Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

Basic HTML Version

38
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
A sorrowful note is perhaps not out of place here. When the
Nazis organized street collections for their so-called Winter Help
campaign, they issued tiny booklets approximately 2 by li/t,
inches as receipts. Twenty of these mementos of evil, extolling
the Fiihrer’s feats and containing extracts from his speeches, are
now extremely rare, much sought after by collectors of Nazi
memorabilia.
On a happier note, attention is called to a series of miniature
political booklets published during the 1904 presidential campaign
when Theodore Roosevelt ran for re-election against Alton B.
Parker. These booklets were issued in several languages, including
Yiddish. A copy is extant measuring 2i/£ by 1% inches, entitled
Facts about the Candidate: a Biography of Theodore Roosevelt.
This little book of 200 pages bound in colored paper contains
a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt on the inner front cover and
many line drawings of various incidents in the life of Roosevelt
from his cowboy days to his experiences as president, including
those of the martyred McKinley. Used as a campaign document,
it is not only fascinating but also the smallest Roosevelt book
recorded. It is, in addition, a reminder of the important role
Yiddish once played in Jewish life and in the political life of the
United States.
Printing Spurs Miniboo\ Production
The invention of printing in the middle of the fifteenth cen­
tury spurred a notable proliferation of books and of book owner­
ship. Records of Renaissance booksellers reflect instances of veri­
table bibliomania, purchasers frequently going into debt in order
to acquire the outstanding productions of the great early presses.
Together with the elegant folios and stately quartos, there appeared
the miniature books which found eager buyers the moment the
sheets were pulled from the press. By the last decade of the fifteenth
century such books made frequent appearances. Improvements and
refinements in the art of punch cutting and type casting led to the
production of the tiny types which were the sine qua non in the
printing of the minibooks.
Among the popular types of printed miniatures were compendia
of Jewish law. One of these, once owned by the eminent collector
Lee M. Friedman, was printed in Hebrew and Italian in Venice
in 1672. Containing 218 pages and measuring S]/2 by 2y2 inches,
it is entitled Sefer Emet ve-Emunah (Book of Truth and Faith),
compiled by Yitzhak Arubash. It lists the 613 commandments and
the 13 fundamentals according to Maimonides.
By far the largest number of editions comprised prayer books,
the vade mecum of the traditional Jew. Who does not recall the