Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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FREEHOF / ON THE COLLECTING OF JEWISH BOOKS
9
who has made a lot o f money in book publishing has now retired
and becomes a collector. H e decides to collect books, not as to
their content, but as to their externals. It is an interesting plan and
could be a d ifficu lt task. H e could begin with large books, like the
Gutenberg Bible, the Nu rem berg Chronicle, immense books that
were, in a way, prin ted copies o f the old manuscripts, mostly with
bindings o f a half-inch o f oak, covered with leather, bound with
brass, and locked. Th en he could go on from there to somewhat
smaller books with lighter bindings covered with vellum, less
weighty than the heavy oak cover and yet durable; and then to the
little Elzevir books that can be carried in the pocket. From there
he could go all the way to the modern books with casein glue that
can be made quickly with one dab and can be sold cheaply, like a
magazine. When he has gathere(J. and achieved a grand unity o f
all these books, chosen fo r their externals, he begins to have a
picture o f the spread o f book reading. When the Elzevirs pub­
lished these little pocket books in Greek and Latin and two or
three in Hebrew , the extent o f learned reading had evidently
changed from the times when tomes were locked up in a monas­
tery or library fo r the few priv ileged who could read. N ow hun­
dreds o f peop le could carry a Latin book in their pockets. So our
publishers’ books evidencing the spread o f learning by the ex ter­
nals o f the books would be now more than a b ibliophile ’s personal
pleasure; it would be a contribution to culture. Blessed is the
collector who can reach this third stage, in which his exclusive
possessions have become a unity and the unity which he has
created opens a doo r to human knowledge.
JEW ISH CO LLEC T IB LES
Such is the general psychology o f collecting and its possible
aims. Naturally it has application to collecting Judaica. In the
Jewish field, collecting is in some ways d ifficult, in some ways
remarkably easy. W e are a peculiar people, and one o f our
peculiarities is that we are so few in number and yet so important
in the world. Because we are few in number, we have strewn very
few tangible objects by the side o f the road as we have walked
through history. I t is easy to find German suits o f armor or
English inn signs, “ T h e Black L ion ,” and “ T h e Red An te lop e .”
T h e re are peop le who collect them. But how many objects o f