Page 197 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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MEHLMAN/FROM A BIBLIOPHILE’S MEMOIRS
1 8 5
During my early years o f collecting in Vienna I was especially
interested in the German classics and in translations from Greek
literature which I tried to acquire in fine editions. I read them
avidly and the impression they made upon me stayed with me all
my life. These were my literary guides in my early youth. O f
Hebrew literature I bought little: some stories and poetry, a few
ethical and philosophic works, and a handful o f halakhic writ­
ings.
Some years later my library took on an additional character. I
actively collected the best o f Socialist writings, both by theorists
and activists. My library was enriched by the books and brochures
o f Marx, Engels and Lassalle, o f Bebel, Max Adler and others. I
bought whatever appealed to me.
The Balfour Delcaration and the ensuing events determined
the course o f my life and provided a new motive for my col­
lecting. I decided to go on aliyah to Palestine and to become a
teacher there. I undertook to prepare myself by studying at the
Pedagogic Institute o f Chief Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Chajes and pursu­
ing oriental studies at the University o f Vienna.
In 1918, following World War I, while still a student, I was
witness to a series o f stormy events: revolutions and Socialist
unrest, expulsions and wanderings, hunger and poverty in Cen­
tral Europe, and a limited aliyah to Palestine. I was unable to
devote myself fully to collecting. Still I began during the early
twenties to make far-reaching plans for my future library. My aim
was to gather all the basic works which served to guide all seg­
ments o f the Jewish people, works which had stood the test o f
time and whose influence continued to be felt in greater or lesser
measure down to our day.
SCOPE OF INTERESTS
My plan encompassed the Bible and its commentaries, the
Talmud and Codes, the Responsa literature, Midrashim and
Homiletic Writings, Kabbalah and Hasidism, Philosophy and
Ethics, Liturgy and Poetry, Historical works and the Messianic
movements. All this as far as possible not only in Hebrew but also
in Yiddish and Ladino. Above all — I tried to obtain every impor­
tant book in at least two editions — the first and oldest, and a later
scientific edition. The first rare book which I acquired in a first
edition was
Tiferet Yisrael
by Maharal (Venice, 1599), and this was