Page 134 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Marx as a young man was imbued with genuine Jewish piety
and learning, and with the fine culture and scholarship Germany
could offer at the end of the 19th century. He was well versed
in Hebrew and in cognate studies, and was a student of such
famous scholars as Abraham Berliner and David Zvi Hoffmann,
who later became his father-in-law. He also received training
from prom inent German professors in methodology of research,
in history, and in the use of manuscripts and early editions for
the preparation of critical texts.
Marx was also fortunate to have been the student of the
greatest Jewish bibliographer of all time, one of the founders
of modern Jewish scholarship, and one of its greatest represen­
tatives, Moritz Steinschneider. A.S.W. Rosenbach, the famous
American bookseller and bibliophile, once quipped: “Europe
had its Steinschneider, America now has its Marx.” Despite the
similarities between the two, and the tremendous impact which
Steinschneider had on the younger scholar, one cannot bu t po in t
out the differences between their motivation and character. Ac­
cording to a well-known anecdote Steinschneider, who produced
an unbelievably huge and important corpus of scholarly works
in Jewish studies, including the great catalogs of the Hebrew
manuscript and printed treasures of major European libraries
such as Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, and Oxford, was motivated
in his un tiring efforts by a desire to provide a decent burial for
the remnants of a Judaism which, in his opinion, was destined
to disappear. Steinschneider’s thorough inventory of the Jewish
literary, philosophical, scientific and cultural expression of the
past ironically became, through the efforts of his student, Alex­
ander Marx, not a monument to the dead, bu t precisely the
opposite, a monument celebrating the scholarly creativity of
the world’s largest Jewish community in the United States.
On the basis of what Steinschneider recorded, Marx had at
his disposal the finest tools to help him in assembling and es­
tablishing the marvelous collection of Hebrew manuscripts and
rare books in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary,
the crowning achievement of his professional activities. W ith
uncanny bibliographic acumen he searched for manuscripts,
unique printed books, very scarce and out of p r in t publica­
tions, etchings and broadsides, basic texts and ephemeral pam­
phlets, all relating to Jewish history and literature in the widest