Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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FREEHOF / ON THE COLLECTING OF JEWISH BOOKS
17
T h e prob lem is what to do with the collection? Do not think this
is a simple matter. Those o f you who collect books know it is not an
easy matter to dispose o f a collection. It will only be accepted by
peop le who are prepared to maintain it, unless you are foolish
enough to let some organization take what you have given your
life to and just dispense it fo r the money. In that case, you m ight as
well let your fam ily have the money from it. T h e re is no sense in
g iving a collection except to those who will keep it as such, or
largely as such. Th a t is far from easy.
A friend o f mine in Pittsburgh, who ten years ago retired as the
head o f the Department o f Chem istry at the Un iversity o f
Pittsburgh, is one o f the world ’s authorities on the manufacture o f
glassware. During his long career he collected a magnificent and
rare collection o f glassware. Th is was an exclusive possession. It
was a created integration which had not existed be fo re and gave
insight into the developm ent o f glass. It occupied many cases at
the University. T h e University used it in instruction and gladly
gave room fo r it. N ow that he retired, he wanted to dispose o f it.
University a fter university refused to take it. Th ey did not want to
appoint a curator, to have an expert maintain it properly. Finally,
a fter three refusals o f this priceless collection, a small university in
N ew York State took it. Th ey give it a magnificent display, with
illuminated cases, and have published a book describing it.
Since my collection isJewish, I am fortunate as to the disposal o f
the collection. T h e r e is the Hebrew Un ion College. T h e Hebrew
Un ion College has at least a dozen o f such book unities. It has built
up a great Spinoza collection, a collection o f Jewish music manu­
scripts and others. Th is is the home o f great book unities. T h e
College promised me in writing that this collection o f responsa is
not to be dispersed.
A t all events, this collection will be part o f the Hebrew Un ion
C o llege ’s great library and the library will perhaps have, together
with what it already has in this field, the greatest collection o f
responsa literature in the world. What use it will be, one can never
predict. It may be o f great value to R e fo rm Judaism because the
great O rthodox scholarship has argued itself into a sort o f ha lf­
helplessness in adjusting law to life. I t well may be that ou r more
liberal use o f the law will make this f ifteen hundred years o f
Jewish intellectuality more practical and available. I t will be in one
o f the greatest places where Jewish books have gathered.