Page 129 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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The Judaica Collections of
Yale University Library
T h e H e b r e w w o r d s
Urim ve-Tum im
appear on the seal of Yale
University, as the University’s motto. T ranslated as
Lux et
—Light and T ru th—the words serve not as an oracle,
bu t as a symbol of the University’s commitment and purpose.
Removed from their ancient context, the words lose their mean­
ing as something which answers only ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ symbolizing
the pursuit of knowledge in a pluralistic universe.
One of Yale’s interests, from its earliest days as the Collegiate
School, founded in 1701, has been the world of Hebraica and
Judaica. Study of biblical Hebrew, along with Latin and Greek,
was generally required in the eighteenth century. The earliest
published catalogue of the Yale Library, prin ted in New London,
Connecticut, in 1743, included Hebrew grammars, biblical and
talmudic lexica, Jewish histories, and Bibles and Bible com­
Books of Jewish interest were added slowly bu t steadily to
the Yale collections in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
particularly in the latter, a period which saw the acquisition
of many of the library’s Judaic incunabula and other early
printings. The greatest expansion of Yale’s Judaic holdings came
early in the twentieth century, when Yale was given the library
of Alexander Kohut, professor in the Jewish Theological Semi­
nary. Having this collection of over seven thousand books (about
2,000 of them in Hebrew ), and the Merrill collection of Josephus
which was received at about the same time, the Yale library
decided to establish a separate Judaica Collection, adding to it
the Judaic materials already held.
This Judaica Collection has been added to steadily and sys­
tematically since 1915. In the 1930’s, George Alexander Kohut,
son of Alexander Kohut, gave 1,000 volumes to the collection.
The Kohut family also endowed funds for maintenance of the
collection. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Judaica Collection bene-