Page 139 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

and so on, very little of which finds its way into works of reference
at all, and that little does so only after many years have passed.
As a matter of fact the Collection itself has already been the
basis for one major work of reference: Kressel’s own two-volume
Cyclopedia of Modern Hebrew Literature,
for which he received the
Bialik Prize. Kressel worked on this biographical dictionary over a
period of thirty years, and has stated many times that he could
never have written it without the material in his own archive.
When he had delivered the last pages of the
to the
publishers, Kressel began to seek a permanent home for his
Collection where, he hoped, his work would not only be pre­
served but continued, and on a larger scale than had been possible
in his home in Holon. At first he thought of the universities in
Israel, but discussions with them proved fruitless. Some wanted
only the Library, others only the Archive, and none was eager to
undertake to continue to develop the Collection along the lines
laid down by its founder. After nine years of negotiations, Kressel
learned of the recent establishment of the Oxford Centre for
Postgraduate Hebrew Studies in England and immediately wrote
to Dr. David Patterson, the president of the new institution. He
received an enthusiastic reply and after a short period of negotia­
tions an agreement was signed to bring the Collection to Yarnton.
(When this became known in Israel, newspaper articles appeared
deploring the fact that this national asset was going to leave the
country, and questions were asked about it in the Knesset. All the
material relating to this is preserved in the Archive.)
Thanks to the generosity of two donors — David Lewis and
David Young, both of London — the purchase was completed,
and in 1974 a shipment of 188 tea chests full of books and papers
arrived at Yarnton. Since there were no shelves ready for the
contents the chests were stored in the large empty room — form­
erly a barn — in the building to the south of the manor house.
There they remained for two and a half years while the barn was
converted into a library, work that included putting in a floor at
the level of the existing high beams to create an upstairs area. In
1976 Kressel himself arrived with his wife Isa to assist in the task
of unpacking, sorting and shelving the material.
It was agreed that Kressel would continue to acquire books and