Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

Basic HTML Version

J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
44
minor museum. This was due to the indefatigable labor of the
Division’s second chief, Dr. Joshua Bloch.
In 1923, when Dr. Bloch succeeded A. S. Freidus, the Division
had two Hebrew incunabula and about 200 sixteenth century
books. Today the Division has 34 incunabula and the number of
sixteenth century books is close to 1,000 volumes. Among the
books acquired were parts 2 and 3 of
Arba Turim,
the code of
law by Jacob ben Asher, the first dated Hebrew book, printed
in Piove di Sacco in 1475. The Vogelstein Memorial Collection
includes two editions of Moses Nahmanide’s commentary on the
Pentateuch, one printed in Rome before 1480, which is perhaps
the first printed Hebrew book, and the other in Lisbon, 1489,
the first book issued from a printing press in Portugal. Mortimer
Schiff presented a number of rare books, among them an early
edition of Moses Maimonides’
Mishneh Torah,
Soncino, 1490.
John M. Schiff contributed a beautiful 2 volume vellum edition
of the Mahzor, printed in Augsburg, 1540.
Among the many gifts of Louis M. Rabinowitz, one might
single out the first edition of Maimonides’
Moreh Nevukhim
(Guide to the Perplexed, Rome, before 1480); a philosophical
commentary on Job by Levi ben Gershon (Ferrara, 1477) and a
number of the earliest Constantinople imprints. Avicenna’s
Arabic
Kanun
in a Hebrew translation, Naples, 1491 (3 volumes)
was presented by Mr. & Mrs. Carl M. Loeb.
Dr. Harry G. Friedman continues to present significant works,
mostly by Christian scholars of the period of Humanism and the
Reformation. Among them one might single out Conrad Pelli-
can’s edition of Psalms, Basel, 1516. Sixteenth century books
published in Italy are strongly represented. So are those printed
in Central Europe in such towns as Thiengen in Bavaria and
Isny in Wiirttemberg. Our holdings include one of the earliest
printed Yiddish books,
Sefer Middot ,
a work on ethics, Isny,
1542. Among the books published in Salonica, the Division has
Moses Almosnino’s
Regimento de la Vida,
1564, the first printed
original work in Ladino.
In addition to rare printed books, the Division acquired two
manuscript Mahzors on vellum, both gifts of Mr. Rabinowitz.
One was written in the 14th century, a work of magnificent illu-
mination, and the other in the 15th century, a fine example of
Hebrew calligraphy. However, while the Division has thus en-
hanced its collection by the addition of great treasures, it remains
basically the workshop. Its intrinsic strength lies in accumulated
material serving research and study, the early editions helping
primarily to establish critical texts. Of its 110,000 volumes about
40,000 are in Hebrew, 15,000 in Yiddish, and the rest in other
languages, chiefly English, German, Russian and French. The
Division is strong in bibliographies and reference works, Jewish