaned to the
poor rather than to the rich. He further stated that if a man has
two sons — one who takes pleasure in lending his books and one
who does not — the son who loans graciously should inherit his
father’s books.
The
Book of the Pious
further recounts the story of an old man
who died and whose library of beautiful books was sold by his
heirs to strangers. When his townsmen expressed grief that the
children had sold their father’s books, the town’s scholar remarked:
“The previous owner refused to lend any of his books claiming
that on account of his old age he would not be able to read the
manuscript if the writing should fade. He also feared that the
borrowers might destroy them. These books are now in strange
hands as a punishment for his refusal to lend his books.”
More noteworthy was the deed of Yekuthiel Zalman Lichten-