Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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THE J EWI SH COL L E C T I ON S IN THE
ROYAL L I BRARY OF CO P ENHAG EN
B y
R.
E
d e l m a n n
C
o p e n h a g e n
,
the capital of Denmark, could never be counted
among large Jewish centers like F rankfort on the Main,
Berlin, Amsterdam and others, which have housed and in some
cases are still housing outstanding Jewish libraries, and where
Jewish books were found in private possession, w ith the excep­
tion of David Simonsen whose collections will be mentioned
below. T h e number of Jews in Denmark has always been re la­
tively small, and their interest in Jewish books did not exceed
tha t of the Jews in contemporary German communities of the
same size. T he establishment of a library of Jewish books, how­
ever, does not always depend upon the existence of a large
Jewish community with high spiritual standards and Jewish
learning. Many big collections of Jewish books, among them
some of the most important in the world, are to be found in
libraries that in no way can be considered Jewish, such as the
Vatican library and public libraries in Europe, America and
elsewhere. T h e collections of Jewish books, including m anu ­
scripts, in all these non-Jewish libraries have been established
qu ite independently of whether or no t a Jewish community
existed there. T h e primary motive for the acquisition of Jewish
books by non-Jewish scholars was their interest in Hebrew
literature as sources for their theological and philological studies.
Th is was especially true in the Scandinavian countries, including
Denmark.
In the Danish monarchy the first Jews arrived in 1622. In
Denmark proper, however, Jews were no t allowed to settle
before the 1670’s, although King Frederick I I I in 1657 gave them
permission to travel freely in the kingdom. At the end of the
17th century there were no more than between 100 and 200 Jews
living in Denmark, including twelve Jewish families in Copen­
hagen. But Jewish books had been brought to Denmark several
centuries earlier, and when the above mentioned king in the
1650’s established his library, now the Royal Library of Copen­
hagen, there were more Jewish books in Denmark than there
were Jews.
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