Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
40
ish lore would disregard Rav Hai Gaon's advice: “Look to three
possessions—a field, a friend, a book
.” 3
Israel M. Goldman points
out in his
The Life and Times of Rabbi David Ibn Abi Zimra
(New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, 1970), that large librar-
ies were assembled especially by rabbis who received requests from
afar to settle legal disputes, or to interpret difficult statements in the
Talmud. The combination of these two factors, the need of materi-
als for study and instruction, and the desire to practice the
mitzvah
to acquire sacred texts, created a reverential aura for the Jewish
book, aptly described by Cecil Roth in his essay “The Jewish Love
of Books
.” 4
The Renaissance, as in Christian circles, brought with it a new
form of interest in Jewish literary materials—collecting as a hobby.
It began naturally in Italy and spread to other communities
.5
While contemporary attitudes to Jewish learning are not what
they were in past ages, interest in book collecting by individuals,
both for pragmatic purposes and as a hobby, is vigorously pursued
here and abroad, particularly in Israel. Even in Soviet Russia,
according to personal accounts by the well-known book dealer and
bibliographer Jacob Twersky of Tel Aviv
,6
collectors of Jewish
books are still active. For obvious reasons none could be identified
in this essay.
Described below are a number of private Jewish library collec-
tions in America, selected from a study of a large number of such
libraries possessing unique materials generally classed as collectors״
items by bibliographers and commercial dealers. These collections
may be divided into four major groupings: Rabbinic and scholarly;
Manuscripts, incunabula and early prints; American Jewish history;
Art.
All information in this essay is based upon personal communica-
tion with the owners of the collections, as well as visits to their
libraries in most cases. Whenever statements are quoted verbatim
from correspondence between the owners and the writer, they are
indicated by quotation marks.
Rabbinic and Scholarly Collections
The collection of the late Rabbi Moses Rokach of Brooklyn,
consisting of well over
7,000
volumes in Hebrew, represents a
8Quoted by Cecil Roth in “Famous Jewish Book Collections and Collectors,”
Jewish Book Annual,
vol. 25,1967, p. 75.
*Jewish Book A n n u a l , \
ol. 3, 1944, pp. 1-7.
6See essay quoted in note 3.
8
Maariv,
Feb. 19th, 1971, pp. 2, 47.