Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

Basic HTML Version

J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
4 6
As we walk around the room, we stop first to examine a few
manuscripts: a Biblical Codex from the tenth century; com-
munity records of the Jews of Furth; the beautiful fifteenth
century Cincinnati Haggadah, and other illuminated manuscripts
invaluable for the history of art among Jews. The Library has
a very large collection of Samaritan manuscripts and important
items in liturgy, halaka, poetry, science, and other disciplines.
Two major manuscript collections must be singled out. One
is a group of 59 booklets, many in fan-fold form, written by
native Chinese Jews. This small treasure constitutes practically
all the books that remain from the old Chinese Jewish com-
munity and are thus excitingly tantalizing. One of the volumes,
of much historical import, is a Communal Register in Hebrew
and Chinese, containing a name list of the men and women
who made up the community.
The Eduard Birnbaum Music Collection, famous for its 3,000
manuscripts and a similar number of printed volumes of Jewish
music, is the other collection deserving of special mention here.
Carefully gathered over a lifetime by Cantor Eduard Birnbaum
of Koenigsberg, this corpus of material includes the manuscript
work of some of Europe’s great cantors of the nineteenth century
and earlier; a very basic thematic catalog; portraits of cantors,
musicians and singers; and printed books of great rarity. Here,
in the finest collection of Jewish music in the world, is the
source material for the history of Jewish music of the past
centuries.
Noteworthy collections of printed books, too, are housed in the
Dalsheimer Rare Book Wing. Among them is the library of
Dr. Samuel Adler, 19th century rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of
New York, which he bequeathed to the Hebrew Union College.
This library of almost 2,000 items is the only large acquisition
the Library has preserved intact, as an example of a quality
book collection of a learned American rabbi of that period.
The Spinoza collection, a large part of which is in the Rare
Book Wing, is one of the finest. It consists of the early editions,
in many languages, of the works of the man whose modernism
was the cause both of his unpopularity among Jews and non-
Jews of his day and of his current popularity in both groups.
Here, too, are many monographs on Spinoza’s life and works,
and the works of those who influenced him markedly and who
were influenced strongly by him.
The Library contains a rich sampling of books in unusual
bindings. Many styles and colors, and materials including wood,
leather, fine parchment, velvet, silver, beads, and ivory are
brought together here as samples of changing artistic forms.
Often important manuscript fragments or even parts of printed