Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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S E L E C T E D P R I V A T E
J EW I S H L I B RAR Y C O L L E C T I O N S
B
y
S
alam on
F
aber
B
o o k c o l l e c t i n g
reflects man’s desire to acquire and preserve
knowledge. Numerous factors in mankind’s socio-cultural de-
velopment provided many motivations for the various forms of
organization and specialization of this activity. In ancient times,
when private collectors were altogether unknown, it was an impor-
tant means of the realm to maintain its cultural resources. In the
Middle Ages only monks were interested in preserving books.
Revival of interest in the classics during the Renaissance period
inspired many among the wealthy to collect books, some for per-
sonal enjoyment, while others performed a valuable social service
in organizing or enriching existing libraries. The invention of
printing provided incentives to more private collectors. By and
large, the activity was a hobby of the wealthy, subject to fluctuations
of the economic patterns of supply and demand.
At present, collecting ancient manuscripts, incunabula, early
prints, special subject matter—theology, history, linguistics, liter-
ature of certain periods—is indicative of tendencies to specialize,
especially when these materials are sought by university libraries or
research institutes in order to develop those respective departments.
Private collectors also concentrate on specific subjects, but often
they look for certain forms or external features of the collected
materials, such as sizes, bindings, illustrations, typographic varia-
tions, and the like. Hobby patterns may vary as whimsically as do
fashions
.1
Book collecting among Jews has been traditionally more than a
hobby. The process of learning, requiring book materials as help*
ful tools, is one of the basic sancta of Judaism. A knowledgeable
Jew would take seriously the injunction in Deuteronomy 31,19,
“Therefore, write down this poem and teach it to the people of
Israel,” together with the interpretation by later authorities that
one is bound by a religious command to acquire copies of the
Pentateuch and rabbinic works
.2
What thoughtful student of Jew-
1Comp.
Introduction to Book Collecting,
by Colton Storm and Howard
Peckham, New York, Bowker, 1947, pp. 35-36.
2
T u r Yoreh Deah,
no. 270 and references in the commentaries.
39