Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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O ne o f Columbia’s most famous alumn i, C lem en t Clarke
Moore (1779-1863), au tho r o f
The Night Before Christmas,
was a
biblical scholar as well as a poet. Clement stud ied Hebrew u n d e r
J o h a n n C. Kunze, firs t p ro fe sso r o f Semitics a t Columbia.
Moore’s love fo r the language led him to devote a num be r o f years
to the writing o f his
Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language
which was finally p r in ted in 1809. This was the first Hebrew
lexicon to be p r in ted in America and was to become a standard
19th cen tury textbook.
Yet with all this passion and devotion o f early American Chris­
tian scholars to the holy language, it appears tha t the Library o f
Columbia College had few Hebrew books on its shelves until the
last decade o f the n ine teen th century. Concu rren t with Colum­
bia’s evolution into a University in the 1890s, the Library’s H e­
brew books and manuscripts suddenly developed into a major
resource fo r research.
T h e basis fo r Columbia’s Hebraica collection rests upon the
generosity o f Tem p le Emanu-El o f New York City which p re ­
sented to the University its library o f 2,500 books and 50 m anu ­
scripts in 1892. T he Tem p le had purchased a library o f Hebraica
from an Amsterdam dealer, F rederik Muller, in 1868. Muller’s
catalogue contained the titles o f books and manuscripts tha t had
originally belonged to such famous Jewish scholars as the Hebrew
poet and au tho r, Giuseppe Almanzi (1801-1860) o f Padua, and
Jacob Emden (1697-1776), a halakhic au thority and kabbalist o f
Altona. Muller had p lanned to sell his holdings at auction, bu t
almost the entire collection was sold to Tem p le Emanu-El before
the sale.
Professor Richard J .H . Gottheil (1862-1936), who had been
appo in ted professor o f Semitic languages in 1887, was the lead­
ing figure behind Columbia’s acquisition o f the T em p le Emanu-
El collection. T h rough his urg ing , Gustav Gottheil (1827-1903),
R ichard’s fa th e r and rabbi o f Tem p le Emanu-El, convinced the
Synagogue’s board to donate its library to Columbia. In a le tter
dated May 19, 1892, the T rus tees o f Emanu-El offered . . to
convey the library o f the T em p le to Columbia College o f this city
with the exception o f duplicate copies; such duplicates to be given
to the Hebrew Union College o f Cincinnati.” T h e members o f the