Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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a fr e n
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books make up the bindings of other books. Nearby is the
Library’s group of diminutive books. Because of their size and
because they tend to be books like the Psalms and prayer books
that are put to very heavy use, the “pocket books” of all periods
are quite rare. Among the little books from the 16th century is
one, the Book of Psalms printed in Mantua in 1571, which
appears to be the only extant copy on vellum. In this connection
we might mention that among the Hebrew incunabula in the
Library are a number of vellum books including the first printed
Pentateuch (Bologna, 1482) and the first printed Mahzor (Son-
cino and Casal-Maggiore, 1485-86). The Library also has copies
of the paper counterpart of these two books.
Relatively small but important collections exist for various
other subject areas. One of these is the group of books in Marathi,
the language of the native Indian-Jewish group from around
Bombay who call themselves Beni-Israel. Another is the Library’s
books on the Inquisition, partly in manuscript, partly in
print. Papal bulls, edicts of inquisitors, royal letters, inquisitorial
instructions, and early and later histories make up the collection.
The Library is particularly rich in sermons preached at the autos-
da-fe held by the Portuguese Inquisition at Lisbon, Coimbra,
Evora, and Goa. Here also is the collection of tracts published in
the early 16th century on both sides of the Reuchlin-Pfefferkorn
controversy over the question of the suppression of Hebrew
books. One particularly bitter attack on Pfefferkorn in broadside
form seems to be a unique copy.
One of the fine collections acquired by the Library many
years ago was that of Israel Solomon. This formed the nucleus
of an impressive group of British Judaica including the first
book printed in England with Hebrew and Arabic type (Robert
Wakefield’s book on Semitic philosophy printed in London in
1524), a Hebrew grammar in English by Petrus Martinius
(Leyden, 1593), the first to be printed in a modern language, and
John Row’s Hebrew grammar (Glasgow, 1644), the first book
containing Hebrew type printed in Scotland. A more recent
collection of Disraeliana is also here.
Americana and Other Collections
Perhaps the most rapidly growing section and the most heavily
used in the Rare Book Wing is that containing Jewish Amer-
icana. Recently augmented by the acquisition of the late Her-
mann Gold’s collection which included, among other rare vol-
umes, an unusual copy of the first Hebrew Bible printed in the
United States in Philadelphia, 1814, the Americana section also
boasts of many firsts such as the first printed Jewish prayer book