Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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4 6
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
was also the working library of the oldest rabb in ical seminary
in the Un ited States, Maimonides College, which existed from
1867
un til
1873
. Isaac Leeser, one of America’s pioneering rabbis
and one of its foremost spokesmen, had established this rabb in ical
seminary in
1867
. Since there was no suitable library for the
seminary, he donated his own private collection to Maimonides
College.
In 1873, when Maimonides College closed its doors due to the
lack of financial support, the Leeser collection was transferred
to the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia. T h e library,
consisting of some 2,400 volumes of Judaica and Hebraica, was
probably the richest private and institu tional library of its time.
I t is a collection steeped in historical associations. Many of
Leeser’s contemporaries sent him autographed copies. Th is col­
lection is extremely abundan t in early Jewish Americana, and
includes over fifty unrecorded items of Jewish Americana.
Fortunately, the Isaac Leeser Collection was catalogued by the
budding young scholar, Dr. Cyrus Adler, who was destined to
become a librarian of the Smithsonian Ins titu tion and president
of Dropsie College. Th is catalogue, the first of its k ind in the
country, was published as
Catalogue of the Leeser Library
(Phila­
delphia, 1883, 65 p.). In 1913 the Hebrew Educational Society of
Philadelphia donated this valuable collection to the Dropsie
College Library.
In 1915 Dropsie College acquired another precious collection
of early Jewish Americana—the celebrated library of Dr. Joshua
I. Cohen, physician and scholar of Baltimore, Maryland. T h e
collection of 470 volumes was especially rich in editions of the
Bible and Jewish literature and contained some of the first
Hebrew incunabula brought to the Un ited States in the m iddle
nineteenth century. I t also abounded in sixteenth century
Hebraica.
Th rough the efforts of Dr. Cyrus Adler, it was presented to
Dropsie College by Miss Bertha Cohen and her nieces. While a
student and later instructor at Johns Hopkins University, Cyrus
Adler became a close friend of the Cohen family and spent many
hours in this valuable library. He also catalogued the now
famous collection published as
Catalogue of a Hebrew Library
. . . of the late Joshua I. Cohen, M.D.
(Baltimore, 1887).
Cyrus Adler discovered the manuscript of the famous Jefferson
Bible in the Joshua Cohen Library. Th is discovery was one of
the sensational finds in American history. I t was acquired in
1895 through the efforts of Dr. Adler by the Na tional Museum
in Washington, D. C. After much heated debate, the Fifty-seventh
Congress adopted a resolution tha t it be p rin ted at government
expense and the book appeared as
T h e L ife and Morals of
Jesus of Nazareth
(Washington,
1904
).