Page 99 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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7 9
R
o t h
— F
a m o u s
J
ew ish
B
ook
C
o l l e c t io n s
thither to act as librarian until his death in 1916, in his eighty-
eighth year. For a long while this has acted in friendly competi-
tion to the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in that city, consisting of
the library of Rabbi Leser Rosenthal (1794-1868) which his son,
Baron George Rosenthal, presented to the city of Amsterdam and
is now a constituent of the University Library. Another outstand-
ing rabbinical bibliophile who can hardly escape mention in
this connection is the Hungarian David Kaufmann, eminent as
a historian no less than as a philosopher, whose remarkable col-
lection largely of Italian provenance, and including some splendid
illuminated manuscripts on which he wrote with no less learning
than charm, was also presented by his widow after his death to
the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Outstanding Book-Collectors of England
In recent generations three of the greatest Hebrew book-col-
lectors, with all of whom I was on familiar terms, resided in
England. One was Elkan Adler, son and brother of English
Chief Rabbis and a lawyer by profession, who travelled around
the world in the course of his business affairs, with ideal presenta-
tions and recommendations. He visited most out-of-the-way spots
and built up a library which for bulk if not for quality was
perhaps the greatest assembled in private possession. No place,
time or situation was in his eyes unsuitable for the acquisition
of books. He purchased a copy of the
Mashal ha-Kadmoni
of
1491—the earliest Hebrew illustrated book—from a road mender
in Morocco, and from a hill-monastery in Peru a copy of Colum-
bus’ famous letter announcing his discovery to the Marrano Luis
de Santangel (it turned out to be a fabrication). I myself once
saw him “swopping” books with another collector at a funeral.
In order to make good the defalcations of a business associate, he
was compelled to sell his library just after World War I to the
Jewish Theological Seminary, thus elevating it to a foremost
place among the Jewish libraries of the world. Another section
of it went, however, to the Hebrew Union College. But he imme-
diately set about collecting again, and the library which he left
behind on his death in 1946 was of formidable proportions.
Adler’s collection was the envy in particular of Rabbi Moses
Gaster, the Roumanian born Haham of the Spanish and Portu-
guese community in London—an incredibly versatile scholar whose
position, contacts and enthusiasm gave him unusual opportu-
nities. Many stories were told of how he built up his collection
by judicious “borrowing,” apart from earnest soliciting, of which
I have particular reason to be aware, since he thus acquired
the only real bibliographical treasure owned by my father. That