Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
8
are to be read, they must be easily procurable, that is, be cheap.
The books I ’ve mentioned, with their wonderful paper and print
and binding — I am not being ironical: they
are
wonderfully
produced — are magnificent but too dear.
Now I know what I ’m going to be told, and I ’m not going to
argue about it because I can’t. In these days no books, and
certainly not fine books, can be produced cheaply, especially when
the market is so restricted. But a way out exists, and it must be
noted. I t is an intermediate way, and like most intermediate ways
it is far from being the best. But it is a refuge from the worst. The
best is, of course, that everybody should have his own books. The
worst is that nobody (except the rich) should have any books at all.
The middle way is that libraries should be provided everywhere
possible, and thoroughly and generously stocked.
I happen myself to be living in a city where there is a synagogue
on the walls of which there are bookshelves; and on the bookshelves
are books, rows upon rows of them. On my first visit I inspected
them and found they were — quite rightly — sets of prayer books
and Pentateuchs; admirable books and in their place. I am not
grumbling or contemning or criticizing; very much to the contrary.
But suppose that
in addition to
the rows upon rows of prayer
books and Pentateuchs (I am reminded of the old jest which I
shall not translate:
אלמתו
ץראה
.סמח
,שמוח
,רוזחמ
רודס
.) — suppose
that
in addition to
the prayer books and Pentateuchs there were
sets of the Schiff Classics, of the various Soncino Press publica-
tions, of the East and West Library, even of the books from
the Everyman list I have mentioned — let them be in a separate
room but let that room be properly equipped; and the center
chosen need not be only a religious one although the synagogue
is a, if not the, natural place to start in: — boys’ clubs, committee
rooms, dance halls, night clubs, Woburn House — any place where
Jews go: I myself should like to see such collections in the public
libraries; suppose . . .
How to do it? One obvious and easy way is to devote to it the
next
Kol Nidrei
collection. But alternatively you can look out for
a Jewish Carnegie, or run Book Clubs, or start a Publication
Society, or consult Mr. Gollancz; anything you like: but so long
as your Schiff Classics cost what they cost and your Soncino
Midrash costs what it costs — and I say yet again that with condi-
tions as they are these books are not overpriced — the only way to
get Jewish books into Jewish hands is by a collective effort whereby
the individual, if he can’t have all of a book all of the time, can
have all of a book, or a part of a book, at least part of the time.
Jewish libraries everywhere and the books in many copies — what