Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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Spertus’ library also harbors some 100 Yemeni manuscripts in
Hebrew and Arabic. The University of Chicago Press will soon
publish a complete catalog of these manuscripts, edited and anno-
tated by Professor Norman Golb. This material is of much interest
on the history of the Jewish community in Yemen and its relations
to the Moslems.
This last item suggests that there are no definitive criteria for
specializations within library collections. At best, we can indicate
collectors’ tendencies and general interests in certain categories of
materials, whether it be the four alluded to above, or others. In
reality, there is overlapping to some degree, even in those cases
where a certain group predominates. At times a private collector
develops an interest in some unusual subject. For example, the
collection of Justin G. Turner of Los Angeles specializes in ma-
terials on Jewish cartographers. Another of its distinctive features
is a collection of taped statements by all the signers of the Dec-
laration of Independence of the State of Israel.
An example of unusual curiosa is offered by the collection of
Dr. S. Z. Yovely of New York City who specializes in Judaica in
the Italian language, especially anti-semitic materials of the fascist
period. It even includes a complete set of
Der Stiirmer
, called
Difesa della Razza
in the Italian language. Another of its unusual
features are books and manuscripts on amulets and incantations,
know in Jewish folklore as
segulot u-refuot.
Some tentative conclusions may be drawn from these descrip־
tions of private Jewish library collections. To begin with, col-
lectors of Judaica seem to be interested in materials with an in-
trinsic literary value. This explains the demand for incunabula,
rare rabbinic materials, Bible commentaries, and the like. The
external features of these materials—that is their bindings, sizes,
or typographical peculiarities—seem to be of secondary significance
to most collectors, while in the general field of book collection
such matters assume considerable importance
The only exception
in this respect might be an interest frequently noted by collectors
in books with an associative value deriving from the fact that
they bear annotations or autographs by famous men.
It is noteworthy that materials which might be described as
“secular Judaica” have a limited appeal to private collectors, due
perhaps to the fact that secularism in Jewish life is a recent phe-
nomenon. Whatever literary products secular Judaism may have
inspired, not enough time has elapsed for them to become popular
7 See
New Paths in Book Collecting,
ed. by John Carter, Freeport, N.Y., Books
for Libraries, 1934.