Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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lowed or preceded their neighbours in this. Everywhere in the
country there were enthusiastic book-collectors—not necessarily
scholars but also laymen, of whom we would know little or
nothing except their evident love of books: men like Mena-
hem of Volterra in the 15th century, whose library is now
in the Vatican, or Baruch da Peschiera in the 16th, whose books
found their way to Tu rin and Parma. Solomon Finzi, son of the
Mantuan scientist Mordecai (Angelo) Finzi, had in his library
in the little township of Viadana, where he exercised the pro-
fession of loan-banker, a collection of 200 volumes, at that time
considered a number worthy of a great humanist. Another branch
of the Finzi family living in Bologna, however, were reputed to
own a couple of hundred manuscripts, besides a rich collection
of printed books.
The largest Jewish library in the Renaissance period was that
built up in successive generations by the family of Da Pisa,
friends of Don Isaac Abrabanel and patrons of David Reubeni.
They were, however, far outdone in the 17th century by Abra-
ham Joseph Solomon Graziano (died in 1685), rabbi of Modena,
who wrote the initials of his name
ish ger
in vast numbers of
books now scattered in Jewish libraries throughout the world
including the so-called “Golden Haggadah” in the British Mu-
seum, one of the most glorious Hebrew illuminated manuscripts
in existence. His contemporary, the physician Joseph Solomon
del Medigo (1591-1655), boasted that he owned no fewer than
4,000 volumes, on which he had expended the vast sum of 10,000
(florins?). Doubtless, in view of his wide intellectual interests,
many of these were in languages other than Hebrew. But the
same was true of many of his contemporaries in enlightened
communities, such as those of Italy or Holland. It is from this
last-named country, in the circle of the cultured ex-Marrano
communities, that the first printed sale catalogues of private
Hebrew libraries emerged—for example, those printed at the
time of the dispersal of the collections of Haham Moses Raphael
de Aguilar (1680), the earliest such publication known to Jew-
ish booklore, and of Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, “the first American
rabbi” (1690), comprising about 500 volumes, many in Spanish,
French, even Greek and Latin.
The Great Library of David Oppenheim
By the time of Aboab’s death, one of the greatest of all Jewish
book-collectors of all time had begun his activities. This was
David Oppenheim, Chief Rabbi of Prague and a close kinsman
of the notorious “Jew Suss,” who compiled in 1688 the first
catalogue of his collection comprising at the time some 500 books.